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The Sports Report: Rising from the ashes

A year after his team suffered a devastating trailer fire, Cody Lane returned to claim an emotional Stock win in Phoenix.
27 Feb 2019
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor
The Sports Report
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Regular readers of The Sports Report will no doubt remember a year ago when the Hancock & Lane team was nearly put out of business before their season had started. Heading from their home in Seattle to Pomona for the traditional season-opener, a battery shorted in Cody Lane’s just-finished '73 Corvette Stock Eliminator car, triggering a fire that left all three of the team’s race cars heavily damaged. Quick thinking by crewman Steve Schwab prevented what likely would have been a total loss of truck, trailer and all of its contents, but the end result was still a massive rebuilding effort that consumed most of the 2018 season. The car that took the worst of it was Cody Lane’s ’prized Stocker, a new build that was slated to make it’s debut in Pomona. Cody Lane still remembers finding out about the fire via text message.

“At first, I thought they were joking and then when I realized they weren’t my heart sank,” said Lane. “When we built the Corvette, it was the first time that my dad [Jeff] and I had partnered on a car. I sold my daily driver to build it. We thrashed for six weeks to get it ready for Pomona and all that work went down the drain.”

With the help of a long of friends and a host of loyal product sponsors, the Lane’s were able to rebuild both cars. The team’s Comp and Super Stock cars returned to action fairly quickly, but the Corvette didn’t see action until last August. Lane began his 2019 campaign on a much more optimistic note a solid semifinal finish in Pomona. His shot at the title ended with a red-light start against eventual champ Doug Gibson. Given a second chance at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, Lane didn’t disappoint. He went the distance to win his fifth NHRA national event title, and first in Stock. Lane capped off the victory by beating five-time world champ Jimmy DeFrank in the final round.

The day after his victory, Lane shared the following on his Facebook page;

“All I can say is wow, A little over a year ago, we started the racing season off by almost losing our entire racing operation from a fire to the Corvette. Fast forward to yesterday; the Hancock and Lane racing team is holding up an NHRA national event Wally in Stock Eliminator. The women and men of this team are incredibly driven and wouldn’t let us stop until we were back in the driver’s seat, so this one is for them.”

Lane did not have an easy road in Phoenix. In addition to his final round battle against DeFrank, he had to win five other rounds against quality opponents. Lane did get a little help from past Division 7 champ Leo Glasbrenner and Johnny Diekema, who both red-lighted, as did semifinal opponent Jon Irving. As the driver of the slower car, Lane had to leave first in each of those battles and managed to stay green ahead of his opponents. In the final, Lane was on top of his game with a .012 light and an 11.358 on his 11.35 dial that left little room for DeFrank, who lost in spite of a 9.905 on his 9.88 dial.

Two races into the season, it’s senseless to even discuss the possibility of a championship or even a top ten finish but this much is clear; Cody Lane is off to a far better start this year than last. On the decklid of his rebuilt racer, Lane has an extensive list of his supporters and those who helped him rebuild after the fire.

“There are too many people to thank in one post, but the people on the back of this car supported us when we were at of our lowest of lows, and they continue to support us today,” he said. “Mike Judson at Mickey Thompson Performance Tires & Wheels, Lisa Michler at Denso Auto Parts, Tom Bogner at Lucas Oil, Weldon High Performance, K&N Filters, Rob Gillett at A Street Automotive, Corvette Parts Worldwide and many more. You all kept us moving forward and helped get us back to the track, so thank you for your support.”

The best of the rest: After a pair of runner-up finishes in 2000 and 2004, Comp Eliminator veteran Bill Kent finally broke through for his first national event victory by stopping fellow veteran Ralph Van Paepeghem in the final round. Kent, in his B/Dragster, did not get down the track during the abbreviated qualifying session but he was competitive when he needed to be with a semifinal performance that included a .001 reaction time and a (-.549) 6.691 to stop Tony Mandella. Losing four-hundredths of a second to the Competition Index Control did little to hurt Kent in the final. He made his best run of the weekend with a (-.543) 6.657 to out-pace Van Paepeghem’s (-.472) 7.318.

It didn’t take long for reigning Super Stock champ Justin Lamb to notch his first victory of the 2019 season. Now a five-time series champ, Lamb bagged career win No. 25 After he downed Rick McKinney in the final. Lamb made few mistakes in eliminations during his wins against Stan Holt, Kyle Rizzoli, Mike Graham, and Jody Lang. Lamb finished the job by driving his Silver State Plumbing Cobalt to a nearly-perfect 8.588 on his 8.58 dial in the final round. Equally as impressive was the performance of McKinney, who made it to the final round for the second-straight race. After losing to Ryan McClanahan in the Pomona final, McKinney ran his record for the year to 10-2 in elimination rounds with his runner-up finish in Phoenix.

Two weeks after opening the season with a Super Comp win in Pomona, Kevin Wright reached the final in Phoenix before his 11-round win streak ended against Craig Anderson. Now a nine-time national event champion, Anderson finished off the job with a .018 light and an 8.918 that put him .0022-second ahead of Wright at the finish line. Anderson, also a national event champion in Super Gas, used an 8.907 run in the quarterfinals to beat Rick Milinazzo to earn a bye into the final. The Texas-based Anderson also stopped Mallory Reis and Jeff Beckman in eliminations.

Ron MacKenzie made it to the Super Street final at the 1996 Phoenix race before being turned back by G.S. Abbott. He also went to the Super Gas final a year ago in Sonoma but finished with a second runner-up against Matt Blodgett. MacKenzie finally got his long-awaited first national event Wally. MacKenzie drove his colorful Corvette roadster to a double-breakout win, 9.893 to 9.882 in the final against fellow Division 6 racer Ken Mostowich. MacKenzie’s path to the final included a perfect 9.900 pass in round three against Sonoma opponent Blodgett. He also defeated Division 5 ace Trevor Larson early in eliminations.

If there was an award for best overall performance in Phoenix, it likely would have gone to James Warden, who claimed his first victory in Top Dragster presented by Racing RVs.com. Warden, a big winner at the Las Vegas E.T. race last Thanksgiving, was between .006 and a perfect .000 in four of five rounds in Phoenix. His worst light was a very competitive .020 and he finished off final round opponent Ed Olpin with a .002 light and a 7.261 on his 7.24 dial. Warden was also brilliant with a .011-second package in his win over Jeff Taylor.

Following his breakthrough win in Pomona, Bart Smith is now a perfect two-for-two after his second-straight victory in Top Sportsman presented by Racing RVs.com. Smith, in his six-second Monte Carlo, won his tenth-consecutive round of eliminations when he defeated Joe Roubicek in the final round with a 7.015 on his 6.99 dial. Smith, of Las Vegas, reached the final round with a great performance in the semifinals that included a  .007 light and a 7.024 on his 7.02 dial against opponent Doug Crumlich, who was also a semifinalist in Pomona.