Whether you call it beginner’s luck, pure skill or anything in between, Shawn Carlson’s drag racing season was incredible, and one he’ll never forget.
Carlson and 11 other racers in Brainerd International Raceway’s Bracket Drag Racing Series were named 2017 Series Champions. They’ll be honored Feb. 24 at BIR’s annual Racer Banquet.
Carlson has raced at BIR for many years but this was his first season competing in the Bracket Drag Racing Series for points and a shot at a championship. He raced in the Pro ET and Sportsman classes, taking the points lead in the Sportsman class after the first weekend of racing. Five months later, he was still on top of the point standings, having earned the series title.
“It was kind of fun,” Carlson said, admitting that the pressure of being No. 1 continued to increase as the season went on. “More than once I would pull over on the return road to see who was winning and who was losing. I felt myself watching over my shoulder a lot.”
Driving a 1973 Plymouth Scamp, Carlson also won BIR’s King of the Track title in July, beating the top racers in the bracket series. It was a good year for Carlson.
“Racing in Pro ET is really tough and really prepares you for anything,” he said, shedding a little light on the secret to his success. Carlson finished 16th out of 60 drivers in the Pro ET class.
Carlson said he’s looking forward to next season, partly to defend his title but mainly to watch his twin 5-year-old boys compete in the Junior Dragster class for the first time. “I’ll really be wearing a smile on my face watching them go down that track,” he said.
Brian Johnson is wearing a smile as well, after repeating as Super Pro champ. It wasn’t easy, though. Johnson and Gary Loeffelholz were in a dogfight all season on the drag strip and in the point standings. Johnson grabbed the points lead after the third weekend and wouldn’t surrender it for the rest of the season. Loeffelholz was right on his heals in second place but couldn’t catch him.
Johnson and Loeffelholz have dominated the ultra-competitive Super Pro class, which typically attracts about 90 racers each weekend. The two racers have combined to win the class title the last five years. Johnson won in 2013, 2016 and 2017 while Loeffelholz won in 2014 and 2015.
When Loeffelholz won the title in 2014, his son Reno won the Pro ET class. Reno found his way back to the top of the standings this year again, winning his second Pro ET championship.
Driving a 1968 Mustang, Reno took over first place after the fourth weekend and never looked back. Second-place finisher Joe Schmall couldn’t catch him.
Jimmy Paulson was another racer who returned to championship form this year. Paulson raced Super Comp for many years at BIR but decided to give Pro Bikes a try in 2015. His first year on two wheels went well as he dominated the class and took home the series championship. Last year was a different story.
“I struggled a lot with my reaction time last year,” Paulson said. ” I got that straightened out and then this year I was in the right place at the right time for the most part.
“Kayla (Filipiak) was on fire at the end after figuring out her bike, and Kyle (Lundberg) is always tough,” he said. “They kept the pressure on all season. They kept me sweating.” Filipiak took second and Lundberg third.
In Stock/Super Stock, Glen Demenge chased Ben Line all season in the point standings. Line grabbed the points lead after the first weekend and wouldn’t relinquish it until the final race, which Demenge won. That gave him just enough points to steal the championship from Line in dramatic fashion.
The winners of the two Trophy classes are collecting their first championships in those two classes. Devrin Walcheski won the Trophy Class and Todd Anderson won the Street Trophy class.
The Quick 16 class only had four races on last year’s schedule and one of them was rained out, so there was added pressure to win. Michael Freischel only needed two races to secure the top spot in the standings and a series championship. He was runner up once and he won the class once, giving him enough points to earn the title.
A drag racer who is not new to winning championships is Sydney Thompson. She repeated this year as champion of the Junior Dragster Advanced class for ages 13-18. She also won the series championship in 2013 when she was racing in the Junior Dragster Intermediate class for ages 10-12.
The Dancer brothers – Dylan and Daniel – were series champs in the Junior Dragster Intermediate and Junior Dragster Novice classes, respectively. Both were second-place finishers last year in those two classes.
Congratulations to all the winners!
Below are the top 3 finishers in each class.
1 – Brian Johnson
2 – Gary Loeffelholz
3 – Mike Campbell
1 – Reno Loeffelholz
2 – Joe Schmall
3 – Brandon Schmall
1 – Shawn Carlson
2 – Lee Dugdale
3 – Rory Emmans
1 – Glen DeMenge
2 - Ben Line
3 – Brad Haugaard
1 – Jimmy Paulson
2 – Kayla Filipiak
3 – Kyle Lundberg
1 – Devrin Walcheski
2 – Mike Larson
3 – Andrew Walcheski
1 – Todd Anderson
2 – Heather Ingman
3 – Luke Schneider
1- Michael Freischel
2 – Henry Wiebusch
3 – Dan Narusiewicz
Jr. Dragster Advanced
1 – Sydney Thompson
2 – Jazper Wiebusch
3 – Samantha Cielinski
Jr. Dragster Intermediate
1 – Dylan Dancer
2 – Riley Luberda
3 – Megan Cielinski
Jr. Dragster Novice
1 – Daniel Dancer
2 – Brody Thompson
3 – Carter Luberda