The world’s best drag racers soon will start filing into Brainerd for the 38th Annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals (Aug. 15-18), and while there’s always a lot of fun, fanfare and anticipation leading up to the race itself, the teams know that there’s a lot riding on this weekend.
Nationals at BIR is always a critical stop during the season for the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series because it’s the 17th of 24 races. Equally important is that there’s only one race left after BIR before the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. For drivers with championship aspirations, that puts a premium on performing well at BIR to be ready for a world title run.
In addition to world-class racing by the best drag racers on Earth, the popular stop also features one of the most unique and memorable atmospheres on the NHRA circuit, as the huge on-site campground known as The Zoo provides a festive backdrop to the incredible 11,000-horsepower action on the drag strip, including live music and fireworks throughout the weekend. With a special Primetime nitro qualifying session at 6 p.m. on Friday and jet cars Friday and Saturday, the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals will be one to remember.
There were first-time winners in all three professional classes a season ago at BIR, and the host of stars in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock will aim to leave their mark on the critical event in 2019. Billy Torrence (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car) and Deric Kramer (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live final eliminations coverage starting at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
The Torrence family has enjoyed an impressive run in Top Fuel, with Billy winning his first career race a year ago at BIR and his son, Steve, rolling to his first world title in 2018. Both have been impressive in 2019, as Billy won in Phoenix racing on a part-time schedule, while Steve has posted wins in eight of the past nine races to take a commanding points lead. A host of talented stars will try to stop their reign, as the likes of previous event winners Brittany Force and Leah Pritchett, Antron Brown, Clay Millican, Scott Palmer and Doug Kalitta will try to win at BIR.
Beckman grabbed his first Funny Car win at BIR a season ago, marking the fourth straight year a first-time event winner was awarded at the track. The former world champion has been close to his first win of 2019, racing to three final rounds, but he’ll aim to finish the job at BIR against a loaded field. Standing in Beckman’s way are the likes of points leader Robert Hight, defending world champ J.R. Todd, five-time race winner Ron Capps, Tommy Johnson Jr., Epping winner Matt Hagan, Tim Wilkerson, Shawn Langdon and 11-time BIR champ John Force.
Kramer enjoyed a breakout season in Pro Stock a year ago, winning his first two career races. That included his first win at BIR, and he’ll have plenty of momentum. He already has one victory this season in the highly-competitive class as he looks for even more success in 2019. Trying to prevent that are top names like Bo Butner, a former world champion who has four wins this year, five-time world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr., area natives Greg Anderson and Jason Line, two-time race winner Erica Enders and Norwalk winner Chris McGaha.
New to the race program this year is the debut of the Mickey Thompson Tires NHRA Top Fuel Harley Drag Racing Series that is sure to provide some jaw-dropping action. They replace the popular Pro Stock Motorcycle class, but fans are in for a wild ride when the NHRA’s only nitro-powered bikes take on the drag strip. They’re capable of 220 mph and elapsed times around 6.3 seconds.
The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing future stars of the sport. After Nitro qualifying on both days, fans can watch the spectacular Lucas Oil “Muy Caliente” jet cars. Jet cars are propelled by jet engines with exciting pre-run flame shows.
Along with the exciting on-track action, the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals will honor first responders with NHRA’s “Salute to First Responders” during Sunday’s pre-race ceremony.
NHRA fans can take part in the Mello Yello Walking Tour to see the teams hard at work in the pits. Fans can also attend Pro Stock school at on Friday, as well as Nitro School on Saturday to learn how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds. BIR will host the Cruising with Castello Sealmaster Track Walk hosted by NHRA announcer Joe Castello. Another can’t-miss experience is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes. NHRA fans can congratulate the winners as they celebrate their Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals victories.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Tickets are only available at the gate. Kids 12 and under are free with a paid adult.