Pirelli World Challenge joins Muscle Car Shootout lineup

The Muscle Car Shootout has always been one of Brainerd International Raceway’s most popular races each season, and now there’s another reason for fans to attend this Labor Day weekend spectacular: the Pirelli World Challenge.

This year’s Muscle Car Shootout features the debut of the Pirelli World Challenge on BIR’s 2.5-mile Competition Road Course. The Shootout also includes the grand finale of the three-race Muscle Car Series on the drag strip, and the Trans Am Series and SCCA Jack Pine Sprints on the road course when the Pirelli cars aren’t racing.

The Pirelli World Challenge is a major addition for BIR because it’s one of the fastest-growing racing circuits in the country and North America’s top production car-based championships. BIR’s race features the Touring Car A and B classes in a sprint format, which is a 40-minute race from start to finish. The Pirelli cars will have a practice session, qualifying and a race both Saturday and Sunday.

After the Pirelli race on Sunday, Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Pro Racing will take over the road course for the a  40-lap, 100-mile Trans Am Series race, which will cap off BIR’s road racing program for the weekend. Practice and qualifying sessions are Saturday, with a practice session on Sunday followed by that afternoon. The race features three Trans Am classes: TA, TA2 and TA3.

When the Pirelli and Trans Am cars aren’t on the road course, the track will be busy with the SCCA Jack Pine Sprints, which highlights regional road racers competing in a number of classes, including Vintage Racers. The SCCA racers have practice and qualifying sessions on Saturday and then 10- and 12-lap races on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the action on BIR’s drag strip will be red-lining as drivers in the three-race Muscle Car Series chase season championships during the series’ grand finale that weekend. The series’ seven Heads-Up Classes will be center stage because of the big horsepower and incredible speed that they generate. Fans will see runs over 200 mph and in the 6 to 7 second range.

“We’re really excited to have the Pirelli World Challenge this year,” BIR Owner Jed Copham said. “It’s really growing fast in popularity and is a good fit for our Muscle Car Shootout event, which now has an amazing amount of diversity on both the drag strip and the road course. Fans can get a taste of many different types of racing, all of which feature drivers performing at a very high level. It’s going to be a great weekend of racing and a great way to end the summer!”

Fans will also be treated to a Classic Car Show on Saturday and live music that night by Uncle Chunk.

Daily admission is $25 and kids 12 and under are free. On-site camping is free with a multi-day ticket. Tickets are available at the front gate or by calling BIR’s Ticket Office at 218-824-RACE (7223) or 866-444-4455.




Pirelli debuts at BIR; field includes 3 Minnesotans

The Pirelli World Challenge makes its debut at Brainerd International Raceway during this weekend’s 26th Annual Muscle Car Shootout. Three classes – Touring Car, Touring Car A and Touring Car B – will be on the track for 40-minutes races on Saturday and Sunday.

For the full preview of this weekend’s Pirelli race, CLICK HERE.

Among the Pirelli racers this weekend are Minnesotans Chris Holter (Rochester), Michael Ashby (Buffalo), and Tom Noble (St. Louis Park), who is an instructor at the BIR Performance Driving School. The Rochester Post-Bulletin ran an excellent feature on Holter and the emotional track he’s taken to reach this point in his racing career. Check it out by CLICKING HERE.

For more details on the Muscle Car Shootout, CLICK HERE.

Set your calendars for the 2015 Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals!

The NHRA today released the schedule for the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. The dates for Brainerd International Raceway’s Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals will be Aug. 20-23.

The 24-race NHRA Mello Yello Series will make its traditional stops across the country and remains the most geographically dispersed U.S. touring series in all of motorsports, reaching fans with its unique brand of high-horsepower entertainment from New England to California, Washington to Florida, and all points between.

Highlighting the schedule once again in 2015 will be the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, the world’s most prestigious drag race, at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, Labor Day weekend, Sept. 2-7.

The season again will open and close at famed Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California. The season kicks off at Pomona with the NHRA Winternationals, Feb. 5-8, and closes at the historic dragstrip with the final race of the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs, the Auto Club NHRA Finals, Nov. 12-15.

Following the season opener, the series returns to Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park near Phoenix for the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, Feb. 20-22. NHRA teams will traverse the country to make it to the traditional East Coast opener at Florida’s Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville for the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, March 12-15.

Three traditional stops will follow: the popular NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, N.C. (March 27-29); the NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (April 10-12); and the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway near Houston (April 24-26).

In May, the teams will travel to Atlanta for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, May 15-17, and then on to Topeka, Kan., for the NHRA Kansas Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka, May 22-24.

Teams will compete at three races in three weeks in June, starting with the Toyota NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J. (June 4-7), followed by the Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals, June 12-14 at New England Dragway in Epping, N.H., and the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, June 19-21 at Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway on Father’s Day weekend.

After a week off, the NHRA Mello Yello Series will make two more stops before the Western Swing. A massive Fourth of July celebration is guaranteed for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, July 2-5 at Norwalk, Ohio. The summer racing parade will continue with the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals, which will move to July 9-12 at Route 66 Raceway near Chicago.

The famed Western Swing will begin one week later in 2015 and kicks off with the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at scenic Bandimere Speedway in Denver, July 24-26.  From there, the teams will trek farther west stopping in Northern California for the NHRA Sonoma Nationals (July 31-Aug. 2) at Sonoma Raceway before finishing the Western Swing near Seattle at Pacific Raceways with the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals, Aug. 7-9. NHRA teams will then take another week off before heading to Brainerd, International Raceway for the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, Aug. 20-23.

The last race in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series regular season at which the final positions for the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship can be secured will be the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, Labor Day weekend, Sept. 2-7.

NHRA’s playoffs, the six-race NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, kicks off two weeks later with three consecutive weeks of racing: the NHRA Carolina Nationals in Charlotte, N.C. (Sept. 18-20); the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis (Sept. 25-27); and the NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa. (Oct. 1-4).

The AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at the Texas Motorplex near Dallas (Oct. 15-18) will set the stage for the final two Countdown playoff races.  The season concludes out West with the NHRA Toyota Nationals in Las Vegas (Oct. 29-Nov. 1) and the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, where world champions will be crowned in Southern California Nov. 12-15.

The Pro Stock Motorcycle class will compete in a 16-race schedule, with six of those races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. The location of the 16th bike race will be announced at a later date.

ESPN2, a part of the ESPN network, will again provide exclusive television coverage on a same-day basis of all NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events, featuring action from qualifying rounds Saturday and eliminations Sunday.

2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Schedule

Feb. 5-8                NHRA Winternationals                                                                   Pomona, Calif.

Feb. 20-22            CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals                                       Phoenix

March 12-15        Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals                               Gainesville, Fla.

March 27-29        NHRA Four-Wide Nationals                                              Charlotte, N.C.

April 10-12 NHRA Nationals                                               Las Vegas

April 24-26          O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals                                                Houston

May 15-17           Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals                       Atlanta

May 22-24           NHRA Kansas Nationals                                                                  Topeka, Kan.

June 4-7                Toyota NHRA Summernationals                                          Englishtown, N.J.

June 12-14            Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals                                        Epping, N.H.

June 19-21            NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals                                                     Bristol, Tenn.

July 2-5                Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals                         Norwalk, Ohio

July 9-12              O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals                     Chicago

July 24-26            Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals                                       Denver

July 31-Aug. 2      NHRA Sonoma Nationals                                                     Sonoma, Calif.

Aug. 7-9               O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals                             Seattle

Aug. 20-23           Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals                                                              Brainerd, Minn.

Sept. 2-7               Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals                                              Indianapolis

NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship

Sept. 18-20           NHRA Carolina Nationals                                                   Charlotte, N.C.

Sept. 25-27           AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals                            St. Louis

Oct. 1-4                NHRA Nationals                                                                  Reading, Pa.

Oct. 15-18            AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals                                          Dallas

Oct. 29-Nov. 1     NHRA Toyota Nationals                                                       Las Vegas

Nov. 12-15           Auto Club NHRA Finals                                                         Pomona, Calif.


Kritzky on slow mend; donations being accepted

Don Kritzky, the Cottage Grove drag racer who crashed at the finish line during the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals Aug. 17, is recovering from his injuries at home. A story in his hometown newspaper, the South Washington County Bulletin, offered an update on Kritzky’s injuries and a recap of the crash. Read the entire story by CLICKING HERE.

Kritzky’s family has established a GoFundMe page to accept donations that will be used to help cover his medical expenses. The page can be accessed by CLICKING HERE.

Kritzky is a long-time racer in BIR’s Bracket Drag Racing Series and is part of BIR’s racing family. BIR owners Jed and Kristi Copham and the whole BIR staff send their best wishes to Don and his family, and wish him a speedy recovery.

Super Pro racer Don Kritzky

Super Pro racer Don Kritzky


Only 2 more Wednesday Night Street Drags left!

Make plans to be at BIR this Wednesday for the next Wednesday Night Street Drags. Bring your car, bring your friends, bring your mom, bring someone who thinks they can get down the drag strip faster than you can. It’s going to be another great night for drag racing.

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to race your own car on the fastest drag strip in the country, or if you’d like to know how to get into competitive drag racing, here’s your chance. The Wednesday Night Drags – Street Legal Style is the perfect way to either test the waters of competitive drag racing or just have some fun with your buddies.

BIR opens the track to anyone with a helmet (Snell 2005 or newer), a valid drivers license and a street-legal car, truck or motorcycle. The gates open at 4 p.m. You can make as many runs as possible until the track closes at dusk. During that time, you get to use the starting line tree, the scoreboard and the burn-out box, just like the pros do. We even have an announcer calling the action over the PA system.

Thank our friends from NAPA Auto Parts for sponsoring our Wednesday Night Street Drags program!

Click here for more details!

Superbikes, MSRA at BIR this weekend, NOT snowmobiles

The Minnesota Street Rod Association (MSRA) will be at Brainerd International Raceway this weekend for its Super Secret Fun Run. Meanwhile, BIR’s 2.5-mile Competition Road Course will be busy with the Central Roadracing Association’s Superbike racing.

RacingThe MSRA will be using the drag strip and will undoubtedly have many incredible street rods on display for fans to check out. The Fun Run is a members-only event but its open to fans who want to take in the festivities.

CRA will be on the road course for its fourth weekend of the season at BIR. This is incredible edge-of-your-seat racing, with the best viewing on the corners. The CRA’s weekend schedule includes practice on Friday and then six-lap races on Saturday and Sunday in Supersport, Superbike, Formula 40 and Grand Prix classes.

Like all BIR races, fans buy a single ticket to get in and then they can go back and forth between events as often as they want. Daily admission is $20, and kids 12 and under are free. On-site camping is free with the purchase of a multi-day ticket.

 CRA Superbike photo by SDE.

NHRA postpones elimination rounds; announces changes

The 2014 Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals is in the books for Brainerd International Raceway but Sunday’s rain-shortened elimination rounds ended with the decision to finish the races at other tracks in the coming weeks.

The only class that crowned a winner was Top Fuel Dragster, when Morgan Lucas beat Doug Kalitta in a spectacular final run, with Lucas taking the win in a fireball explosion across the finish. Unfortunately, the other classes had to be postponed because of darkness and rain.

BIR is responsible for many aspects of the event, including facilities operations, camping, live entertainment, security and ticket sales, but racing operations are run by the NHRA, which is ultimately responsible for decisions like those made Sunday.  “A Ron Capps vs. John Force Funny Car final here would have been epic!” BIR Owner Jed Copham said. “But there were a lot of factors involved in the NHRA’s decision and we hope race fans will understand that. We look forward to seeing everyone back again next year for more great NHRA racing!

“In an operation like ours, we can control a lot of things but the weather is not one of them, and Mother Nature wasn’t kind to us Sunday,” Copham added. “The good news, however, is that fans still saw some incredible racing Sunday. Many records were set, including the first 3-second Funny Car run at BIR, there was a wild Top Fuel finals and a bunch of really amazing racing throughout the day.”

The remaining races will be finished as follows:

FUNNY CAR – The Funny Car finals between John Force and Ron Capps will be completed during the second qualifying session Saturday at the 60th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, Aug. 27 to Sept. 1, at Indianapolis.

PRO STOCK – Pro Stock semifinals and finals with Jason Line, Dave Rivers, Vincent Nobile and Jeg Coughlin will be decided during Sunday’s two qualifying sessions at Indy.

TOP ALCOHOL DRAGSTER – The semifinal and final rounds for Top Alcohol Dragster will be completed at Indy as well and will feature a run-off between Tripp Tatum, Randy Meyer, Duane Shields and Bill Reichert.

TOP ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR – The Top Alcohol Funny Car finals between Dale Brand and Scott McVey will take place during the Lucas Oil West Central Divisional race Sept. 5-7 at Tri-State Raceway in Earlville, Iowa.

SPORTSMAN – Super Stock, Stock and Super Comp will complete their eliminations rounds in Earlville, and Comp and Super Gas classes will complete their elimination rounds this weekend during the Lucas Oil West Central Divisional race at Heartland Park in Topeka, Kan.

BIR’s racing schedule continues this weekend with the Central Roadracing Association on the BIR’s 2.5-mile Competition Road Course for thrilling Superbike racing, while the Minnesota Street Rod Association tears up the drag strip! Daily admission is $20 and kids 12 and under are free.

Lucas wins Top Fuel, rain delays Funny Car, Pro Stock

Morgan Lucas raced to his third Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals Top Fuel victory in spectacular fashion Sunday to close out the rain-drenched NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event at Brainerd International Raceway.

Morgan Lucas won the Top Fuel finals.

Morgan Lucas won the Top Fuel finals.

The Funny Car final round between John Force and Ron Capps, along with the Pro Stock semifinals and final was postponed by NHRA officials due to darkness and inclement weather following a day filled with multiple rain delays. Racing in those categories will be completed during designated qualifying rounds at the 60th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, Aug. 27-Sept. 1 at Indianapolis.

Lucas was on and off the throttle of his 10,000-horsepower Lucas Oil/GEICO dragster as the engine erupted in flames when it crossed the finish line just in front of series points leader Doug Kalitta’s charging Mac Tools dragster. Both machines lost traction early in the thrilling side-by-side final round run, but Lucas was able to guide his machine to Lucas_Wally_Wvictory, the 10th of his career.

Lucas, who is running a limited schedule this season, won from the 12th qualifying position and outran Bob Vandergriff, Steve Torrence and Antron Brown en route to the final round. In his semifinal win over Brown, Lucas clocked a career-best elapsed time of 3.729 seconds.

“It’s fun,” Lucas said. “This is really what I was hoping it would be, just to come out here and have fun, and when you go rounds that is just the added value to it. I am just really lucky that Lucas Oil and GEICO support me. Racing guys like Doug (Kalitta) and Antron (Brown), they are number one and two in points, they are the best. To win this race again is just a really cool feeling.”

When the Funny Car final is held at Indianapolis during the second qualifying session on Saturday, Force will be racing in his fifth consecutive final round appearance of the season, and will once again be trying to defeat longtime rival Capps. Force, an 11-time Brainerd winner, advanced to the final by defeating Bob Bode, Del Worsham and Tommy Johnson Jr. Four-time BIR winner Capps reached the final with round wins over Jeff Arend, Jack Beckman and Alexis DeJoria. This is the third consecutive BIR final for Capps, who has won this race the last two seasons.

Although unofficial until completion of the event, Force took over the Funny Car points lead following his semifinal win over Tommy Johnson Jr. and leads Hight, who lost in the first round, by 18 points.

A new unofficial Pro Stock points leader also emerged in Brainerd as Jason Line raced to the semifinals in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro. When Pro Stock racing resumes at Indy, Line will face surprise semifinalist Dave River, who raced past Erica Enders-Stevens and Dave Connolly in the first two rounds. Vincent Nobile and Jeg Coughlin will decide the other Pro Stock semifinal. The Pro Stock semis and final will be contested during the two Sunday qualifying sessions at Indy.

Several drivers in Top Fuel and Funny Car secured their berths into the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship during the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals. In Top Fuel, Spencer Massey, Steve Torrence, Brittany Force, Khalid alBalooshi and Richie Crampton earned playoff berths, while Ron Capps, Tommy Johnson Jr., Alexis DeJoria, Courtney Force and Matt Hagan all claimed Countdown playoff spots in Funny Car.

Final finish order (1-16) at the 33rd annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.  The race is the 17th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

1.  Morgan Lucas; 2.  Doug Kalitta; 3.  Tony Schumacher; 4.  Antron Brown; 5.  Spencer Massey; 6. Shawn Langdon; 7.  Larry Dixon; 8.  Steve Torrence; 9.  Bob Vandergriff; 10.  Richie Crampton; 11.
Khalid alBalooshi; 12.  Terry McMillen; 13.  Leah Pritchett; 14.  Brittany Force; 15.  J.R. Todd; 16.  Chris Karamesines.

Sunday’s final results from the 33rd annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway. The race is the 17th of 24 in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel — Morgan Lucas, 4.886 seconds, 229.55 mph  def. Doug Kalitta, 4.987 seconds, 256.16 mph.

Final round-by-round results from the 33rd annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, the 17th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:


ROUND ONE — Larry Dixon, 3.988, 316.97 def. Brittany Force, 6.252, 109.04; Spencer Massey, 3.781, 316.97 def. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.798, 315.56; Steve Torrence, 3.773, 323.43 def. Richie Crampton, 3.766, 328.54; Antron Brown, 3.804, 318.69 def. J.R. Todd, 6.750, 98.79; Doug Kalitta, 3.775, 324.51 def. Chris Karamesines, 9.574, 59.18; Shawn Langdon, 3.776, 321.04 def. Terry McMillen, 3.971, 288.21; Morgan Lucas, 3.780, 317.94 def. Bob Vandergriff, 3.760, 321.65; Tony Schumacher, 3.778, 324.51 def. Leah Pritchett, 5.260, 132.45;

QUARTERFINALS — Brown, 3.772, 293.86 def. Dixon, 3.910, 272.06; Schumacher, 3.763, 326.87 def. Langdon, 3.800, 305.22; Lucas, 3.794, 325.53 def. Torrence, 7.163, 106.55; Kalitta, 3.722, 326.16 def. Massey, 3.758, 327.51;

SEMIFINALS — Lucas, 3.729, 323.66 def. Brown, 3.770, 319.82; Kalitta, 3.752, 324.67 def. Schumacher, 3.743, 327.51;

FINAL — Lucas, 4.886, 229.55 def. Kalitta, 4.987, 256.16.


ROUND ONE — John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.180, 316.45 def. Bob Bode, Toyota Camry, 6.079, 134.70; Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.112, 314.97 def. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.245, 271.79; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.018, 318.99 def. Chad Head, Camry, 4.088, 315.93; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.097, 314.53 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 6.704, 100.90; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.010, 317.64 def. Courtney Force, Mustang, 8.958, 72.90; Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.118, 305.63 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 5.237, 143.31; Del Worsham, Camry, 4.074, 314.17 def. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.934, 149.88; Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.154, 302.08 def. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.138, 315.56;

QUARTERFINALS — Capps, 4.049, 317.79 def. Beckman, 4.046, 317.57; Johnson Jr., 4.121, 312.21 def. Tasca III, 7.655, 79.18; J. Force, 4.064, 320.89 def. Worsham, 4.948, 186.02; DeJoria, 3.998, 315.93 def. Hagan, 4.056, 318.77;

SEMIFINALS — J. Force, 4.021, 319.52 def. Johnson Jr., 4.203, 241.32; Capps, 4.073, 317.87 def. DeJoria, 5.096, 169.61;

FINAL to be concluded Aug. 30 at Indianapolis — J. Force vs. Capps


ROUND ONE — Vincent Nobile, Chevy Camaro, 7.721, 131.09 def. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, DQ; Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.615, 207.72 def. V. Gaines, Dodge Dart, 6.623, 206.32; Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.604, 207.78 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 7.048, 148.30; Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.602, 208.42 def. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.674, 206.32; Deric Kramer, Dodge Avenger, 6.641, 206.73 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.574, 209.39; Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.601, 207.50 was unopposed; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.573, 209.69 def. Mark Hogan, Pontiac GXP, 7.159, 153.25; Dave River, Chevy Cobalt, 7.507, 137.51 def. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 10.704, 83.19;

QUARTERFINALS — River, 6.715, 198.41 def. Connolly, 9.417, 100.02; Coughlin, 6.612, 207.88 def. Kramer, 6.748, 184.80; Nobile, 6.623, 207.98 def. Johnson, 6.693, 195.48; Line, 6.580, 209.30 def. S. Gray, 6.623, 207.46;

SEMIFINALS to be concluded Aug. 31 at Indianapolis — Nobile vs. Coughlin and Line vs. River

FINAL to be concluded Aug. 31 at Indianapolis — Nobile and Coughlin winner vs. Line and River winner

Point standings (top 10) following the 33rd annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, the 17th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series -

Top Fuel
1.  Doug Kalitta, 1,446*; 2.  Antron Brown, 1,354*; 3.  Shawn Langdon, 1,204*; 4.  Tony Schumacher, 1,075*; 5.  Steve Torrence, 971*; 6.  Spencer Massey, 953*; 7.  (tie) Khalid alBalooshi, 888*; Brittany Force, 888*; 9.  Richie Crampton, 841*; 10.  J.R. Todd, 805.

* Clinched berth in NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship

Sunday’s field is set with Brown, Force, Johnson No. 1

Top Fuel driver Antron Brown raced to his third No. 1 qualifying position of the season Saturday at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.

Antron Brown

Antron Brown

John Force (Funny Car) and Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) also will lead their categories into Sunday’s 11 a.m. eliminations at the penultimate race in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series regular season. Pre-race ceremonies begin at 10 a.m.

Brown will try to score his sixth win of the season and continue to chase series leader Doug Kalitta when he faces J.R. Todd in the first round of eliminations. Brown, who won this race in 2011, took the 37th No. 1 of his career and his third Brainerd top qualifying effort with a performance of 3.810 seconds at 318.77 mph in his Matco Tools dragster.

“We were pushing to run better,” said Brown, who edged Kalitta for the top spot in a thrilling side-by-side pass to close

John Force

John Force

out Top Fuel qualifying. “The cloud cover came in, and we were trying to run quicker. My guys did an incredible job. We’ll take that No. 1. Those are three more bonus points for the run and a couple points for qualifying No. 1.”

With only two races remaining before the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship begins, Brown knows that he doesn’t have much time if he’s going to grab the top seed in the class for the playoffs.

“We’re going to focus on that tough first-round matchup with J.R. Todd,” Brown said. “It’s going to be a really good race. We’re going to go after it and take it one round at a time.”

Kalitta will start second in his Mac Tools dragster with his Friday leading run of 3.812 seconds at 322.96 mph and defending world champ Shawn Langdon qualified third in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster with 3.815 seconds at 321.27 mph.

Force powered to his fifth No. 1 qualifying position of the season and 151st of his career in Funny Car after an afternoon rain shower cooled off the track and set the stage for his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang to sprint to a weekend-best performance of 4.060 seconds at 315.27 mph. The 11-time Brainerd winner will face Bob Bode in the opening round.

“It cooled down and we knew everybody would step up,” said Force, who has advanced to the last four final rounds, winning twice. “We knew it was there. I told the TV camera I was going for No. 1. I have never said that in 30 years because it just don’t work that way. I have to start making a move now. I have to get this hot rod to where it will win and build the confidence in myself and all the kids around me. I laughed about it that I said it. It’s very simple, [crew chief] Jimmy Prock is on his game. That car makes big horsepower and he always swings for the fence.”

The brief rain delay helped to shake up the Funny Car ladder as four-time Brainerd winner Ron Capps moved to the second spot with a 4.064-second, 314.17-mph run in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger and his teammate Matt Hagan improved to third with a 4.068-second, 311.99-mph run in his Rocky Boots/Mopar Charger. Friday leader Robert Hight fell to fifth in his Auto Club Mustang with 4.081 seconds at 307.37 mph.

In Pro Stock, Johnson claimed his fifth No. 1 of the season and 36th of his career with his Friday run of 6.614 seconds at 207.98 mph in his Magneti Marelli/Team Mopar Dodge Dart. The Tennessee driver hopes to follow his first Brainerd top qualifying effort with his first win here. He was runner-up in 2012 in his only final round appearance at this event.

“I’ve had a great car all weekend and the new Dodge Dart really likes this surface at Brainerd,” Johnson said. “It’s our best start here at Brainerd. I think we’ve got a good game plan for tomorrow. That last run was pretty nice. Having a good shot at the track tomorrow (with the first round bye run) will pay dividends for us because we will be able to get after it a little more than we normally would if there was a car in the other lane, so that will tell us how far we can push it tomorrow.”

Minnesota native Jason Line made Saturday’s quickest run in his Summit Racing Chevy Camaro at 6.622 seconds and 207.91 mph to move to second overall and he will try to win his hometown race for the first time. Series leader Erica Enders-Stevens qualified third with a 6.630-second, 207.85-mph run in her Elite Motorsports Camaro and three-time BIR winner Greg Anderson qualified fourth in his Summit Racing Camaro with a 6.632 at 208.39.

* * *

Sunday’s first-round pairings for eliminations for the 33rd annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, the 17th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.  Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.
Top Fuel
1. Antron Brown, 3.810 seconds, 318.77 mph  vs. 16. J.R. Todd, 3.988, 268.06; 2. Doug Kalitta, 3.812, 322.96  vs. 15. Chris Karamesines, 3.945, 305.98; 3. Shawn Langdon, 3.815, 321.27 vs. 14. Terry McMillen, 3.906, 318.99; 4. Richie Crampton, 3.820, 320.97  vs. 13. Steve Torrence, 3.904, 303.16; 5. Bob Vandergriff, 3.835, 318.84  vs. 12. Morgan Lucas, 3.883, 286.98; 6. Tony Schumacher, 3.836, 323.43  vs. 11. Leah Pritchett, 3.872, 297.48; 7. Spencer Massey, 3.838, 320.28 vs. 10. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.860, 311.77; 8. Larry Dixon, 3.842, 320.13  vs. 9. Brittany Force, 3.845, 319.07. Did Not Qualify: 17. Clay Millican, 4.012, 294.75; 18. Luigi Novelli, 4.078, 250.88; 19. Tim Cullinan, 4.202, 215.10.

Funny Car
1. John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.060, 315.27  vs. 16. Bob Bode, Toyota Camry, 5.003, 235.19; 2. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.064, 314.17  vs. 15. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.243, 278.00; 3. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.068, 311.99  vs. 14. Chad Head, Camry, 4.215, 301.33; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.078, 309.27  vs. 13. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.154, 304.53; 5. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.081, 313.29  vs. 12. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.151, 305.70; 6. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.082, 306.12  vs. 11. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.138, 310.27; 7. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.093, 308.21  vs. 10. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.115, 309.70; 8. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.110, 299.06  vs. 9. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.111, 307.44. Did Not Qualify: 17. Brian Stewart, 5.850, 273.50; 18. Dale Creasy Jr., 9.718, 290.76.

Pro Stock
1. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.614, 208.04  vs. Bye; 2. Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.622, 208.49  vs. 15. Mark Hogan, Pontiac GXP, 6.806, 203.00; 3. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.630, 207.85  vs. 14. Dave River, Chevy Cobalt, 6.793, 204.23; 4. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.632, 208.39  vs. 13. Deric Kramer, Dodge Avenger, 6.756, 205.04; 5. Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.636, 207.91 vs. 12. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.723, 206.32; 6. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.643, 207.78  vs. 11. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.669, 207.43; 7. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.645, 207.82  vs. 10. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.669, 207.98; 8. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.654, 207.40  vs. 9. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.666, 207.75.

Catch Saturday and Sunday’s action on ESPN2

Saturday’s qualifying session and Sunday’s eliminations will be televised on ESPN2 for those who can’t attend the event or want to watch all the action again – with instant replay.

Here’s the schedule:

Saturday, 10 p.m. – ESPN2 will televise two hours of Saturday’s qualifying sessions

Sunday, 8 p.m. – ESPN2 will televise three hours of Sunday’s elimination rounds

Tune in and enjoy all the action!

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