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BIR preps for big NHRA weekend

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There were no races last weekend at Brainerd International Raceway (BIR), but there also was no shortage of action at the racetrack north of Brainerd.

Raceway personnel have been going full force to spruce up the grounds in preparation for the biggest event of the season.

The NHRA is in town.

The 32nd annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, the 15th of 24 races in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series for 2013, run Thursday, Aug. 15, through Sunday, Aug. 18.

But as any lakes area resident knows, the preparation starts long beforehand. Case in point are the campers that continually increased in number in the Freedom and BIR parking lots more than a week before the races in anticipation of claiming prime camping spots. How many of you waved at the stuffed purple gorilla sitting in a camping chair along Highway 371 at Freedom?

Campers were let in Monday.

Also last week, professionals’ trucks started arriving and parked on the BIR grounds after a weekend of races. Professional racers started setting up Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by the sportsmen racers.

“It’s a mad dash to get that (prep work) done because there’s a lot of work that needs to be done,” said Tom Ryan, controller at BIR.

While the track grounds undergo spring cleaning in preparation for summer racing, that all happens again right before nationals, including powerwashing, painting, pouring and installing concrete barricades, adding fencing and getting the various campgrounds in order.

BIR owners Jed and Kristi Copham have been making steady improvements at BIR, and those improvements will continue after the track and NHRA negotiated a 10-year agreement for nationals.

“It allows for us to plan for the long term, so when we make the track improvements we know NHRA is coming,” said Ryan, noting a three-year agreement ended in 2012.

An NHRA news release says BIR is unique among other tracks on the NHRA circuit because of its on-site camping — specifically, The Zoo campground, which has a reputation among drivers, teams and fans for being the place to be at the end of race day.

With live bands Thursday through Saturday, a fireworks display, 24-hour food, a constant parade of partywagons, bonfires and rickshaw races, The Zoo is a major part of the overall experience at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at BIR, the news release said. 

Fans can also visit the NHRA’s Nitro Alley, where manufacturers and sponsors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and freebies.

As for races, the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals qualifying session will begin 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 will begin at 11 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 18.  

The race will feature competition in three pro categories: Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock. The race will be televised on ESPN2 HD. The 2012 winners were Morgan Lucas in Top Fuel; Ron Capps in Funny Car; and Erica Enders-Stevens in Pro Stock.    

Children 12 and younger will receive free general admission with a paid adult all weekend. To buy tickets, call BIR at 866-444-4455 or visit For more information about NHRA, visit

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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