Hancock and Lane take every season seriously, and they have a mountain of honors to prove it, including seven NHRA national event Wally’s, 13 Division 6 championships, and 56 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series wins 2 Jeg’s All-Star wins.
Cody has 4 national wins and 3 divisional win. However, 2 years ago was an even more special as Hancock will celebrate his 52nd season of NHRA Drag Racing.
“Jerry has been out here so long, and he’s been such an important part of my life that we did something special to mark his 50th anniversary,” said Lane. “He taught me everything. He’s been around this for so long, and he’s seen and done just about everything.”
Hancock, now 71, was born with a disability that has made it difficult for him to walk. During his lifetime, he has endured more than a dozen surgeries to help alleviate severe arthritis and currently uses a motorized scooter to help improve his mobility. In spite of the challenges he has faced, Hancock has achieved his lifetime goals of driving a race car and assembling a championship-winning team. The journey began in 1963 when Hancock and his brother, Jim, bought their first race car, a ’56 Chevy, for the tidy sum of $1,500.
“When we got the car, it was all apart, and the parts were in boxes, but it was a good car with a good history,” Hancock recalled. “We set a lot of track records and had a lot of fun, but later on, my brother got married, and his priorities changed. We also had a ski boat together, but with my disability, I can’t ski, so my brother kept the boat, and I got the race car. That was 50 years ago, and I never thought it could go on for this long. I was just a guy who liked old Chevys. My passion for the sport just kind of grew from that.”
Hancock might well have abandoned the sport in the mid-1970s if he hadn’t met Lane, a then-13-year-old kid who hung out at his shop and was immediately dubbed “Spindle,” presumably for his tall, lanky stature.
“He was a pesky kid,” Hancock recalled. “You couldn’t get rid of him. Finally, we just said, ‘Get in the truck’ and took him to the races with us.”
Lane tells a similar story when he recalls the first time that he met Hancock in 1975.
“Jerry’s garage was a couple doors down from my friend’s house,” said Lane. “We could hear whenever he’d have a car fired up, and we’d go over and get in the way. He finally told me to either move out of the way or go grab some tools, so I started helping him. He took me to my first race in 1975, and now here I am 38 years later, and we’re still going to the races together.”
During his early adventures with Hancock, Lane had a chance to take his first ride in a real race car when Division 6 Hall of Famer Ken Dondero offered him a ride in his record-holding Super Stock Belvedere. As Lane rode in the passenger seat, Dondero hammered out an 11.27, and from that point forward, he was hooked.
“In 1975, Jerry was building a new Super Stock car, and he split with his then partner,” Lane noted. “Then Ralph Woodall called and asked him how much it was going to be to finish the car. Jerry told him $10,000, and Ralph cut him a check, so we were back in business. I was still just a kid, but I’d help work on the car, and I’d help Jerry load and unload it. Finally, in 1979, Jerry let me drive as a graduation present.
“Jerry let me drive at the annual 64 Funny Car race in Seattle,” said Lane. “In the first round, I raced Jerry Swenson, the Division 6 champ, and I beat him. Then I won the second round but broke out in the third. After that, I got the opportunity to drive more.”
Hancock & Lane Racing was officially born in 1985 when the team debuted a Super Stock Camaro that it had built. Lane was runner-up at the final divisional race of the season in 1985 and made his national event debut a few months later at the 1986 Winternationals. He went on to claim the Division 6 Super Stock 6 championship and was named Sportsman Driver of the Year in the Northwest Division.
“When we went to Pomona, we got to the semifinals but had a nut fall down the carburetor and get inside the engine,” Hancock recalled. “To this day, I think we would have won that race because Jeff was doing a great job driving. He won the championship that year, and I never thought I could drive a car that well.
“Jeff is just an interesting person,” Hancock continued. “He has such a passion for the sport. I was his mentor and teacher. I taught him how to build an engine and prepare a car, and he’s sort of a one-man band because he can do it all. Even when he was young, I could see the potential there.
His friends were all out playing sports, and he was with me in the wrecking yard, digging for race car parts.”
With a career that spans five decades, it’s almost impossible for Hancock to pick a single highlight, but he does fondly remember the team’s first JEGS Allstars victory in Columbus in 1996.
“That is a big important race, but it’s also a long way from Seattle, and even though we get paid tow money, it’s a hard trip to make,” said Hancock. “It took us three tries before we finally won it. The first year, we lost to Greg Stanfield when he was .020 and ran dead on the dial. Second year, we got beat by Jeff Taylor in a really close dynamic race, and the third year, we finally beat Mike Saye in the final, and that’s three races against three world champions. We’ve since been back quite a few times, and we always enjoy it.”
The Jerry Hancock 50th anniversary tour will kick off in two weeks at the season-opening O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals presented by Super Start Batteries in Pomona and will include stops at most of the West Coast national events and Lucas Oil Series events. Lane is also hoping to make another trip to Chicago for the annual JEGS Allstars competition. Heading into the 2013 season, Lane leads the Comp standings.
Although their partnership will change after this season and Hancock likely will attend fewer races in the future, neither one is willing to call it a farewell tour.
“I am planning to still be active,” said Hancock. “I want to still work with the manufacturers who support us, and I’ll still go to some races, but I need to focus more on my retirement. I’ll do anything I can to help Jeff, but he’s going to have to take charge of the checkbook. Thankfully, I have a cellphone and a computer, and with today’s technology, it’s almost the same as being there.”
“It’s going to be different, and it’s going to be a little sad, but Jerry will always be a part of my racing,” Lane added. “My son, Cody, is racing now, and after this year, we’ll probably sell our Comp car and get a Stocker. As for this year, we’re going to do all we can to make it memorable. I have a new Super Stock Cavalier that we built from scratch, and it’s really nice. In fact, I’d like to think we’ll get a Best Engineered Car award with it. Hopefully, we’ll make it a year to remember.”