Two Brainerd High School graduates have found a love of auto racing, but took two different roads to get there.
Max Dondelinger is a 2011 graduate and Nick Jelacie, also of Brainerd, just graduated from Bemidji State University.
Both Dondelinger and Jelacie participated in high school athletics, but came into racing in their own way.
It’s no surprise that Dondelinger got the motivation from being around his dad, D.J.
“My dad started racing when I was young and got the itch,” Max Dondelinger said. “I started racing dirt bikes and I didn’t like getting beat up so I decided that I would race once a week and just have fun. It has escalated from there to now we are racing Super Stocks three nights a week and it’s fun.”
Racing was also in Jelacie’s blood at an early age. He received motivation from his dad to get into the sport with the purchase of a go-cart.
“It started back when I was in kindergarten,” Nick said. “My girlfriend and I were looking through some stuff last weekend. All of the stuff that asked what do you want to be when you grow up, I said I want to be a race car driver. I got a go-cart when I was seven or eight and I wanted nothing to do with it. In eighth or ninth grade I told my dad, we better get that go-cart out of the garage and I started racing it.”
Dondelinger also raced a Pure Stock at NCS while in high school.
“I played hockey and football for a while,” he said. “Then half way through my junior year I started racing snowmobiles so I didn’t play hockey anymore, but I played football all the way through.”
After high school, Jelacie had a successful career with the BSU Beavers baseball team. After graduating, he went after an opportunity to get back behind the wheel in a Mod 4 car.
“I graduated last May and had a good opportunity to buy this Mod 4 from a kid that I raced go-carts with,” said Jelacie. “Last Thanksgiving, my dad and I picked it up on black Friday. We have been going from there.”
Dondelinger went to Utah for his freshman year of college, but knew he would be getting back into racing.
“Over Christmas we did some work and with the help from the guys, Robin Konklin and my dad, I came home for the summer and had the luxury of having my stuff ready to go so I really have to thank those guys,” he said.
While Dondelinger has raced Super Stock for a couple of years, Jelacie struggled early on with his new ride.
“My first three nights out here were tough,” Jelacie said. “It kind of turned me off on racing a little bit to be honest with you.
“Two different times I have taken two weeks off and I feel like I go backward. We took a couple of weeks off and went over to Ogilive. Nothing against NCS, but I needed to go somewhere I could learn and get confidence in myself and in the car. I have been going to Princeton and St. Cloud and we were back here again now.
“Early in the year I felt like everyone was breathing down my neck and there were times I didn’t feel safe. I didn’t want to learn like that, but last week we were back here and it is the best the car has felt all year. I finished sixth and the car was in one piece. We had fun and learned a little bit and that is good enough for me.”
Dondelinger’s place is in the car, but he admits to knowing the workings of the chasis. He understands that the work during the week pays off on the weekends.
Jelacie enjoys the father-son time that car has produced.
“Growing up my parents never missed a game and my mom comes all the time,” he said. “She is at a wedding tonight that me and my dad got out of. She supports me and tells me to go faster. With out fans and sponsors this is not possible.”
He has leaned on other drivers for support including Dondelinger. “I have been talking with Max and Dan Ebert and they are both great guys,” Jelacie said. “I think we are just going to let the car do it’s thing with a neutral setup. If I finish in the back that’s okay. I am getting there.”
D.J. Dondelinger also drove Super Stock in the class with Max the last couple of years. The two had an agreement with Max’s Pure Stock. D.J. would pay for the expenses, but would also get the prize money. They still have the same kind of agreement in place for the Super Stock most of the time.
“It depends on the night. I try to pay as many of the expenses as a I can,” Max said. “He gets a lot of the winnings but that’s fine, I like the driving.”
For Jelacie, after being up and down on the sport, he is happy where he is going with his car.
“The Mod 4 is a great place with a lot of horse power and a short wheel base and we get going,” Jelacie said. “The other guys in the class have been great to me. I was talking to one of the guys the other day and he has been racing in it for 14 years, and this is just my first year. I am glad that I did it and me and my dad have our thing.”