When Nick Engler landed his first Bracket Drag Racing Series championship last fall, one would think that he'd have family bragging rights for the entire year.
But the 27-year-old Engler found himself in a delicate situation with his dad, Dave Engler, who's been drag racing at BIR for decades. Nick won the 2018 Pro ET championship, well ahead of his dad's 17th-place finish, but Nick is the first to admit that he may not have won had it not been for his dad.
In the final round race of the season last fall, the Pro ET point standings were tight, with Nick sitting in first place by a slim margin over the next few racers. But he lost in the first round of eliminations, opening the door to the other racers who could've passed him in the standings by winning a few rounds. All he could do was sit and watch the race unfold. But dad came to the rescue.
In the first round, Dave knocked off Joe Howell, who was sitting in second place, and then he beat Steve Brings, who was sitting in fourth, which was enough to secure the first series championship for Nick. He admits that it's not the ideal way to win your first title, but he'll take it anyway he can.
"Things fell into place pretty well," he said. "I didn't really expect to win (the championship) but you just hope your car holds together. It seems like it was breaking down every other weekend but it held together enough to win."
Nick's been racing at BIR since he was 13 years old. He started in Junior Dragsters until he was 16 and then occasionally raced his grandpa's car - the 1969 Dodge Coronet that he still races.
"We're ready to go," Nick said about this season, even though he knows he'll have a target on his back. "It was a high when we won it, but at the same time, after a week or two you start focusing on next season. So we'll see how it goes."
Engler is among more than 250 drag racers who will compete in this year's Bracket Drag Racing Series, which starts this weekend. Friday is a Test & Tune day. Saturday and Sunday each start with a round of time trials and qualifying, followed by elimination rounds. Winners in the 10 classes are crowned both days. There are seven Bracket Drag Racing weekends this year at BIR.
One of the Bracket Drag Racers who knows a thing or two about winning is Steve Roehrs, who won the 2018 Super Pro series championship. Super Pro is typically the largest class and one of the toughest classes, with as many as 90 racers competing each weekend. Roehrs beat 58 other drivers who competed in the points race.
"We had three wins last year, so it was a phenomenal year," said Roehrs, who has won the Super Pro and Pro ET championships several times. "We'll be trying to repeat this season but that's a tall order. (The other drivers) will throw everything at you. Everybody's tough. If it's your day, it's your day. All the planets have to align."
Two racers repeated as series champs last year and will be gunning for a three-peat this season. Devrin Walcheski drove his 1979 Camaro to three wins and a runner-up finish last season in the Comp Trophy class, generating enough points to leave him at the top of the point standings.
Jimmy Paulson blew away the competition in the Pro Bike/Sled class, ending the 2018 season with six wins and two runner-up finishes, which makes him the guy to beat in 2019.
In Stock/Super Stock, Brad Kovisto proved that you don't have to end up in the finals every race to take home a series title. Racing his 1974 Pontiac GTO in arguably the toughest class with some of the best racers in the Bracket Drag Racing Series, Kovisto ended the season with a win and two runner-up finishes, but won enough rounds each weekend to generate valuable points, all of which contributed to his championship.
Joe Moriarty Sr. drove his 1968 Olds Cutlass to a series title in the Sportsman class. He finished the season with two wins and three runners up.
During the 2017 season, Tyler Gadacz, Tyler Kyllonen and Sally Lowe finished in sixth, seventh and eighth place, respectively, in the Street Trophy class. But they all moved up five places last year, finishing in the same order, but at the top of the standings. It was Gadacz's first series championship, as he drove his '04 GTO to three wins and five runner-up finishes.
Gary Loeffelholz took home the Quick 16 title after winning the first and last races, which earned him enough points for the championship in a field made up of very fast 7- and 8-second cars.
In the Junior Dragster classes, Samantha Cielinski won four races and finished as runner up once on her way to a championship in the Advanced class.
In 2017, Riley Luberda finished second in the Intermediate class, but put together a strong season last year with three wins and three runner-up finishes, which earned him the championship.
The top three racers in the Novice class all moved up to the Intermediate class last season, opening the door for some new racers. Addyson Scheleck took advantage of the situation, winning the title by finishing first three times and runner up three times.
Below are the top three finishers in each class:
1-Steve Roehrs, 2-Greg Grundman, 3-Travis Reutzel
1-Nick Engler, 2-Joe Howell, 3-Christopher Takacs
1-Joe Moriarty, 2-Jerry Hieb, 3-Troy Luberda
1-Brad Koivesto, 2-James Findell, 3-Glen DeMenge
1-Jimmy Paulson, 2Brad Harder, 3Mike Bolander
1-Devrin Walcheski, 2-Mike Simons, 3-Aaron Athman
1-Tyler Gadacz, 2-Tyler Kyllonen, 3-Sally Lowe
1-Gary Loeffelholz, 2-John Lieberg, 3-Rodney Thompson
Jr. Dragster Advanced
1-Samantha Cielinski, 2-Jazper Wiebusch, 3-Trevor Jelinski
Jr. Dragster Intermediate
1-Riley Luberda, 2-Daniel Dancer, 3-Dylan Dancer
Jr. Dragster Novice
1-Addy Scheleck, 2-Blake Neyssen, 3-Daniela Krech