Brainerd Stop May Be Pivotal For NHRA Countdown

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Billy Torrence picked up the Top Fuel victory last year at Brainerd Int'l Raceway. (NHRA Photo)
Billy Torrence picked up the Top Fuel victory last year at Brainerd Int'l Raceway. (NHRA Photo)

BRAINERD, Minn. – Serving as an important stop during the season, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series returns to Brainerd Int’l Raceway for the 38th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, Aug. 15-18.

It is the 17th of 24 races this season, meaning only one race follows it before the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. For drivers with championship aspirations, that puts a premium on performing well in Brainerd to be ready to race for a world title.

There were first-time winners in all three professional classes a season ago in Brainerd, and the host of stars in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock will aim to leave their mark on the critical event. Billy Torrence (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car) and Deric Kramer (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event.

The Torrence family has enjoyed an impressive run in Top Fuel, with Billy winning his first career race a year ago in Brainerd and his son, Steve, rolling to his first world title in 2018. Both have been impressive this year, as Billy won in Phoenix racing on a part-time schedule, while Steve has posted wins in eight of the past nine races to take a commanding points lead.

A host of talented stars will try to stop their reign, as the likes of Brittany Force, a previous event winner, Antron Brown, Leah Pritchett, Clay Millican, Scott Palmer and Doug Kalitta will try to win in Brainerd.

Beckman grabbed his first Funny Car win at Brainerd a season ago, marking the fourth straight year a first-time event winner was awarded at the track. The former world champion has been close to his first win this season, racing to three final rounds, but he’ll aim to finish the job in Brainerd against a loaded field.

Standing in Beckman’s way are the likes of points leader Robert Hight, defending world champ J.R. Todd, five-time race winner Ron Capps, Tommy Johnson Jr., Epping winner Matt Hagan, Tim Wilkerson, Shawn Langdon and 11-time Brainerd champ John Force.

Deric Kramer enjoyed a breakout season in Pro Stock a year ago, winning his first two career races. That included his first win at Brainerd and he’ll head there with plenty of momentum. He already has one victory this season in the highly-competitive class as he looks for even more success.

Trying to prevent that are top names like Bo Butner, a former world champion who has four wins this year, five-time world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr., area natives Greg Anderson and Jason Line, two-time race winner Erica Enders and Norwalk winner Chris McGaha.

The popular stop also features one of the most unique and memorable atmospheres on the NHRA circuit, as the huge on-site campground known as “the Zoo” provides a festive backdrop to the incredible 11,000-horsepower action including bands and fireworks throughout the weekend. With a special Primetime nitro qualifying session at 6 p.m. on Friday and jet cars on Friday and Saturday, the penultimate race of the NHRA regular season will be one to remember.