Just like the term "Hotlanta" may suggest, the on-track action during the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway was nothing short of exciting as NHRA Pro Stock Driver Jason Line remained as the one to beat during qualifying. Line used a 6.607 seconds at 209.04 mph to secure his fourth pole of the 2012 NHRA season, also his ninth K&N Filters Horsepower Challenge award and maximum qualifying points for the 2012 K&N Horsepower Challenge since the new season began late last June.
Line only managed to eek a 6.680 at 199.67 mph during his first attempt and only good enough for a very uncharacteristic 12th spot on the ladder.
The Atlanta national event qualifying certainly didn't start off on the right foot for Line and his team. During the first session on Friday, Line's car had the strongest tune-up of the pack for the first sixty feet but was unable to carry that through the rest of the 1,320 feet that make up the quarter mile. Line only managed to eek a 6.680 at 199.67 mph during his first attempt and only good enough for a very uncharacteristic 12th spot on the ladder. The slow time slip for Line was caused by losing an engine and with only a few hours before the next session, the team would be quite busy turning the Pontiac GXP around.
Where things didn't fare well for Line during session one, they did for former K&N Horsepower Challenge Champion, Allen Johnson, who would claim the early bragging rights as the class leader with his 6.620 at 209.07 mph.
With a new bullet between the frame rails for Line, things starting looking up for him during the second qualifying lap. The air conditions remained nearly identical from the prior session, but the track had cooled ever-so-slightly, which allowed teams to get after their tune-ups just a little more and the shake up on the ladder, after the class completed their second lap, showed minor improvements for many and a major one for Line. From a somewhat dismal 6.680 during his first attempt, Line powered all the way to the top and bumped Johnson down with a 6.612 at 208.68.
"We didn't even have time to start the thing," Line admitted about the motor change shortly after the second session ended. "There's probably some room left [to improve]. Hat's off to our engine guys for being able to plug an engine in from underneath the bench and go to the pole. That's a very reassuring feeling for sure."
Jason Line and his daughter enjoying the warm southern sun in Hotlanta.
Saturday rolled around and the Pro Stock teams knew that the first session of the day was going to be "make it or break it time" with their best weather and track conditions for qualifying and that if they were going to make a move, it needed to be now.
The battle continued between Line and Johnson, as the two were the final pair to take their turn down the Commerce, Georgia quarter mile. Where Johnson remained consistent only losing five thousandths of a second from his previous lap to remain in the number two spot, Line picked up another five thousandths, moving the number one spot to a 6.607.
The hot and sticky conditions for the fourth and final session of qualifying would just not warrant the naturally aspirated Pro Stock cars to make any major improvements and only two teams actually bettered their earlier attempts, while everyone else fell off their pace with the 133 degree track temperature and the adjusted altitude nearly three hundred feet worse. Line's 6.607 would remain safe as the number one spot for the event and would mark his 28th career Pro Stock number one.
"The racetrack was hotter, but great job by NHRA. The racetrack was great," Line said following the commencement of qualifying. "It was a good job by the NHRA because for a track to be this hot and be this good, is phenomenal. For us to go a 6.62 in this heat is great."
"We just wanted a good and safe run in the final session," he confessed. "My crew did a great job as they have done all season. I haven't really held up my end of the deal. I've struggled to maintain the intensity to be the best in this class. I haven't done a great job of that this year."
While Line may being a little hard on himself for how he feels about his race outcome on Sundays, he has surely set the bar quite high in the 2012 K&N Horsepower Challenge where he remains as the leader with just four events left to be contested before the big showdown in Norwalk, Ohio. The elite seven top qualified NHRA Pro Stock drivers, along with a fan voted eighth will battle it out for the $50,000 championship check from K&N Engineering on Saturday July 7th during the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals.
Eight lucky finalists will be selected from all who enter the 2012 K&N Horsepower Challenge Sweepstakes and paired with one of the eight NHRA Pro Stock competitors. Should their driver come out as champion, they will win a 2012 K&N Horsepower Challenge Edition Toyota Tundra.
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