When Jeff Lane turned on the win light in the Comp final at last weekend’s Division 7 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series opener at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, it represented a significant milestone in an already remarkable career. Lane’s victory over Tony Mandella marked the 50th time that he has won a Lucas Oil Series divisional event. That puts him in some exclusive company. Not counting alcohol racers, Lane is just the third Sportsman driver to achieve the 50-win feat, joining David Rampy and Peter Biondo.
Lane’s weekend in Phoenix was made even more special when his son, Cody, turned on the win light in the Super Stock final. It was Cody’s first divisional victory after four national event titles. It wasn’t the first time that the Lane family has shared the winner’s circle. Last year at their home event, the NHRA Northwest Nationals, the Lanes pulled off a similar feat, although the celebration was muted because that event was delayed by rain, which meant the final rounds of Comp and Super Stock were run on different days.
“The whole father-son thing was pretty special,” said Jeff Lane. “I didn’t know anything about the 50th win until we were in the winner’s circle, and [Division 7 photographer] Bob Johnson told me. It was exciting in every way. It’s funny, but the whole thing made me think about my first national event win, which came in Phoenix in 1991. That was the year the [concrete] starting line broke up, and they postponed the race a week. My partner, Jerry [Hancock], had to go home, and it was just me and my father. At this race, we had the whole crew there, including my mother, who hasn’t been to a race in about three years.”
Lane recorded his history-making win when he stopped Mandella’s S-10 truck in the final round. Racing his C/SMA Cobalt, Lane got to the final round with a clean index while Mandella had lost six-hundredths to Competition Index Control infractions. Lane was a hundredth quicker off the starting line and held on for the win with a (-.528) 8.132 to Mandella’s (-.480) 8.440.
“We were running really well all weekend; my car was fast,” said Lane. “That being said, any kind of an advantage is huge. Tony is a good driver, and even if he hadn’t been down six, it was going to be a good final. We got a little lucky in that aspect, but that’s part of our strategy as far as qualifying.
“For now, we are on tour; our rig doesn’t come back to Seattle until after Las Vegas, so we have to have everything ready to go before we get started in Pomona. That’s the challenge of racing [on the West Coast]. We go to Pomona to finish the season, and then we’re back at it 13 weeks later, and in between, they stick in Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. That’s why we start working the day we get home from Pomona and don’t stop until February.”
Cody’s final round against Ray Martin’s Alaska-based FSS/C COPO Camaro was slightly less stressful. The younger Lane grabbed nearly a tenth off the starting line and held on for the win with an 8.864 on his 8.87 dial. Having just completed his run, Jeff was able to rush to the starting line to celebrate the historic double-victory with his team.
“They towed my back to the starting line in a hurry, and I got there just in time to see it,” said Jeff. “It was really a special moment. We doubled up last year in Seattle, but that was different. We ran those final rounds on different days. This time, we ran right after each other. It was great.”
Lane’s first Lucas Oil series win came at Renegade Raceways in 1986. Lane won the Super Stock title over Ken Dodgion and shared the winner’s circle with alcohol racing stars Bill Barney and Pat Austin. Lane scored a second win the same season at Oregon’s Woodburn Dragway. In 32 seasons, Lane has won at least one Lucas Oil Series event in 26 of them, including a string of 12 straight seasons and 19 of the last 20.
“That just means I’m getting old,” said Lane. “I don’t think about it much, but to be included with those two guys [Rampy and Biondo] is pretty special. They are two of the best, so this is quite an honor. I’m also very happy for Cody. He’s won four national events, but he hadn’t won a points meet yet.”
At this point, the only thing that Lane has not done is win a national championship, although he has come very close on several occasions. Despite a round-one loss in Pomona, Lane is confident that he can get the job done this season in Comp. He’d also be just as happy to see Cody capture the No. 1 spot.
“I’m blessed to do as well as I have, so I won’t hang my head if I don’t ever win a championship,” Lane said. “Hopefully, Cody can get it done at some point. He was raised the same way I was — at the racetrack. I was a kid going to the races, but I didn’t start driving until 1985. When Cody came along, he was a baby looking over my shoulder when I worked on the race car. Today, he understands all aspects of racing. He’s got a lot of potential. Hopefully, one of us will get there sooner or later.”