Dennis Lanier getting in some laps during the April 12, 2018 pre-season test session at Bowman Gray Stadium. Marty Vaden Photo

There are rookies who are young and has a ton of racing under their belt. There are also rookies whose got no racing experience at all and can be older in some cases. This is one of those times, Dennis Lanier is his name and this rookie may be older than most of the drivers in the Street Stock Division, but he’s hoping to show them the older men can compete with the younger generation.

Lanier graduated from West Davidson High School in 1989 then went to Randolph Community College and graduated from there in 1992. He’s a graphic designer of over 30 years and an accomplished painter and that’s had some artwork commissioned by Richard Childress for Kevin Harvick, Brian Vickers, Red Bull, Mark Martin, the North Carolina State Troopers Association and even the military. He’s even had his own art business for nearly 20 years where he did prints and limited edition paintings.

Lanier is a race fan that’s worked at Energy United for 8 years and he loved racing just like a lot of drivers and fans like us, but he’s been a fan of Bowman Gray and the racing for over 40 years, he remembers watching [Dale] Earnhardt coming into the sport in 1979 and one of the first drivers he remembers seeing racing at Bowman Gray is Ralph Brinkley, who’s a family friend of his and that’s where he was bitten by the racing bug.

“I grew up all throughout school I would sketch cars, race cars and motorcycles, it was just something, I would be drawing cars and even race cars here and there. I had stacks and stacks of drawings and my art and as I got older I went to college and started taking classes I got more intrigued by it and had fun with it. Once you get the drawing/architect bug in you, you just want to design and build anything, you’ve got to extend the olive branch to do everything and you got to try new things and have to be open to try new things.”

As with rookies whose just starting out at Bowman Gray, most of them have driven in some sort of Motorsports before making the jump. Well, for Dennis it’s different as he’s never been in a car, but he changed it recently with the preseason test sessions and he’s not comfortable with himself and his after the April 7th test got canceled.

“Last month was my first time inside the race car and any race car of some sort and making laps in a race car. I’ve got good reviews and bad reviews of the car so far, but I’m happy with it so far. Some of the veterans over there have said I did a good job for my first time. I had Bryan Sykes text me and say ‘you did a great job out there for your first time ever in a race car.’ It makes me happy knowing some of the guys that have been in it awhile say you did pretty well for your first time ever.”

Even though March 31st was his first time in a race car, Lanier is no stranger to competition and knows what it takes to win.

“I’ve always been competitive,” said Lanier. “Growing up playing baseball and softball anything I’ve done, I’ve always wanted to be competitive at it and try to be the best at everything. You know, just put your full potential to it and don’t give up.”

Just like in auto racing and especially at Bowman Gray the cars have tales of their own on how it can be switched from hand to hand and most of the time it’ll stay inside the huge dysfunctional racing family. Dennis got his car from a man who couldn’t afford to race it and it has ties to a fellow driver.

“It’s Gerald Robinson’s old car, I think he raced it last year and had a pretty good run with it and it seems everyone else has had a pretty good time with it. Actually, we met up by accident,” said a well thought Lanier. “He’s being helping me out by trying to get used to it and where & how to blend in with the cars and how to get in with the guys up there.

How does one learn about their race car, that they’ve never in until a month ago, in only a couple of practice sessions? Also, how do you learn about the key elements of a race, the racetrack, in so little time and what to do as a rookie driver on the track? Dennis provides an insight into how to do it and what to do.

“I hope to improve every practice and race to improve,” said the Lexington resident. “Getting more speed and getting used to racing everybody in the pack, because during practice there are 8-12 cars out there, as to where the race you’ll have 24 to 26 and maybe more who knows. You know, just getting used to my car braking, acceleration, where I can get closer to the guys in the turns, just getting a feel for the car and learning how to get better and be more competitive.”

The Sportsman and Stadium Stock have shown the best racing over a course of 15 years with points battles coming down to the last lap, 4 wide finishes, closest finishes in the track’s storied history. The Street Stock has fluctuated from good to bad over the past couple of years, but I think with a potential 24-26 cars every week, it could be pretty hairy and interesting and Lanier would agree.

“With that many cars out there and the rookies coming in and some of the veterans coming back, so it’s going to be wild. It’ll be a season for everyone to remember for a long time. I expect to just ride around avoiding every incident, have fun and make sure my finishes are getting better by the week and just try to be competitive each week. I’m not running for rookie of the year, but if it falls into place I just may shoot for it towards the end of the year.”

I’ve been all around racing with marketing, screen printing shirts, and paintings and I said it’s enough I’m ready to get in one. I believe if you want something, just grab the bull by the horns and go after it. That’s where my architect bug kicked in and said I got to try this because I don’t want to be 75 and look back and regret not trying to race a car. I don’t care if this lasts 1 year or 5 years and I move down to karts afterward, I don’t want to regret anything that I’ve done in my life.”

Dennis would like to thank the people whose helping him out this is, because if it wasn’t for them this man wouldn’t be able to finally live out his lifelong dream. “I would have to thank my son Devin first and foremost, he’s been there since day one from going to pick up the car and helping me in the shop and at the track. Also, I would like to thank Gerald, he’s just been awesome. He’s been telling me what to do and what’s the best way to start and all of that. He’s being wonderful by helping me with all of that and I’m grateful for him.

Bryan Sykes for telling me about the car, because if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have this car and for helping me out on the track. I would like to thank my sponsors Top Rope Belts and Randy Jackson for taking a chance on a rookie like myself, Energy United who were gracious enough to chip in, Brad Smith at Velocita he’s come onboard, he hooked me up by getting my suit, gloves and shoes made, that really was a huge thing to me. My cousin Chris Leonard at Trailer Doctor for getting my winch, trailer, and lights wired up and working correctly. I’ve got sponsors pending, but I’m still looking for more sponsors to come on and help me out in my rookie season.