NHRA’s pro drivers are pumped to return to BIR

The Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals takes place at one of the most unique facilities on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series circuit, Brainerd International Raceway. Located in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, this multi-purpose motorsports facility next to North Long Lake is one of the marquee attractions in a town of resorts, offering recreational opportunities for almost anyone.

The recently completed Western Swing and a grouping of seven consecutive races over an eight week span tested the determination and resolve of every team in the NHRA Mello Yello Series. Before the start of the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, many racers will enjoy a well-deserved vacation. Battery Extender Top Fuel dragster pilot Spencer Massey, an avid fisherman, says Brainerd is the perfect location to try to catch the big one.

“It’s just nice to be able to hang out there,” Massey said. “Coming off of our Western Swing where we don’t have too many days off it’s just nice to go up there, find a lake and try and catch some fish for a couple of days. It’s relaxing. It gets me ready for the races because after I have a couple of days off I’m ready to get back in my Battery Extender dragster and go racing again.”

The Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals is the 17th of 24 events in the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the penultimate race in the 18-event regular season. Last season, Morgan Lucas (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) earned victories at the event.

The town of Brainerd welcomes the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series with open arms as restaurants and local businesses will be overflowing with racers and fans of the sport. Current Funny Car points leader Matt Hagan and his Magneti Marelli/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger team enters the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals on the strength of four wins and he is excited to see the energized Minnesota fan base.

“To come into town and have everyone pumped up that you’re there, it’s a pretty cool deal,” Hagan said. “Hopefully we can do well there, have the car run well. We’re getting closer to the Countdown. We have a lot of stuff going on, a lot of stuff to focus on and we definitely want to have some time to spend with our fans while we are there.”

Pro Stock racer Jeg Coughlin has four Pro Stock wins and one Super Stock victory at BIR. Through the years he has taken advantage of the resorts in the area as well as enjoyed the racing aspect of the event.

“Brainerd is a very unique market we race in,” Coughlin said. “The town, the fans and the track officials are just fantastic.  My first trip to BIR was in 1990, in Super Gas, and from that initial trip I knew it would always be special to race there, but to win would be amazing and we have been fortunate to do that.”

What makes BIR unique among other tracks on the NHRA circuit is its on-site camping, specifically, The Zoo campground, which has earned a reputation among drivers, teams and fans alike for being the place to be at the end of race day. Racers can often be found in The Zoo meeting their fans and signing autographs during the event.

“The Zoo is pretty cool; It’s incredible,” Hagan continued. “There are so many cool people there. The Canadians are awesome, they come down and hang out and have a good time. It’s a party. It’s a great atmosphere for everyone to get together and celebrate drag racing. It’s just neat.”

“I have enjoyed the fans, the live music and the ‘cruising’ environment of the Zoo several times over the years,” Coughlin stated. “There is a great mix of people and never a dull moment…highly recommended.”

The racing action at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals will be as intense as you will find at any event with only two events remaining where teams can secure or improve upon their positions in the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six-race postseason playoffs.

In Top Fuel, Shawn Langdon leads the points standings on the strength of four wins and will be racing for his first career Brainerd victory. Tony Schumacher has three wins at the facility and will look to rebound after two consecutive first round losses. Morgan Lucas, Antron Brown and Doug Kalitta also have earned wins at the historic venue and will again look to hoist the NHRA Wally at the completion of the event.

Hagan holds the series lead in Funny Car and will attempt to keep Cruz Pedregon, who is second in the points, behind him and secure the No. 1 position for the Countdown to the Championship. Defending winner and three-time BIR winner Ron Capps, along with John Force, Del Worsham, Johnny Gray, Jack Beckman and Country Force, are among the pre-race favorites for the event.

Minnesota natives Greg Anderson and Jason Line will compete at a track where they raced as they honed their skills in their early years of competition. Anderson has three Pro Stock wins at the track while Line has yet to taste victory at the track in a professional category. Mike Edwards, Coughlin, Vincent Nobile and Allen Johnson will all attempt to spoil the homecoming party of the two native racers.

As always, fans will have the opportunity to 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. No other sport offers fans an up-close-and-personal experience like NHRA. Fans can stand within several feet of the crews as they crank up their high-horsepower machines.

For those wanting to make it a family affair, BIR and NHRA are offering an incredible ticket offer: Children 12 and younger will receive free general admission with a paid adult all weekend. Make sure to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley, where manufacturers and sponsors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and freebies.

Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals qualifying opens on Friday, Aug. 16, with sessions at 3 and 5:30 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, Aug. 17, at noon and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 18.

For a sneak preview of the event, NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series fans in Minneapolis will have an opportunity to meet popular Top Fuel drivers Brandon Bernstein and Morgan Lucas during an exclusive autograph session and meet and greet at the Mall of America. The autograph session will take place at the West Market Square within the Mall of America from 5-7 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 14.