A skinny kid with curly, blond hair and horn-rimmed glasses, he looked more like a pharmacist in a drug store than a race driver. Although he won the B Feature in his first night of competition, Jensen struggled some early on. Local car owner Keith Barker was the first to put Lonnie into good equipment and soon Jensen was running with the leaders at joints like Capital Beach Speedway in his hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska.
Jensen really started on the road to dirt track immortality in 1970, when he was hired by Larry Swanson to pilot his Chevy sprinter. Jensen struggled a bit at first and was still looking for win No. 1 when the opening BCRA race of the season at Belleville convened on May 30. At the end of the day, Jensen had not one, but two feature wins, taking the trophy at Belleville in the afternoon and winning at Beatrice, Nebraska, that night. "At first, I thought Swanson was going to fire me at any time, but he turned out to be the best owner I ever drove for. I would come in all frustrated and Larry would just laugh and say, 'Hey, we'll get 'em next time.' I really appreciated that," Jensen says. Once the team turned things around, it was a blitz for Jensen and the Swanson Chevy, as they not only nailed the BCRA title, but also won the Beatrice track championship and the Nebraska Modified Racing Association (NMRA) title.
In 1971 Jensen again won the Memorial feature at Belleville but fell to third in the season rankings behind Jon Backlund and Buddy Taylor. This was also the year that Jensen picked up his first career win at Knoxville, Iowa nabbing the feature on July 2nd.
With a brand-new CAE chassis for 1972, Jensen dominated everywhere he went. He won at Belleville during the fair to sew up his second BCRA title over Lloyd Beckman, won the Knoxville championship and finished first in the season points at Eagle Raceway. Jensen also had a shot at the Knoxville Nationals, as he was chasing down leader Kenny Weld, until a bobble on a late-race restart left him with a third-place finish. Jensen again won the Eagle track championship in 1973, driving for Ed Smith, and won a feature at Belleville during the North Central Kansas Free Fair. In 1974, Jensen reunited with Swanson and won his second Knoxville track title.
During the winter on 1980-81, Jim Schuman had an idea for a limited sprint car class at Midwest Speedway in Lincoln, Nebraska. Most of the top names in Lincoln racing gave the class little chance of success. Some even said that it would be nothing but a bunch of "junk" rolling around the track. But Lonnie Jensen jumped on board immediately and gave the group the credibility it needed. "I hadn't raced much for a couple of years and saw the deal as a chance to get back on the track," says Jensen. The first race for this new class of limited sprints was May 24, 1981, at Midwest Speedway and Lonnie Jensen was the main event victor. This is the class that would come to be known as "360 sprints." Four more wins would come Jensen's way during that 1981 season and the Midwest Speedway track championship as well.
He shared the 1984 Modified Sprint National Championship with Joe Saldana and another title, this one at Eagle in 1985. Jensen remained a consistent winner through most of the 1990s, winning his last feature race in 1997.
These days find Lonnie Jensen coaching his son Tige on the ins and outs of racing sprint cars. "Now I know what I put my parents through," Jensen admits. Lonnie Jensen was one of the most soft-spoken of top drivers during the 1960s to 1980s, but when the records are examined, it will be noted that he was one of the best.