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The Passing of Our Crew Chief Jeff Lauener
Our friend and crew chief whom we cared deeply for and had nothing but the best of times with has gone to be with our Lord Jesus Christ after a long battle with heart disease which led to a massive stroke.

Jeff Lauener, who was one of the most well liked drivers andlater crew chiefs in Northwest drag racing passed away of congenital heart failure. For the last three years Jeff was a part of our Capitol Auto Group Racing family and with the help of Art Mendoza, helpedturn our struggling team around by moving to a blown alcohol program that included two top qualifying positions. Beyond his assistance with our team he had a very storied history in drag racing and his life touched a lot of people.

Jeff's last trip to the track was in the late fall of 2007 which aloud him to witness his dream of seeing son Jesse drive a Junior Dragster for the first time at the final race of the year at Champion Raceway in Medford. It was just two weeks later that this proud father had a massive stroke and has been in and out of the hospital and confined to a wheelchair ever since. Even with his new challenges, he still was the joyful, happy person we have always known. Prior to his passing, Jeff got to see his dragster that he was beginning to restore prior to his stroke reassembled and displayed at the Eugene Roadster Show in late March. Jeff had just been in the hospital but was still able to attend the show and see his car that our crew put back together for him thanks to his wife Kimberly who has done an admirable and exceptional job of taking very good care of him. She encouraged Jeff to keep his dream alive and selflessly gave him all the time he needed to go racing with us.


Jeff got interested in racing in the early 70's as a teenager by going to Balboa Dragstrip in Eugene and witnessing the spectacle of top fuel dragsters and funny cars. Jeff eventually got hired to work at the track and then quit that job to begin helping Top Fuel racer Ron Salsbury of Corvallis, who raced all over the northwest. Coincidentally, Salsbury lived and worked on his car in the same neighborhood that I lived in. As a young boy peaking into Salsbury's garage, I obviously never thought that one of the people working on the dragster would some day be my crew chief, let alone that I would ever drive one of those things, thanks in part to Jeff. I'll never forget walking to school and seeing that white dragster on an open trailer pass by me on the way to a race.

After Salsbury retired from racing, Jeff opened a transmission shop in Eugene and then began racing his own dragster in competition eliminator and later super comp. In the late 1970's Jeff competed for the NHRA World Championship and was number 3 at one time in Grace Cup points. In a race in Yakama, Jeff crashed his car but still made a race the following weekend in Boise which demonstrated his resolve to get it done regardless of the circumstances. While racing during this time Jeff began meeting and getting to know a lot of racers who now consider him a longtime friend.

After taking some time off from the sport, Jeff came back with a new front engine dragster injected on nitro, with his brother Ron Lauener, who lives in the Seattle area. Lauener Bros. Racing was born and with the help of crew members Herb Moore and Chuck Schrisky the team raced at Woodburn and Madras nostalgia events. Jeff would later park the car and moved to Canby from Eugene. It was during that time Jeff served as the chairman of the board for the Team Safety program which promoted traffic safety at schools and other venues. While Jeff was the Chairman, the program was successful.

Around the same time, Jeff took over a failing Mac Tools route in the Portland area. One of the reasons it had failed before was because it was difficult for the former salesman to collect on sales that were past due. Jeff turned the losing route around into a winner partially because of his people skills and good salesmanship. He was able to successfully collect on debts and increase sales which is sometimes difficult to do in the tool business.

Since the Lauener Bros. Dragster was idle, I was able to talk Jeff into racing with Art Mendoza and myself. I remember how excited I was when he called back to accept my offer. Bringing Jeff on was one of the best moves I could have ever made and helped give the team a firm foundation that it had been lacking. The three of us along with Chuck, and his son Jesse raced together for two solid years without ever having a bad word between us. We had a lot of good conversations on the road and he always had some great war stories to share.

We also were able to work through any problem that came our way, whether it was nearly getting stranded in Canada when the truck broke down or fighting a transmission problem in the dragster atMedford. There was a time when others would have quit but Jeff was loyal and always steadied the course because he knew better days were ahead. And there were.

What a lot of people don't know is that Jeff was also my mentor and helped me initially get licensed when I bought my first car on a wing and a prayer. Later, when we started racing together he taught me how to drive the blown alcohol car. It was a rough road for the first few races but it all turned around in Spokane and from then on things went a smooth. Jeff raced with us up until his devastating stroke. I held out hope that Jeff's health would improve so he could some day return to the team but it was never to be.

Elvon Kauffman of Racer's for Christ once told me that even in the most horrible circumstances it's not what happened but how you handle it. Jeff's unbreakable spirit was a great example of what Elvon was talking about. Even as he was confined to a wheelchair and unable to do the things he was so good at, his disabling stroke could not break Jeff's spirit and happiness. We all need to remember how Jeff gracefully faced his challenges even in his last days and hold him up as a shining example of how life should be lived and how well he treated others whether they were a friend or a complete stranger.

Rich Bailey

Jeff loved racing, fun and was full of life