July 26, 2023 at 8:00 a.m.
Updated July 26, 2023 at 8:00 a.m.
Jillian Lieser’s maroon 1993 Dodge Spirit is ready to roll. And so is Lieser.
This 18-year-old Melrose woman will be competing in the first ever autocross race at the Stearns County Fairgrounds in Sauk Centre starting at 1 p.m. Sunday, July 30.
“It’s a lot of adrenaline because everything comes really fast,” she said July 18, recalling her first time racing earlier this year.
Autocross racing piqued her interest a few years ago when her stepfather, Corey Bueckers, raced. She watched him participate in demolition derbies for years.
“I always knew I wanted to do derbying, and autocross is getting me started. Last year I rode with Corey, because you can have passengers when autocross racing, and I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I want to do this,’” said Lieser, daughter of Cheryl Bueckers, and a 2023 Sauk Centre High School graduate, who works at Felling Trailers in Sauk Centre.
She explained with autocross, participants race around a track in timed laps.
“You go around like eight times, and if you are in first or second place, you move on to the feature,” she said.
At the fairgrounds, autocross racing is in the same location used for the demolition derbies.
“You race, but you can bump, push and shove each other, but not full on,” she said.
Racers wear protective gear, like helmets and safety glasses.
Lieser modified her vehicle, which was her sister’s first car.
“It’s a front wheel drive car, which typically works best, and it’s easier to get around corners,” she said.
With help from Corey Bueckers, Lieser removed the headlights, back window, backseat and bumpers.
“I made my own bumper out of metal tubing,” Lieser said. “It’s better because it’s not as easy to poke a hole in my radiator, and it’s safer.”
They put on “beefier” tires.
“We are driving in dirt, and that will help get more traction,” she said.
They installed a different fuel cell, to ensure no gas leaks from the gas tank.
“A lot of the stuff we used Corey and Eric (Corey Bueckers’ brother) had, and they helped put it together,” she said.
Lieser participated in two autocross races this year, in Alexandria and Motley. A friend rode with her in Alexandria, her first race behind the wheel.
“I was really nervous, but once they waved the flag my adrenaline took over and it was exciting,” she said. “Between all of the loud cars, you are so focused on what’s going on.”
In Motley, she earned first place in one lap, advancing her to the feature race. She earned second place in the Motley powder puff race.
There is an entry fee, which allows for a payout for the winners.
She has learned what to look out for – and listen for – when racing.
“Sometimes, with the motor, you are not getting enough power or something is wrong with your tires and you are not getting enough traction,” Lieser said. “In Motley, I had my airbag go off after someone hit me, and I shoved it back in my steering wheel and kept going.”
Each race track has a different layout and length.
“Through the different tracks, I’ve learned tactics to turn and get around corners tighter,” she said.
And she had learned not to be scared, as she travels 20 to 30 mph around a race track.
“Just do it,” is her advice to others thinking about autocross racing.
During her previous races, family and friends cheered her on in the stands, much like she did in her younger years, which spurred her on to becoming a driver, with a goal in mind.
“I hope I get to derby some day,” she said.
Autocross racing is her stepping stone.
“It was 100% what I thought it would be,” she said.