NASCAR fans were astonished last weekend when teammates Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch, contenders in the Chase for the Championship, got into a brouhaha during the race at Talladega Superspeedway that spilled onto pit road after the checkered flag.
There seems to be only gentility among competitive teammates in the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship, which continues with the Toyota Nationals at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend.
Jason Line and Greg Anderson, who drive factory Chevrolet hot rods for Las Vegas businessman Ken Black, have been slotted 1-2 in points from the onset of 2016, combining for 15 victories in 22 races. Line leads Anderson by 26 points in the closest of the Mello Yello Series championship battles, with only Las Vegas and Pomona, California, remaining on the schedule.
They were asked about the intensity of the in-house rivalry at Thursday’s press luncheon, and if they play nicer than Harvick and Busch.
“We’re roommates this week,” Line said.
“So if he doesn’t show up Sunday …”
The dais broke into laughter.
“At this point, we’ve (raced each other) long enough — maybe 10 years ago, we wouldn’t have handled it as well,” said Line, who once had NASCAR aspirations himself, having spent five years as head dyno operator for Joe Gibbs Racing. “But it is fun. You don’t realize how special it is to be in this position. We are enjoying it.
“But at the same time, we need to finish the job.”
Line, 47, has 45 Pro Stock wins and two national championships (2006, 2011). Anderson, 55, has accumulated 85 victories, tied with legend Bob Glidden for third all time. Anderson won the 2010 points title and three in a row from 2003 through 2005.
“It’s neat that we’re talking about it being just between Jason and me, but it’s not — we’ve got a couple of guys in Vincent Nobile and Shane Gray that are nipping at our heels,” Anderson said. “If we stumble this weekend, they’re right back in the game, and then it’s going to come down to a four-car battle in Pomona.”
The reason it has been only a two-car battle most of the season is that the Ken Black drivers and their crews got the hole shot on adapting to offseason rules revisions, including a switch to electronic fuel-injected engines.
Much of that advantage seems to be gone now, though it’s probably too late for anybody to catch Line and Anderson.
Hoping to keep his edge, Line traveled to LVMS in advance of the Toyota Nationals, making 18 test runs over two days. Anderson heard about it afterward.
“I had a flight out of Dallas (after the Texas Fall Nationals), and when I got to the airport, nobody was around — they ditched me,” Anderson said.
“They went to Vegas without me knowing. I don’t know what that means. I think it means we’re in trouble.”
Damp and cool conditions led to track record-setting times and speeds in the Nitro classes. Leah Pritchett’s 3.705 ET (at 326.63 mph) established a new standard in Top Fuel, and Matt Hagan’s 3.872 ET (at 329.18) and John Force’s speed of 331.94 (3.876 ET) were LVMS records in Funny Car. Drew Skillman set the pace in Pro Stock with a run of 6.681 at 204.94, with all top times and speeds coming in the afternoon session.
Sportsman division racer Ray Skillman, who crashed during Thursday qualifying, was treated for a fractured vertebrae, fractured rib and right hand contusion and has been released from the hospital.
Contact Ron Kantowski at email@example.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.
NHRA Toyota Nationals
Where: Las Vegas Motor Speedway dragstrip
When: Mello Yello Series qualifying, 11:45 a.m., 3:30 p.m. Saturday; final eliminations, 11 a.m. Sunday.
TV: Fox Sports 1
Tickets: Starting at $63; LVMS.com; 702-644-4444