Once upon a time, a long time ago……
Two belt sanders sit idle, side-by-side, as the crowd grows silent. With the cry of “ready… go” Lorne Nielson flips the start button and both sanders race down the 30’ long track as the crowd erupts into cheers. The first belt sander drag race final at Nielson’s Building Center is complete.
Originating at Nielson’s Building Center in Point Roberts, Washington, this local racing event has become a national pastime.
“This whole ideas started over a few beers”, explains Lorne Nielson, owner of Nielson’s “Myself, Phil Lipton and Gary Bouwman were sitting around talking regular guy stuff… sports, girls, power tools… when the conversation somehow turned to how belt sanders can get away from you and it all kind of went from there.”
“In March 1989 we incorporated the idea of racing sanders into an appreciation evening we had for our contractors and customers. This first race was a big success and it has now taken on a life of it’s own. People now come into the store months in advanced to find out when the next race will be.”
The most notable entry that first race was Ken Keaton, the originator of the modified division. No one else that evening had the foresight to change the sander’s speed to make it go faster. Ken went on to victory, but along with the gory, there was a heavy price to be paid. Out of bitterness, resentment, or just plain jealousy, Ken was branded with the good-natured name of Cheatin’ Keaton by fellow racers – a name that has stuck with him to this day.
As interest in the race grew over the years, Lorne and Phil felt they were really on to something. They brought in marketing specialist Stephen Dorsey and in 1996 together they created the ibda – International Belt Sander Drag Races Association. The idea was to put some official rules to this event, find businesses and groups to hold sanctioned races and eventually find the fastest sander in North America.
Over the next 18 months 41 races events were held in 19 states and Canada. Each had the opportunity to send their event winner to the first grand championship, held in Indianapolis on May 24th 1998. The event was a huge success with Steve McKenzie of Vancouver, Canada winning the modified division.
In the following years, the national finals have been held in various locations, including Nielson’s Building Center, Rod’s Building Supplies in Richmond, BC, and Rock Creek Do it Best in Red Lodge, Montana.
Check out our Media Page to see IBDA video, radio, and press coverage over the years.