Koivisto, Casteel win BIR’s $10K National

On a weekend that was supposed to be reserved for watching 11,000 horsepower dragsters fly down the drag strip, Brainerd International Raceway instead pulled together a big-money race for its drag racers, with a pair of $10,000 prizes on the line.

Dangle $10,000 in front of amateur drag racers and you’ll get some entertaining racing, which was the result last weekend during the first-ever Brainerd $10K Bracket National. Nearly 200 cars battled for Saturday and Sunday’s big payout, but Brad Koivisto and Cole Casteel outlasted the field for the chance to hoist the oversized checks.

The $10k National was scheduled to fill the void left by the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, which was scheduled for Aug. 13-16 but was postponed due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. BIR is still hoping to be added to the NHRA’s September schedule.

The $10K National was run similar to a Bracket Drag Racing Series event, so the field was primarily BIR’s Bracket racers but the big payout also attracted many racers from throughout the five-state region. In addition to the Box and No Box classes that were racing for the 10 grand, the event also featured additional prize money for Sportsman, Stock/Super Stock and Pro Bike/Sled classes. BIR Bucks, which can be used at BIR, were available to the winners of BIR’s three Junior Dragster classes.

Casteel got his weekend off to a slow start. Racing in both the Box and No Box classes, he lost in the first round in both classes, ending his day prematurely. He went to bed early that night and tried to forget about his disappointing start, determined to keep everything the same and stay focused. It worked.

Casteel and his 1994 Sonoma pickup went on a terror Sunday, making it to the fourth round in the Box class and running the table in the No Box class. He beat Gary Olson in the finals with a time of 6.51 seconds and 103.84 mph.

His 13th race of the day would be for the $10,000 prize against Box class winner Trevor Larson and his 2020 Roadster. Larson mowed through the 105-car Box field, beating Nick Engler in the finals by a whisker. Casteel and Larson left the starting line with almost identical reaction times but Casteel snuck past Larson at the finish line with a winning time of 6.499 seconds and 104.40 mph.

“I was trying to be good on the tree all weekend, and not get too fancy,” Casteel said of his game plan for the weekend. “It got a little hectic running 13 rounds like that but I’d rather make a lot of rounds quick so I don’t have a lot of time to over-think it.”

And what’s the plan for the prize money? A motor refresh during the off season, of course.

Koivisto races in the Stock/Super Stock class in BIR’s Bracket Drag Racing Series and admitted that he considered himself a long shot to win. He entered the race more to support the track and enjoy the weekend than as a serious contender for the prize money. But then he started winning rounds on Saturday.

“I got into the fifth and sixth rounds, and the car was running great, and I thought ‘if the driver can just keep his head in the game…’” Koivisto said.   

Driving his 1974 Chevelle GTO, Koivisto won the seventh round, which put him in the finals of the No Box class against Luke Schneider. Koivisto was quicker off the starting line and never looked back, winning with a time of 6.982 seconds and 94.00 mph.

Bob Thiel won the Box class finals and waited for Koivisto and the showdown for the $10,000 prize. “I thought, ‘No way.’” Koivisto said. “The Box class has all the advantages, there’s no way. But I’ll be darned if I didn’t win it. It was definitely a team effort and I had a great team. It’s tough going that many rounds – round after round in a Stock/Super Stock car so we need to cool it down between rounds and get it ready. But it worked.”

As for the prize money: “I’m investing it in my racing future.”   

Below are the winners from the other classes.

SATURDAY, AUG. 15

$10K Shootout
Brad Koivisto of Cromwell def. Bob Thiel of Dumont

Box Class
Finals: Bob Thiel of Dumont def. John Enno of Williston, N.D.

No Box Class
Finals: Brad Koivisto of Cromwell def. Luke Schneider of St. Joseph

Sportsman
Finals: David Lacasse of Forest Lake def. Joe Moriarty of Ham Lake

Stock/Super Stock
Finals: Doug Engels of Watertown, S.D. def. Logan Weiret of Mason City, Iowa

Pro Bike/Sled
Finals: Kyle Lundberg of Cambridge def. Brooke Neyssen of Foley

Jr. Dragster Advanced
Finals: Riley Luberda of Foley def. Dylan Dancer of Foley

Jr. Dragster Intermediate
Finals: Brody Thompson of Nowthen def. Gabe Killian of Superior, Wis.

Jr. Dragster Novice
Finals: Tyler Reynolds of Cologne def. Brynn Renolds of Cologne

SUNDAY, AUGUST 16

$10K Shootout
Cole Casteel of Minot, N.D. def. Trevor Larson of Glenwood

Box Class
Finals: Trevor Larson of Glenwood def. Nick Engler of Howard Lake

No Box Class
Finals: Cole Casteel of Minot, N.D. def. Gary Olson of Sartell

Sportsman
Finals: David Lacasse of Forest Lake def. David Wyum of West Fargo, N.D.

Stock/Super Stock
Finals: John McLaughlin of Grand Forks, N.D. def. Tracy Fairchild of Aitkin

Pro Bike/Sled
Finals: Donnie Durenberger of Dayton def. Jami Neyssen of Foley

Jr. Dragster Advanced
Finals: Owen Drake of Zimmerman def. Aspen Meagher of Hudson, Wis.

Jr. Dragster Intermediate
Finals: Jack Madison of Inver Grove Heights def. Emily McMasters of Owatonna

Jr. Dragster Novice
Finals: Mason Jahr of Foley def. Colt Carlson of Elbow Lake