Over two decades of pairing Heather Line and Dennis Erb Jr. has become a historic milestone in Dirt Late Model.
Last month, Erb and his longtime team principal, Line, won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship, and with the achievement, Line became the first female team principal to win a National Late Model Series. Their journey together spans 21 years and tells a story of hard work, perseverance and self-confidence.
After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Line secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborne, Missouri with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Line and Erb are a two-person team living in the tale of David and Goliath. To be as successful as possible this year, the duo knew they needed to do as much as they could with the resources at their disposal.
“It’s always a problem when you only have two people at the racetrack and in the store,” Line told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so Dennis has a significant amount of work to do during the day so that when I get there I can start working and serving. This is planning ahead. You need to have this system and make sure you are prepared beforehand.
“When you have a problem on the track, make sure it’s all ready so it’s a quick replacement, not a lengthy repair process. We didn’t have a single DNF in World of Outlaws, we only had one DNF out of 96 races. [combined among all series]”.
It was no easy feat. Between his busy travel schedule and Laine’s full-time job as an engineer, time is precious. What they lacked in time and resources, they made up for in patience and planning.
“We buckled up and got all the necessary equipment back, freshened up the engines and stuff like that,” Line said midway through last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher concentration. I tried to keep my core work hours as short as possible while still keeping what I needed to get the job done. I got rid of many other distractions and installed a better store system.
“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little more instead of going home to the store. So we needed to be more prepared to stay out of those longer runs. It was just a little more. It was a heightened feeling.”
It was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons since 2001. Their partnership began with Laine’s bravery. When one door closed, she quickly opened another. In 2001, Laine’s father was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted her weekend back, but Line knew it was her life’s journey and wasn’t ready to lose it.
“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Line said. “I watched races with my father. As a child, he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing in the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took me a year to convince my father to go to the track with me. Eventually he did and we sponsored a car that year and he started racing limited edition cars the following year. He ran hobby stocks and limited editions of the latest models.”
At some point, the level of commitment between Line and her father diverged.
“He did this for about five years,” Line said. “And then my mom said, ‘I’m tired of racing. I want my weekend back. It’s just not fun anymore.” I wasn’t ready to hang my girls, and Dennis ran out of the same hometown, so I went downstairs and introduced myself on a dare; told him if you ever need help, I’ll drill out the rivets, help clean up, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later, here I am.”
making my way through
Line took a job that was male-dominated in a field that was also male-dominated and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Line has become a model for other women seeking to find their place in racing and in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in general. She has her mother to thank for being a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance with an unknown entity, and most importantly, herself.
“I was raised to believe that I can do whatever I want if I put my heart and soul into it.” Line responded when asked about role models in sports growing up. “My parents raised me not with such a restriction. But in terms of a racing role model, I went there completely green and just presented to Dennis the fact that he was brave enough to take a chance and bring a girl to the race track. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”
Line and Erb have learned to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by using years of experience and the ability to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of dirty late models. Next year Almost a dozen new tracks will visit World of Outlaws and Line sees this as an opportunity for continued success.
“I just want to do it again,” Line says ahead of next season. “I always look forward to competitions. I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t for the competitive spirit.
“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to yet,” Line said of the 2023 season. “Dennis seems to be doing well with these newcomers. We won at the Marion center, we came second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid pad of information to deal with them for the last three years with these rocket race cars we drive. It’s good to have this information and use it to try something new.”
Four riders from the Talent Cup (TC), a series of series designed to develop promising racers in their early and mid-teens, were selected by series to compete in the 2023 Red Bull MotoGP Novice Cup..
Shinya Edzawa was promoted from the Asian Talent Cup, Reece Stevenson from the UK Talent Cup, Kevin Farkas from the North Talent Cup and Dodo Boggio will represent the European Talent Cup when they take their next step up the ladder.
Japanese rider Ezawa finished second behind Malaysia’s Hakim Danish in Asia this year in his first season. Edzawa took victories in the opening race in Qatar and at his home Grand Prix in Motegi, Japan. Danish and Carter Thompson announced earlier this year that they would move up the corporate ladder.
This year Stevenson finished second in British TC behind Johnny Garness, who is ineligible for the Rookie Cup due to age restrictions. Stephenson failed to win any of the 16 British TC races but took pole position four times.
Farkas will also represent Hungary, finishing second in his division. Farkas has won five wins this year, including a weekend victory in Assen. Rossi Moore won the 2022 title.
Boggio spent the weekend in Jerez scoring two European Championship victories and two more podium finishes in 2022.
The Red Bull Rookies Cup, launched in 2007, is one of the first steps in the MotoGP career. Johan Zarko won the first championship in this division and then went on to podium 30 times in Moto2 and 15 times in the senior division. Other notable Talent Cup alumni who have raced in MotoGP include Joan Mir, Brad Binder and Enea Bastianini, who have won four times in 2022, most recently at the Aragon Grand Prix. Mir wins the MotoGP Championship in 2020
In 2022, José Antonio Rueda won the Red Bull Rookies Cup title with three wins to his credit. He backed it up with seven more top fives to lead Collin Weier by 14 points in a 14-race season.
The NA Talent Cup was launched in 2022 and there are no Rookie Cup graduates yet. Alessandro di Mario was only one point ahead of Jesse Shedden on a 14-race calendar.