This weekend’s drag racing program at Brainerd International Raceway will take on a whole new look, as a rocket dragster and a rocket go-kart will be testing on the drag strip Friday afternoon.
One of them will be the Rocket Go-Kart driven by 89-year-old Captain Jack McClure, who first started driving rocket-powered cars 50 years ago. The other is the rocket-powered Sonic Stinger dragster, driven by Minnesotan Kurt Anderson and built by the legendary rocket builder Ky Michaelson of Bloomington.
The two rockets cars are expected to make three or four runs down BIR’s drag strip on Friday. They’ll be sharing the track with dragsters in BIR’s Bracket Drag Racing Series, which will be testing that day in preparation for Saturday and Sunday’s races.
On Sunday, BIR’s 2.5-mile Competition Road Course will be hosting the Slowpokes Car Club, which will have driving
events on the track all day. Fans are invited to watch the club as well.
This is the second weekend for drivers in the Bracket Drag Racing Series, which features six weekends and 12 races this season. Saturday and Sunday start with time trials for all 10 classes before cars are paired up for elimination rounds, which results in winners both days.
More than 250 dragsters, cars, trucks, bikes, snowmobiles and Junior Dragsters are expected to compete, with prize money on the line for the top classes, and valuable series points up for grabs.
On Friday, though, all eyes will be on the rocket ships flying down the drag strip. Anderson’s car will go about 330 mph in the quarter mile, with a time of about 4 seconds, which is close to the speeds posted by the Top Fuel Dragsters that compete at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at BIR in August. McClure’s go-kart goes about 230 mph with a time of about 5 seconds.
Michaelson, who has a long and storied history of building rocket devices, makes the distinction between his Sonic Stinger (and the go-kart driven by McClure) and a jet-powered car. The rocket cars are powered by hydrogen peroxide reacting to a silver-plated screen. The peroxide turns to steam and is forced through a nozzle to create thrust. He said fans shouldn’t be looking for giant flames coming out the back of these cars, like you’d see when jet cars run.
Michaelson is such as rocket junkie that he named his son Buddy Rocketman Michaelson. He has built rocket-powered bikes, wheelchairs, roller skates, cars, motorcycles and even a backpack that Buddy flew when he was 7 years old. His rockets have been in movies (“October Sky”) and were launched into space in 2004, traveling 72 miles above Earth at 3,420 mph.
McClure’s rocket experience took a vastly different path. He was a stock car racer in the late 1950s and early 1960s before developing an interest in go-karts. He developed one with twin engines and discovered that it’d go 100 mph down the drag strip, giving Super Stock drag racers a run for their money. In 1963, he replaced his kart with a rocket-powered kart that he raced at drag strips all over the country. His go-kart is a small, single seat open kart with the rocket on the back.
“These rockets are going to be a lot of fun to watch,” BIR Owner Jed Copham said. “We’re told that this is the first time two rocket cars have been at the same track since the 1980s, so it’ll be a once-in-a-lifetime event for fans to see. But those who stick around for the Bracket Drag Racing Series will see some really competitive racing as well and some very fast cars, especially those competing in our new Quick 16 class.”
Daily admission this weekend is $20, and kids 12 and under are free. Camping is free with the purchase of a multi-day ticket. Visit BrainerdRaceway.com for more details.