Looking back at the drag racing season, Joe Howell admits that taking last year off turned out to be a pretty good strategy. He returned to the sport this season in grand fashion, winning a Bracket Drag Racing Series championship at Brainerd International Raceway as well as King of the Track honors in July and a roster position on BIR’s ET Finals team last month.
“Taking last year off helped me,” Howell said. “I got hungry again.”
Did he ever. Howell’s been drag racing for about 20 years but never raced in BIR’s Bracket Drag Racing Series. He didn’t race in 2014 to move his family from the Twin Cities to Big Lake, which is closer to BIR, so he decided to give the series a try this year. It seemed to work out pretty well.
His championship came in the Pro ET Class. Howell was one of 11 series champs announced by BIR. The six-weekend, 12-race series concluded Sept. 27. The series champions will be honored this winter at BIR’s annual Racer Banquet.
With 59 drivers in the points chase and almost 100 cars in each race, the Pro ET Class is a close second to the Super Pro Class in the number of cars competing. Driving a 1986 Mustang, Howell won two races this season and beat the winner of the Super Pro Class both times in the Super Pro/Pro Shootout, which pays out $2,000 to the winner.
“It’s a tough class,” Howell said of the Pro ET Class. “There’s a lot of good racers and fast cars.”
The same can be said for the Super Pro Class, which featured 62 drivers in the points chase and about 100 cars each race. Gary Loeffelholz repeated as series champion but only by the slimmest of margins. In fact, if Myron Streit had won one more round last season, the championship would’ve been his.
Loeffelholz and his 2004 Mustang were tough to beat, winning the class twice and adding a runner-up finish. He also won a series championship in the new Quick 16 Class, which is a showdown between the quickest dragster and the quickest cars. Loeffelholz won that class once and was runner up once.
The drag racer who proved to be the toughest to beat this year was Jimmy Paulson, who won the series championship in the Pro Bike/Sled Class. He won six races and was runner up in another two, which is impressive when you consider that it was his first year drag racing bikes. He’s been racing for years in a dragster but decided to try a bike this year.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Paulson, who also won the National Dragster Challenge in the bike class last month. “I wish I would’ve changed over to bikes 20 years ago.”
Oddly enough, Paulson’s bike was built by Jason Clampitt, who was last year’s series champion in Pro Bike/Sled and finished in sixth place in the point standings.
James Findell won the series championship in Stock/Super Stock, which is a tall order considering that Ben Line has dominated that class for years. Line won seven of the last eight class championships.
Findell, like all the other racers in the class, were watching over their shoulders for Line all season, but the defending champ battled issues with his Mustang, opening the door for someone else to win the title.
“I was very lucky,” said Findell, who blew up the motor in his 1973 Plymouth Duster the weekend before. He had to race his wife’s car and then really struggled in the final race. “I drove terribly Sunday.”
But he made it to the third round, which was good enough to hold on to the championship, his second after winning it in 2003.
In Sportsman, Brandon Schmall and his 1970 Dodge Challenger racked up three wins and a runner-up finish to take the series championship.
“It was a pretty good year,” said Schmall, who also won his Race of Champions for BIR at the ET Finals last month. He also finished second in Pro ET and ninth in Super Pro.
Jared Hutar won four Comp Trophy races and was runner up once to win a series championship in his ’94 Camaro.
In Street Trophy, Tyler Gadacz drove his 2001 Mustang to three wins and one runner-up finish to win the series championship.
The Junior Dragster racers proved that you don’t need to win a bunch of races to win series championships. Sydney Haben didn’t win a race all season in Junior Dragster Advanced Class but was runner up one race and was a model of consistency, which earned her a series championship.
In the Junior Dragster Intermediate Class, Camryn Takacs won one race and was runner up in three others, which helped her sneak by Samantha Cielinski by less than one round on the season to win the series championship.
Dylan Dancer won three races in Junior Dragster Novice and was runner up in three others to win his first series championship.
Below are the top three places in each class. Congrats to the winner!
1. Gary Loeffelholz of Shafer
2. Myron Streit of St. Cloud
3. Terry Pease of Blaine
1. Joe Howell of Big Lake
2. Brandon Schmall of Lino Lakes
3. Reno Loeffelholz of Shafer
1. Brandon Schmall of Lino Lakes
2. Mark Pease of Corcoran
3. Steve Elzy of Lindstrom
1. James Findell of Zimmerman
2. Glen DeMenge of McGregor
3. Ben Line of International Falls
1. Jimmy Paulson of Stacy
2. Jeremy Berg of Newport
3. Mike Voss of Maplewood
1. Jared Hutar of Cromwell
2. Sid Osterman of Pequot Lakes
3. Andrew Walcheski of Foley
1. Tyler Gadacz of Little Falls
2. Joe Moriarty Jr. of Ham Lake
3. Hannah Line of Cromwell
1. Gary Loeffelholz of Shafer
2. Jordan Pratt of Otsego
3. Brad Baklund of Rogers
Junior Dragster Advanced
1. Sydney Haben of Hibbing
2. Zach Zavadil of Clearwater
3. Maggie Ruzich of Hibbing
Junior Dragster Intermediate
1. Camryn Takacs of Thunder Bay, Ontario
2. Samantha Cielinski of Gilman
3. Trevor Jelinski of Little Falls
Junior Dragster Novice
1. Dylan Dancer of Foley
2. Riley Luberda of Foley
3. Alex Clampitt of Lino Lakes