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KRA's Hornet class provides cheap thrills

Hornet drivers in the KRA Speedway pits Thursday in Willmar are, from left, Jarrod Mead and older brother Jamie of Hawick and Sam Lungstrom of Hassan. The Mead brothers take turns driving the car at left. Lungstrom's red racer was bought on Craigslist. (Tribune photo by Rand Middleton)1 / 2
Stephanie Eisel2 / 2

WILLMAR -- So, you want to race without draining the bank account?

Think Hornets.

The front-wheel drive racers can be snagged for as little as a couple hundred bucks. After that, buy a racing helmet, install a roll bar and hit the track.

The newest class at KRA Speedway has been a hit. Numbers are growing. Thursday night there were 16 entries for the feature (no heats yet in this division).

Mike Lungstrom and his son Sam, 15, went on Craigslist and found a bright-red Dodge Neon for $240. They put in a new head casket, stripped the interior and air conditioning, hired someone to put in a race-worthy roll bar and they were race-ready.

"It's as close as you can get to stock," said Mike, a New London native who lives in Hassan, which is just outside Rogers.

Even the rubber is stock street tires.

Sam, who will be a sophomore at Mound-Westonka High School, has raced dirt bikes and vintage snowmobiles.

"This is a lot faster, more horsepower and more stable, too," he said of the four-cylinder economy cars.

Stephanie Eisel, a 1997 Alexandria High School graduate, is the early leader in points. It's her second year racing -- a boyfriend who raced Mod-Four's got her started -- and she's still looking for her first feature win.

"It's harder than you think," she said. "I learn something every week. But it's a blast. It's the one time of the week that for 10 minutes the only thing I think about is who is in front of me."

She also has a Dodge Neon, which seems to be the most popular car in the class. Escorts, Acuras and Cavaliers also show up.

Raulin Magnuson of Willmar races a black Grand Am. He had a couple of wins last year and last week his younger brother, Justin, 16, raced No. 69 for the first time. He ended up getting the win when the four finishers in front of him were all disqualified for having wheel weights, like any passenger car might. But on the race track they're against the rules for safety reasons.

The Mead brothers of Hawick got started thanks to their grandfather, Roger Christiansen.

"He told us it was time to have some fun," said Jamie, 26, exactly two year's older than Jarrod. They alternate behind the wheel.

"It's not real cheap fun," said Jarrod, "but it's a lot of fun."

Other outlets for Hornets are tracks at Ogilvie, Princeton, Brainerd and Glyndon.

There's a Top 5 Buyout at Willmar to discourage modifications.

A driver can claim a high-finishing race car for $1,000, plus your car in exchange and its safety equipment. Any fan can step out of the grandstands and do the same for $1,600 and no exchange.

Careful attention is also paid to weight. The minimum is 2,200 pounds; 100 pounds is added for having a manual transmission and/or a turbo charger.

Jamie Mead notes that Ogilvie Raceway doesn't have a claim so some cars will be modified and a little faster. A recent race night attracted 30 Hornets, but his stock Neon still managed to place third after starting 13th in the feature.

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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