Locals were smokin’ at BIR
Lance Line set the tone by placing first in the stock eliminator
by Nickole Caspersen | August 26. 2003
Nearly 140,000 people were gathered at the Brainerd International Raceway to watch the 22nd annual National Hot Rod Association’s Lucas Oil Nationals, which was held Thurs., Aug. 14 through Sun., Aug. 17. It is the largest sporting event in Minn., and many locals participated in it. Lance Line, co-owner of the Cromwell Self Serve, did especially well, taking 1st place in the stock eliminator.
Lance, who has been drag racing for 15 years, had not even planned on going to the race. “I was too busy,” he said. In fact, his car, a ‘69 Ford Mustang, didn’t even have an engine in it until Wednesday night. The car was barely ready to go in time for the racing to start. “I was the last guy on the track,” Lance said.
The qualifying rounds were held on Thursday, and Lance qualified 11th out of 96. After that came the elimination rounds where two racers go head-to- head, and the winner advances on. There were seven elimination rounds in all. The most talked about round for Lance was not the final round, but the fourth when he beat Dan Fletcher, a world champion racer. It was a huge moment when Lance, who races on the side when he has the time, beat the professional Fletcher. Lance continued to advance on and beat Bill Rink Jr. in the final round to claim his first national victory. This is a considerable feat in itself but even more impressive considering it was only Lance’s second race this year.
Lance was not the only Line on the track that weekend. His brother Jason was on the team of Greg Anderson, who took 1st in the pro-stock event. Besides that, his mother, father, sister and brother-in-law all raced as well.
Driving a ‘68 Chevelle was Maxine Line, Lance’s mother. She lost in the first round of the stock eliminator because she “didn’t cut a good light.” That’s racing lingo meaning, basically, everything comes down to timing, which is measured to the thousandth of a second, and her takeoff wasn’t quick enough.
Lawrence, Lance’s father, was very happy with how the weekend went. He took his ‘85 Monte Carlo SS to the fourth round of the stock eliminator. He also won the L-stock class eliminations on Friday. Lawrence was extremely proud of his family’s performance at Brainerd. “Both my boys were in the winners’ circle,” he said. “It couldn’t be any better.”
Lance’s sister, Stephanie Diekema, was also racing. She ran her ‘69 Chevelle in the Super-Stock, with her father-in-law, Tom Diekema, in the pit. She won her first three rounds but lost in the fourth. Her husband, Johnny Diekema, raced in his ‘70 Nova. He qualified 8th, three spaces above his brother-in-law, Lance, in the stock eliminator. He also made it through his first three rounds but lost in the fourth.
The Lines were not the only ones racing in Brainerd. Steve Hutar, Glen DeMenge and Ron Prince also represented the area at this national event.
Steve Hutar, owner of Steve’s Auto Body in Wright, competed at the BIR. Steve, driving a ‘67 Chev. Impala SS, was beat in the first round, but he was still very excited about how the weekend went. A definite high point for him was Lance’s fourth round victory. “When he beat Dan Fletcher, I knew he’d win,” Steve said.
Also racing in the Lucas Oil Nationals was Glen DeMenge of McGregor, who was a driving an ‘88 Olds. Cutlass. Glen took first place in the M-stock class eliminations on Friday and made it to the second round of the stock eliminator on Sunday. He lost by four thousandths of a second when his car went faster than he had predicted. Glen was also very pleased with how things went. “It was the best weekend we have ever had, bar none,” he said. For him, too, the highlight of the weekend was when Lance beat Fletcher because “all he [Fletcher] does is drag race.”
Ron Prince of Tamarack ran his ‘68 Firebird in the stock eliminator and had a good first round race. Then, in the second round he lost to Lance. He will be racing again in Brainerd the 28th and 29th of August. Ron runs in about 10 races a year. His daughter, Taylor, is also a drag racer. She started junior races this year and has already earned a 1st place and runner-up finish. Her favorite racer is Scotty Canon of North Carolina; she sports his autograph on her jacket.
The NHRA Lucas Oil Nationals was a huge event with participants from all over the country, so the competition was very tough. “It’s hard to win a round, much less the race,” said Maxine Line. Lawrence claimed winning a national event is... “like catching a 45 pound walleye.” Well, the first place trophy Lance snagged might not weigh 45 pounds, but it is a very worthy prize.
Congratulations Lance and all area participants!
This article first appeared in the August 26, 2003 issue of the Voyageur Press.