By Vern Hee
Many have heard of Richard Petty, Danica Patrick and Dale Earnhardt, but the Hansens? No, not the soda drink — the race car drivers.
Chris and Dee Hansen, a husband and wife team, are Minnesota transplants with the racing bug. They have his and her coupes and have raced three times this year.
Chris has been racing since 1967. He has most of his experience racing asphalt and a few years racing dirt back in Minnesota.
Dee has watched her husband race and finally, this year, she has her chance.
Chris is a veteran body, paint and fender man with 30 years experience, so fixing up race cars came naturally to him. When he came to Nevada in 1990, his wife told him to take a five-year cooling off period. She claims when he gets the racing bug he just spends and spends to go faster and faster.
“I promised her back then I would not race any cars because I get so intense,” said Chris.
In the past few years, Chris has returned to racing. It was a brain hemorrhage he experienced in 2005 that got him to return.
“I haven’t been able to work, and I was getting all depressed, all fat and I just sat in the house,” he said. “I have all these things to work on but didn’t want to do it. I get these stupid race cars and they get me out of the house, and all happy and doing all this stuff. It has made a big difference in my life.”
The first coupe came to him in a trade. Chris met someone that wanted a dwarf car.
“I just happened into both of the cars. I have all kinds of hot-rods. I heard one of the guys in a car group I belong to had this bronze coupe — the car Dee drives now. He wanted a dwarf car instead, and I just happened to have one sitting at home,” said Chris.
Right after he made the trade it did not take long to get the second car.
“We were not going to have two cars. The white car was going to be Mike Suber’s car. I saw him walking around in the pits and I said ‘where is your car?’ He said he was going to sell it. He said he wanted a hot-rod. That’s when I told him to come on over. I got both cars in a trade. He won the championship with it so I figured it was a good car.”
Dee Hansen finally got her chance behind the wheel.
Chris said, “I went home and told her that I got anther race car today. She said, ‘What are you going to do with it? That’s two race cars. Can I drive one?’ It is something she has always wanted to do. I have always done this sort of stuff and she has gone with me on the ride-alongs. So I said, ‘yes.’”
With the arrival of the second car in the family, it was on.
“I have been stuck in the stands for so many years watching Chris, and watching my stepson compete. I have always been a competitive person. I never actually got to drive, although I drive to Vegas every day for the past seven years,” said Dee.
“When I jumped into the race car I had no experience. My instruction has been to get in the car and drive. That’s how I learned. His friends would tell me things, and I am just listening and giving it a try and seeing if it works. Yes, I have spun, but once you see it isn’t life-threatening you just put your foot on the floor and get back on the track and go.”
Dee has no fear. Fear was not an option for her.
“Fear? I am not afraid to go race. Once I get in the car I want to win. I have never been a person that did not want to compete. I also want to make sure that I get home safe and my car gets home safe. I never thought I would get a first place in my third race. I was not going to let them win either. I knew I had a better car. I knew I was faster. I just went in there and did it,” she said.
Chris got a mouthful from his friends when he lost to his wife.
“My friends like to give me all kinds of grief about losing. We have raced three times this year, and this is the second time she has finished better than me. So, I have gotten an earful from them,” he said.
Chris’s only response to his friends is, “Put your money where your mouth is.”
“Last year after I got the first race car, I raced four times and won twice. After I won, my friends all came up and said they were going to get one and race too. I said, ‘good, we need more cars out there.’ My buddies have all this time and mouth, and I just tell them, ‘I found you a car on a good deal, come out and play,’” said Chris.
No one took him up on it.
To Chris, his wife is just another competitor on the track and Dee feels the same way about her husband. He does not sulk around the house after a loss to his wife.
“She may have beat me, but she did not beat the car owner because I own them both. No matter what happens I end up being the winner.”
To Dee, it’s been a dream come true.
“It’s been fun. The only thing is I don’t want to be in anyone’s way. I don’t want to be a bother and be in someone’s way, the dumb rookie that does not know how to drive. I want people to say, ‘wow, you drive well’ and be impressed.”
Has it been tough on her? “You betcha,” said the Minnesota native.
“I never realized how hard it is. It is a lot of upper body strength to keep that car going. The track is all rutted with the big clods. I have bruises from trying to turn. You are banging and crashing and trying to get through that. When I come home my hands are all sore from gripping and I have bruises under my arms from my seat. I have not even been in an accident,” she said.
After Chris got his second car, he went to breakfast with his friends. He told them, “I finally got someone with enough guts to come and race with me — my wife.”