Competitive racing is a time-eating monster. Not only can it consume 90-percent of the weekends in any given calendar year, but it can also devour countless hours during the week as you prepare for action. Many times, I joke that racing is a disease of sorts. Once it gets in your blood, it’s there forever. It manifests into that drive to compete, that drive to succeed, and ultimately that drive to be the very best. It’s undeniably a complicated situation.
However, for a guy like North Dakota’s Dustin Strand, there is a whole different dimension that weighs into the equation. Not only does the personable 34-year-old racer have to find every possible moment to work on his own hot rods, but he also has to ensure that he makes his racing business – Millenium Chassis – his top priority.
“It’s hard when there’s only so many hours in a day,” Strand says. “It’s tough to get motivated to work on your stuff at night after working on other racer’s cars all day. Then you throw in making sure you are spending plenty of time with your wife and kids at night, and a day can go by in a heartbeat.”
Strand is a second-generation racer. His dad – Brian – began racing in the late ’70s, and from that point, the family caught the racing bug. “Dad owned Strand Machine & Repair in Brocket, North Dakota, and he liked to go fast, so he decided to get a racecar,” Dustin Strand notes. “He started in a Street Stock and worked his way up through the ranks.”
Brian Strand enjoyed considerable success, including the 1997 and 1998 WISSOTA Modified National Championships. “My family was definitely hooked on racing from the get-go. In fact, I was at the track for the first time when I was only like eight-days old,” Strand laughs. “When we weren’t at the track, we were either working on our car or helping someone else with their racecar.”
In 1990, the family officially started Fast Lane Racing Equipment, which provided parts and services for area racers. As Dustin grew up at the track with his family, a deeply rooted passion for racing became more and more entrenched in his veins. Meanwhile, the family business was catching fire as well.
By 1999, the Strand’s side project of helping other racers with parts and equipment grew enough to justify the expansion of their business. This is when Millenium Chassis was officially born.
“We had obviously been working on cars and helping guys get parts, but things really kicked into high gear in 1999, when Dad built a racecar for Brad Seng,” Strand recounts. “Seng went on to win the WISSOTA Super Stock Championship, and that’s when a lot of guys started having interest in us building a car for them, and do the maintenance. With this opportunity staring us in the eyes, we made the decision to jump in with both feet and create Millenium Chassis.”
With Millenium Chassis starting to grow, so was the racer roster within the Strand family. “People kept asking me at the track when I was going to finally start racing,” Strand reminisces. “Dad would respond ‘He knows where the tubing is, so he can build one anytime he likes’.” While there were ample resources for him to build his first racecar, Dustin’s chance to shine behind the wheel ultimately came in a bit of an unlikely way.
“In 2002, a local guy had bought an Impala Imperial Pure Stock, and he asked if I wanted to race it,” Strand recounts. “I was like ‘Heck yeah!’ and took him up on the opportunity. I finished second in my first race at Bemidji, Minnesota, and then the next week I won the Pure Stock feature at Greenbush Race Park (Minnesota). It was a feeling I’ll never forget.”
A decade and a half later, Dustin’s career has blossomed nicely. He’s now won more than a dozen track championships, strewn across multiple divisions. He’s claimed both the WISSOTA Late-Model Championship and the WISSOTA Midwest Modified Championship. In addition, he’s a two-time Northern Late-Model Racing Association (NLRA) Champion.
While his dad is retired for the most part, he still occasionally makes guest appearances behind the wheel of the team’s entries. “Dad still loves to race as much as ever, but since I started racing, he’s kind of taken a back seat in the driving department. I’m incredibly grateful for everything he does for me,” Dustin noted. “Getting to work hand-in-hand with him pretty much every day at the business is something really cool too.”
These days, Dustin mainly splits his time between his Late Model and his A-Modified, but occasionally, he still moonlights in the B-Modified division. “I truly enjoy driving all of the cars about the same, but honestly, I try not to race much in the B-Modified class because we have a lot of clients in that division, and I don’t want to risk having an accident with any of them on the track,” Strand laughs. “I’ve been blessed to enjoy a lot of success behind the wheel, and what I learn in the driver’s seat I apply directly to our racing business.”
The Strand family has filled a niche in their area. While they build new cars each year, their primary focus is keeping racecars maintained and race-ready for clients. “We build a half dozen or so new cars each year, but our main focus is maintaining cars for clients on a weekly basis,” Strand notes. “A lot of our clients are farmers who drop their cars off each Monday and want to pick them up race-ready on Friday. They love to race, but they just don’t have the time to work on them each week. We meet that need for them.” Strand also feels that in the ever-changing technological world of racing that it’s extremely important to be actively testing and racing.
“There are times twhen I hit the track that I know what I have on the car is probably not going to work, but we have to try it to make sure we are giving our customers good tips and ideas,” he says. “The technology changes so fast in racing that it can get away from you in a hurry if you aren’t actively trying new things.” Millenium Chassis has called a few different locations home, but it has resided in East Grand Forks, Minnesota for the past five years.
While the main focus of the company might not be to build new cars, Strand is quick to note that the company takes great pride and enjoyment in manufacturing new chassis. “A lot of chassis builders focus on getting frames out the door, but we focus on having a real nice racecar, top to bottom,” Strand comments. “Most times, guys can pick up a new car from us and be ready to race that same weekend. We are very meticulous in the cars we build. Bottom line, we want to see our clients having the best possible chance to win.”
Most of the new Millenium Chassis are manufactured during the off-season, but the company occasionally manufactures new racecars throughout the year. “We’re not going to set some kind of manufacturing record as far as time goes, but we are pretty fast. Last year – during the summer – we built a race-ready car from the ground up in just a few weeks,” Strand states.
When asked if he gets more enjoyment out of winning himself or seeing a client win, he’s to the point with his response. “I love winning, and I’m determined to win every time I hit the track. However, I can honestly say that I get more enjoyment from seeing our clients win. Helping racers is how we make a living, so if they are winning, then I’m really happy.”
Like most drivers, Strand would love to one day expand his racing operation to the national level. However, he’s realistic in where he needs to keep his focus. “What I’m doing now is what I need to be doing, moving forward,” Strand notes. “Between spending time with my family and maintaining the family business, it makes sense for me to mainly race in a three-to-four-hour radius of the house. We’re lucky, because we have a lot of great options for places to race on a weekly basis in our neck of the woods.”
For any racers, who are considering starting their own business, Strand tossed out a few parting pieces of advice. “Most people don’t realize how much time it takes to simultaneously race and operate a racing business, so make sure you manage your hours in the day wisely. Always put your customers needs in front of your own. And finally, always be honest with your customers and everything else will take care of itself.”