With series championships on the line and a chance for drivers to win Wally trophies, 322 drag racers punctuated the end of the racing season Saturday at Brainerd International Raceway with an exclamation point, or two.
Last weekend was the final spectator event of BIR’s season. It featured the Bracket Drag Racing Series on the drag strip and the World Racing League on BIR’s Competition Road Course. Mother Nature didn’t cooperate for drag racing on Sunday but the World Racing League ran in the rain and completed its pair of endurance races, an eight-hour race on Saturday and a seven-hour race on Sunday.
There was a lot on the line for drag racers. In addition to battling for series championships, Saturday’s race was also the annual NHRA All Access Challenge, commonly called the Wally Race. The winners of all the classes took home a Wally trophy, just like those that the NHRA pros win. Even the Junior Dragsters got in on the action. They also competed for Wally trophies as part of the NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League Challenge.
On the drag strip, the Super Pro class was awfully crowded as 107 drivers competed. One of them was Travis Hjelle, who won seven races Saturday to earn a spot in the Winner’s Circle. Driving a 1964 Nova, Hjelle lined up against Joe Schmall in the finals. Hjelle was almost perfect off the starting line, with a .004 reaction time, and wouldn’t be caught at the finish line, winning with a time of 9.889 seconds at 130.12 mph.
The Pro ET class also had high car counts, with 105 cars competing. The seventh and final round featured Steve Brings and Pat Haubrich, slugging it out for a Wally. Brings and his 1964 Ford Falcon beat Haubrich off the starting line and never looked back, posting a winning time of 9.208 seconds and 141.30 mph.
Hjelle and Brings then squared off in the Super Pro/Pro ET Shootout, with $3,000 in prize money at stake. Hjelle was a little over-anxious, though, and fouled at the starting line, giving Brings the easy win and a check for $2,000. Hjelle’s payoff was $1,000.
Jerry Hieb ran the table in the Sportsman class, outlasting 30 other drivers and beating Neil Webster in the finals. Driving a 1974 Camaro, Hieb was slower off the starting line but caught Webster at the finish line with a winning time of 12.029 seconds and 110.34 mph.
Richard Tadych rode his 2003 Arctic Cat F7 snowmobile to a win in the Pro Bike/Sled class. He beat Kayla Filipiak in the finals after flirting with a perfect reaction time (.002 seconds) and finishing her off at the finish line with a time of 10.764 seconds and 115.22 mph.
In the Comp Trophy class, Tim Williams handed Amy Jo Luberda a finals win by fouling at the starting line. Driving a 1994 Camaro, Luberda still ran 12.518 seconds and 109.18 mph.
Ryan Rennquist has a Wally for his trophy case after winning the Street Trophy class. He beat Michael Ische in the finals with a time of 14.602 seconds and 92.42 mph.
Wally trophies went home with three Junior Dragsters drivers as well: Sydney Thompson, Ally Giese and Daniel Dancer.
Thompson drove her dragster to a Junior Dragster Advanced finals win over Jazper Wiebusch, with a winning time of 8.003 seconds and 79.52 mph. In Junior Dragster Intermediate, Giese beat Megan Cielinski in the finals by posting a time of 9.471 seconds and 65.13 mph. And Dancer shuffled home with a finals win in Junior Dragster Novice when Daniela Krech fouled at the starting line.
On the road course, 21 cars made up the field for the World Racing League’s Comp Du Lacs Brainerd, a pair of endurance races. Although 21 cars started the race on Saturday, only 14 finished. The team that completed the most laps after seven hours had elapsed was In The Red 1, which completed 254 laps. Team Braunschweig was second with 252 laps and North Loop Motorsports was third with 250 laps.
Braunschweig turned in the best single-lap time of 1:45.480 and the top speed of 85.324 mph, both of which were achieved in the team’s final lap of the race.
On Sunday, the same three teams finished on top of the standings, but Braunschweig nudged out In The Red 1 for the win, with North Loop Motorsports taking third again. Braunschweig completed 189 laps, while In The Red 1 finished with 188 laps and 187 for North Loop Motorsports.
Braunschweig turned in the best single-lap time and speed again, with 1:58.729 and 75.803 mph, respectively
Drag Racing results from Saturday, Sept. 30
Finals: Travis Hjelle of Karlstad def. Joe Schmall of Lino Lakes
Finals: Steve Brings of Howard Lake def. Pat Haubrich of New Ulm
Super Pro/Pro ET Shootout
Finals: Steve Brings of Howard Lake def. Travis Hjelle of Karlstad
Finals: Jerry Hieb of Maple Grove def. Neil Webster of Little Canada
Finals: Richard Tadych of Fertile def. Kayla Filipiak of Isanti
Finals: Amy Jo Luberda of Sauk Rapids def. Tim Williams of Corcoran
Finals: Ryan Rennquist of Cloquet def. Michael Ische of Minnetonka
Junior Dragster Advanced
Finals: Sydney Thompson of Nowthen def. Jazper Wiebusch of Ham Lake
Junior Dragster Intermediate
Finals: Ally Giese of Kandiyohi def. Megan Cielinski of Gilman
Junior Dragster Novice
Finals: Daniel Dancer of Foley def. Daniela Krech of Inver Grove Heights