Engines revved. Wheels spun. And fans cheered.
The Lucas Oil National Hot Rod Association’s National series has come to Brainerd once again.
Earplugs on spectators and workers alike muffled the deafening noises. The smell of fuel hung in the air as drivers readied their prized cars for qualifying races in the Sportsman category Thursday morning, Aug. 15.
For some, the experience was brand new.
For others, it was just another year piled on top decades spent at the racetrack.
On such seasoned veteran is 75-year-old Maxine Line of Wright, the matriarch in a long line of racers -- no pun intended.
“It’s a family thing,” she said as she finished putting an air cleaner on her 1968 Chevrolet Chevelle SS after a qualifying race Thursday.
Line’s involvement in racing goes back about 56 years, when her now-husband, Lawrence, started going to the racetrack.
“He started before we ever got married, and we’ve been married 56 years,” Line said.
It all started with Lawrence’s brother.
“He had a really fast 1960 Chevy, and my husband said, ‘We got to take this to the drag strip.’ And that’s how it all started,” she said.
About 31 years ago, Line got her own set of wheels.
“I rarely ever got to race (before that) because my husband wouldn’t share,” she said laughing.
That first car was a Chevrolet Malibu. Her twin sister had an identical one.
Now, Line’s sister has a blue Chevelle to her red one.
The Lines passed their passion for racing down three generations. All four of their kids are now involved, and one son, Jason Line, is a professional drag racer.
All 11 grandchildren were at BIR for the weekend, too, with Hannah Line, the oldest, driving her own car.
Though Maxine Line said she hadn’t been having a good weekend race-wise, it’s the atmosphere and people that keep her coming back year after year, decade after decade.
“Nice people,” she said. “We’ve gotten to be very good friends with a lot of them. They are an important part of this whole thing.
“And my kids love being at the drag strip. Always have, always will, I’m sure.”
For the last 10 years, racing at BIR has been a family activity for Murray Hebert, too.
The Baxter man has been racing for about 25 years.
“Back in the day, I went to the racetrack once and got hooked,” he said of how it all started.
Hebert was about 16 years old at the time.
Fast forward 25 years, and the challenge of racing still keeps him going.
“Just when I think I’ve got it, it’s gone,” he said.
Thirteen years ago, Hebert married his wife, Deisy, and introduced her to his world of racing. She has been tagging along to BIR as his cheerleader for about 10 years.
Originally from Mexico, Deisy hadn’t experienced anything similar before coming to Brainerd.
“It’s all new for me, so it’s a great experience,” she said.
“To me, every year is like, ‘Oh my god.’ He just goes down the track, and my heart is just going,” she added while pounding her fist on her chest.
She shares in her husband’s adrenaline rush and has ridden in his car a few times, but that’s enough for her.
“I like it, but it’s too much for me,” Deisy said. “I’m here to support you, but I’m going to stay just a little behind the scene.”
The Heberts’ 11-year-old daughter, Donika, however, wants to take after her dad. After growing up around the racetrack, she plans to start driving, herself, in the near future.
“I really like being out here because it’s something else to do,” Donika said. “And it’s fun.”
When Donika’s time to race comes, her mom will continue in her spot on the sidelines.
“I will be cheering,” Deisy said. “I’m the cheerleader.”
From the stands
While Deisy Hebert cheers from the sidelines, other enthusiastic fans watch from the stands with their own pounding hearts and adrenaline rushes.
When asked for his take on the activities at BIR Thursday, first-time NHRA Nationals attendee Ralph Hall had one distinct thought:
“It’s flippin’ awesome.”
Hall has been to his fair share of motorcycle rallies -- like Sturgis in South Dakota and ABATE of Iowa Freedom Rally in Algona, Iowa -- but drag racing is new to him.
“I think this tops over that,” he said, comparing his BIR experience to the bike rallies.
He and his sister and brother-in-law tagged along this year after family friends Tim and Sherri Hoffman offered them tickets.
Tim Hoffman is a veteran BIR attendee, who said one simple thing has kept him coming back for the last six or seven years.
“Drag races. … 11,000 horsepower.”
For his wife, Sherri Hoffman, the experience is all about having a good time with family and friends. The couple came with a group of about 16, including one of their sons, along with Tim’s parents and nephew.
“It’s definitely a family event,” Sherri Hoffman said, adding in what she enjoys so much about coming to BIR for the weekend: “Just the noise and your heart beating out of your chest and just watching them go fast. It’s awesome.