By Lee Elder
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 14, 2018) – They have become a car-prep conglomerate, an NHRA Pro Stock assembly line that produces winners.
They are KB Racing, owners of eight Pro Stock titles and winners of the opening race of the 2018 season at Pomona. Las Vegas businessman Ken Black owns the team and makes everything work. But the heart and bloodlines that generate the on-track success come from two guys: Greg Anderson and Jason Line.
The NHRA is here for the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals Thursday through Sunday. It is the third race of the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
Anderson and Line have raced together for 16 years. Together, they have seven of the team’s eight Pro Stock titles. They have won a combined 137 final rounds in Pro Stock out of 762 races, which translates to winning roughly 18 percent of the time as a team. This in a class where the difference between first and sixteenth is measured in inches every weekend.
Whatever you do, don’t ask Anderson or Line about their off-season. The off season is really the on-season, according to Anderson. They don’t have an off-season.
“You don’t,” Anderson said. “The ‘off-season’ is the time to make some hay. If you don’t make gains during the off-season, it’s going to make for a really long year. I don’t think there has ever really been an off-season in drag racing. So many people are so into this deal; they work hard and put in a ton of effort. They know that if you take off and go to the beach for a month, you’re going to have a tough season. We’re lucky to do this for a job, and we don’t mind that it’s a 12-month deal. We’re fine with that.”
Both Anderson and Line have said repeatedly through the years that change is opportunity and the KB team has taken advantage of opportunity frequently. Example: KB was the first Pro Stock team to embrace and adjust to the change from carburation to electronic fuel injection. Example: The team has typically adjusted quickly when Goodyear produces a new rear tire for the class.
When the KB effort was a two-car outfit, Line worked on Anderson’s car while Anderson toiled away on Line’s machine. How difficult was it to adjust from preparing two cars for competition to preparing two more cars for customers? It was a major change but, as referenced earlier, these guys thrive on change.
Anderson said, “It’s definitely different, and it’s way more complex now. You have to find a way to delegate time and effort to tuning four different engines and race cars. The benefit is that you get information from all four engines and cars, and you get a lot of runs at each race between qualifying and eliminations. It’s a lot of data coming from that big effort. We gave one hundred percent on two cars before, and it can be a challenge sometimes to divide that effort – but the benefits that come with it are huge. You’re learning so much.”
Only Warren Johnson’s 97 Pro Stock wins rank ahead of Anderson’s 90 and four of Anderson’s victories have come at the Gatornationals. Line has reached the finals here the last two years.
Bo Butner won the 2017 NHRA Pro Stock title in a KB-prepped car, beating Anderson (a four-time champ) and Line (three championships) for the championship. Butner is back again and Derek Kramer is now racing with KB-supplied engines.
“Bo Butner is almost a ‘bring your helmet and race,’ guy,” Anderson said. “He is getting everything from us: The car, the engine, the complete drive line, and the complete tune up, engine- and chassis-wise. Bo’s team does what we guide them to do on the racecar, but his car and engine are run by us, and the calls for both are made by us. Our relationship with Deric Kramer is different in that we give him the engine and the engine tune-up, but his crew does the tune-up on the race car and makes all the decisions and calls on the race car itself. We handle the engine tune-up, and they handle the car.”
Butner has six wins in 18 final round appearances in Pro Stock racing.
Kramer described a time when he was in his pits, waiting to make a run recently. He told the NHRA, “Well, Jason walked over here, put a tune up in the car and walked away. That’s exactly how it went.”
It has gone pretty well during the young 2018 campaign. Kramer is second in points, behind Line, as the NHRA teams head for Gainesville this week. Butner sits fourth and Anderson is seventh.
The decision to add horses to the stable wasn’t taken lightly. The team was forced to add personnel, which was expensive, and the decision meant putting cars on the racetrack capable of beating either Anderson or Line or both. But the gains to be made and the fierce nature of the competition, Anderson said, helped make the decision to expand the team. KB Racing is not the only Pro Stock team with multiple entries. Elite Motorsports, for example, with former Pro Stock champs Erica Enders and Jeg Coughlin driving the primary cars, also have technical alliances with other teams in the paddock. The alliances in Pro Stock follow in the wake of the mega-teams in the NHRA’s nitro classes, Don Schumacher Racing and John Force Racing.
Still, with all of that understood, why do it? Why change a template that was working and generate an exponentially greater workload?
“It’s a two-fold answer,” Anderson said. “Obviously, there is the financial side of it. It’s more expensive every year to run any race car, not to mention getting the trucks and trailers up and down the road. Plus, having the supplemental income from our rental customers allows us to devote resources to R&D, just like we have in the past, and that’s an important part of our program. Without rentals, that would be severely restricted. The financial end of it is just one part, though – the other side is that the class needs it. We need to have that car count, and just like in all other forms of motorsports and pro classes in drag racing, that has been a struggle. It’s become tougher over the years for the racer to survive in this business, and we’re trying to help with that. We want to make sure our sport stays strong and the class continues. KB Racing, with the support of the great folks at Summit Racing, has proved that you can rent top-shelf equipment capable of winning races and championships and you couldn’t say that 10 years ago. We hope that makes it more appealing to people who haven’t raced before. We want to grow and maintain the class for the future.”
He added, “We had had to add more crew members, more people, more hands involved, and certainly more hours worked at the shop. There is a lot of hard effort necessary to make this work, and the only way we could put more effort into our program was to add manpower and hours. We’re okay with that, though. It’s all for the good of the sport, and we’re willing to do whatever we have to do to see it continue.”
But you wonder why other Pro Stock teams have expanded in the same way in search of the same benefits without the same success.
“It always come down to the people that we have here at KB Racing and with Team Summit,” Anderson said. “You can have all the money in the world, but the common denominator for successful teams is the people, the effort they’re willing to put in, and the drive they have to win. Everybody that works here wants to put in one hundred percent effort, and they don’t want to go to races to have fun. They want to go to compete and win. We also realize that no one here is more important than anyone else – from the truck driver to the race car driver, the engine builder, and everyone in between. Everyone is rowing in the same direction, and it’s amounted to success for us. You almost hate to tell the competition your secret, but that’s it. It comes down to the people.”
The professional teams begin qualifying Friday. Eliminations will be held Sunday.