Fractions of a second were what stood between three drag racers from Brainerd International Raceway and first-place finishes in a team competition with 21 other tracks last weekend.
Mike Campbell, Rory Emmans and his daughter Michelle all took home runner-up honors during the NHRA West Central Summit Racing ET Finals at Heartland Park in Topeka, Kan. They were members of BIR’s 40-member team, which tied for second place with Cedar Falls Raceway in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Kansas International Dragway in nearby Wichita placed first.
Rory Emmans’ loss in the finals was even more painful because it in the Race of Champions, which is a race within a race for the top drag racers from each track. Had he won that race, he would’ve qualified to compete for a national championship in Ponoma, Calif., during the NHRA’s Auto Club Finals in November.
“It’s fun to come close but I couldn’t close the deal,” said Emmans, who was competing in his fifth ET Finals. “You can’t beat yourself up over it but it was on my mind all the way home.”
Emmans and his 39 teammates earned their way onto the team based on where they were in the points standings in BIR’s Bracket Drag Racing Series, which is a six-weekend series with one weekend left (Sept. 28-29). The racers on the team are at the top of the points standings in their respective classes.
The team competed against teams from 21 other tracks in the NHRA’s West Central Division, which stretches from Wyoming to Wisconsin and from Colorado to Kansas, including part of Canada. More than 600 racers competed.
Driving his 1968 Caprice, Emmans won his way through four rounds of competition before landing in the finals against Mark Johnson from Kansas.
“I just kept thinking to myself, ‘I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to do this. Don’t screw this up,’” Emmans said. Johnson was quicker off the starting line but his car was smoking all the way down the track. Emmans admits that he was a little distracted by the smoke, which was just enough to keep him out of the Winner’s Circle. Emmans ran a 12.171 seconds and 104.05 mph.
Emmans’ 19-year-old daughter, Michelle, also missed out on a first-place finish. She was competing in the High School class with 31 other racers. Driving her ’98 Regal, Michelle was hoping to improve on her runner-up finish at her first ET Finals last year.
“I just wanted to go one more round than last year,” said Michelle, who graduated from high school last spring.
She had car problems before she even lined up for her first run, though. Her catalytic converter went bad, leaving her with less power. But she won four rounds of eliminations before finding herself in the finals against Katelyn Parnell from Colorado.
“I was nervous because of the catalytic converter,” she said. “And then I left (the starting line) late. I caught a bad light, and it was all over.” Michelle ran 13.948 seconds at 98.06 mph.
Mike Campbell was the only BIR racer to make it past the third round in the Super Pro class. BIR had 14 racers in Super Pro; the field totaled 174 racers.
BIR had 10 racers in the Pro ET class but only Travis Reutzel made it past the second round, losing in the third round. In all, 188 racers competed in Pro ET.
In the Sportsman class, BIR had 10 racers, including Rory Emmans, who lost in the first round. Teammate Brad Mickle lasted the longest for BIR, making it to the fifth round before losing.
Mike Voss and Kyle Lundberg were BIR’s only team members in the Pro Bike class. Lundberg was eliminated early and Voss lost in the quarterfinals.
Michelle Emmans was one of four racers competing in the High School class for BIR. Tracy Arneson advanced to the semifinals before losing.
Below were the members of BIR’s ET Finals team:
Terry Pease of Blaine (Race of Champions)
Brandon Schmall of Lino Lakes
Mike Campbell of Brooklyn Park
Brian Johnson of Nowthen
Rodney Thompson of Anoka
Nick Engler of Ramsey
Greg Grundman of St. Cloud
Mike Anderson of St. Joseph
Dean Beaulieu of Cambridge
Ronnie Luberda of Foley
Toby Giese of Kandiyohi
Ryan Scheleck of St. Cloud
John Helmin of Rice
Al Govlovsky of Bemidji
Travis Reutzel of Eden Valley (Race of Champions)
Robert Ingman of Andover
Mike Casteel of Thief River Falls
Dave Engler of Ramsey
Brad Mickle of Lino Lakes
Steve Roehrs of Frederic, Wis.
Todd Larson of Bagley
Steve Elzy of Lindstrom
Rick Beaulieu of Forest Lake
Kayla Noyes of Andover
Rory Emmans of Dayton (Race of Champions)
Mark Pease of Plymouth
Chris Henry of Sauk Rapids
Lee Dugdale of Scandia
Marie Swenson of Champlin
Joe Moriarty Sr of Ham Lake
Russ Elzy of Becker
Jamie Turcotte of Coon Rapids
Vern Gjelhaug of Dresser, Wis.
Brandon Schmall of Lino Lakes
Mike Voss of Maplewood (Race of Champions)
Kyle Lundberg of Isanti
Joe Moriarty Jr of Ham Lake (Race of Champions)
Taylor Arneson of Pillager
Tracy Arneson of Pillager
Michelle Emmans of Dayton