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Story Last modified at 7:01 p.m. on Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Family friendly fun
Drag strip bridges generations

BY MATT TUNSETH
Alaska Star

photo:Sports

Chugiak's Steve Reimann, left, talks with his son, CJ, 17, between races at Alaska Raceway Park in the Butte. Both of Reimann's children followed their old man's burnouts into the sport, while Steve has taken a back seat this season to work in the pits.
STAR PHOTO by MATT TUNSETH

Father's Day won't be anything special for Chugiak's Steve Reimann. Sure, he'll spend the day with his family. But when you run a drag racing family that includes your two teenage kids, Sundays are already spoken for.

"I can't think of a better place to spend it," Reimann said recently while helping his son, 17-year-old CJ, get ready for a race at Alaska Raceway Park.

The Reimanns have become a fixture at the quarter mile Butte drag strip, which is located at Mile 10.4 of the Old Glenn Highway. Reimann and his wife, Mary, have been bringing CJ and Amanda, 19, to the track for two decades.

"I was here before I was born," Amanda said.

Amanda dominated the junior drag racing circuit at the park before moving up to Top Dragster class, where she's begun to hold her own against seasoned drivers her old man's age.

"You get so much more respect now," she said.

CJ, meanwhile, has been the best Open Air class driver this season, running his modified green and white snowmachine to the top of the standings.

"He's almost unbeatable," Steve said.

The Reimanns and their "Cold Weather" racing team are among a group of about a dozen Chugiak–Eagle residents who are regular racers at the track, which often draws hundreds of fans who camp out all weekend to watch the action. And they're not the only ones who have found success.

Through races held June 12, local Robert VanDenBerg was third in the Mod ET class, a popular class among area drivers. Also in that class are Spike Teeples (currently ranked sixth) and Rick Nissen, who was one spot behind Teeples through last weekend.

Nissen, who recently retired from the Municipality of Anchorage as regional landfill supervisor, said he's been running hot rods at the drag strip since 1979.

"I'm a motorhead," he said with pride.

Nissen said he took a break from racing recently, but got back into the sport when he got a retirement gift of a free entry from track owner Earl Lackey. Nissen has raced every weekend since, and suspects Lackey's gift was actually a ploy to draw him – and his cherry red 1967 Camaro – back to the action.

"He knew what would happen," Nissen said.

Lackey's wife, Karen, said turnout at the track has been up and down, with holidays especially busy.

"Memorial Day weekend was fantastic," she said.

For Father's Day, the track has a full slate of races planned, including Top Eliminator, Top Dragster and full points races. Lackey also said she'll probably include something for the dad's, too.

"I haven't told the food service people yet, but I think we'll do pop for pop," she said. "Free pop for the pops."

The biggest event of the season is set for July 3 and 4, when Lackey said the big draw is likely to be a showdown race between a jet-powered tank and a jet armored personnel carrier.

"That should be fun," she said.

Lackey said the track strives to provide a family-friendly environment at the track, and many drivers' teams are made up entirely of close relatives and friends. That's certainly the case with the Reimann family, where father Steve and mom, Mary, are the sole support network for CJ and Amanda.

"I'm the crew," Steve said. "Me and mom."

Steve used to be a drag racer himself, but said he's taking this season off to focus on his kids' careers.

"I spend a ton of time just on them now," he said.

Still, he wouldn't have it any other way.

"I think it gives the family a good bond," he said. "And it's a lot of fun."

Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-6789 or matt.tunseth@alaskastar.com



This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, June 15, 2011.