For the past 50 years, Cline Motorsports has been racking up wins at short tracks across Virginia.
Current driver Dale Cline estimates the team that was started by his grandfather in 1970 has won more than 400 races in that time.
Even though Dale Cline’s plans to add to that total have been put on hold this season, his hope is to get back on the track soon to continue carrying on his family’s legacy.
Earlier this year Cline, his dad, Ed, and uncle, Doug, built a new limited late model they planned to run at Motor Mile Speedway, where they finished fifth in the points standings and won the final race of the season last year.
Instead, Motor Mile – a NASCAR-sanctioned 0.416-mile paved oval track in Dublin, Virginia – canceled their full season for 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, and many other tracks delayed their openers. So this spring and summer, for Cline, has instead been about trying to work on where he can get better as a driver and getting in the gym to be in better shape and improve his endurance.
Cline plans to run his late model at Kingsport Speedway – a NASCAR-sanctioned 0.375-mile concrete semi-banked oval track in Kingsport, Tennessee – and Hickory Motor Speedway – a NASCAR-sanctioned a .363-mile semi-banked oval asphalt track in Hickory, North Carolina – early next month. He also plans to test his limited late model at Lonesome Pine Speedway in Coeburn, Virginia and run a race there next month.
Last season was the 20-year-old Cline’s first full year of racing. He started racing in 2016, running four times at a local dirt track where he finished in the top-5 three times and won the last race of the season. The next year he ran a late model that had been sitting for about 12 years, coming away with several top-5 and top-10 finishes in about eight starts.
The early success was due in large part to the success Cline saw from his family. His grandfather, Walt, finished third in his first ever race at Wythe Raceway in Rural Retreat, Virginia, and won for the first time the next week. Walt raced on dirt for 17 seasons before moving to asphalt at Motor Mile in 1987, where the team stayed for another 19 years.
Ever since he was little it’s been Cline’s dream to continue driving the "Cline Blue" No. 99 car his grandfather popularized.
"Probably when I was 2, I had a steering wheel in my hand," he said. "Whether it was driving up and down our driveway on my dad’s lap or whatever. I’ve always been interested and wanted to race."
Cline didn’t race competitively until he 15, but he ran go-karts for fun for about nine years before that, which is where he learned how to drive. He played football and baseball growing up, but the desire to get behind the wheel never wavered.
"I’ve seen a lot of rough spots already, trying to outrun guys that have 20 or something years of experience over me, but it’s made me better," he said. "I’d rather run every week against the best that you can give me because then I can see where I need to work."
The driving gene skipped a generation with the Clines. Ed and Doug never drove themselves, but Cline said they’re some of the best at working on cars and getting them ready. If it wasn’t for them his driving career wouldn’t be possible.
"They are the backbone as far as getting us a new car built and everything," Cline said. "Whatever we’ve needed to,they’ve taken care of.
"In my opinion they’re some of the best guys, as far as racing and knowledge and stuff. They’re probably two of the smartest guys you’re ever going to meet. They’ve been around it for so long and a lot has changed as far as the technology side but there’s nothing that they can’t learn. They want to figure out how to get it as good or better than somebody else. They’ve just got a knack for it. That’s the people they are."
Coming from a family that is well-respected in the racing world is something Cline takes great pride in.
"A lot of people know us from racing. When we were running 6-cylinder cars and limited cars a long time ago we were dominating across the mid-Atlantic region," he said. "The one car we’ve got that we were winning all those races with, we’ve still got it. Most people have seen that car or they know about the car. So you take a lot of pride as far as the craftsmanship and all the work they put in over these years."
Cline’s hopes is to continue to represent his family in a professional manner and continue to rack up wins in the No. 99, no matter what racetrack he goes to.
"It’s just what I love to do and I’m glad to have the family that I do and the friend and support and most importantly I’ll always have the Lord," he said. "I feel like I’m being placed in positions, whether they’re good or bad, in my career and at the end of the day I hope I’ll be remembered as someone you want to follow in the footsteps of my career.
"It’s a never ending process with me. The racing is on my mind all day long. When I go to bed I’ll stay up until four or five in the morning thinking of racing, thinking of stuff to do. It’s an obsession really, but it’s an obsession I want to do the rest of my life and I think I’m good enough I can make something of it. It’s just something I love to do. It’s a passion."
Racing returned to Kingsport Speedway on Friday with the Legends Tribute Nite – Twin Pure Street featuring Late Model Stock Car, Sportsman, Pure 4, Mod 4, Pure Street (Twin.).
NASCAR racing as Hickory Motor Speedway is on Saturdays with Late Models, Paramount Limiteds, Street Stocks, Carolina Custom Golf Carts Super Trucks, and Renegades.