NHRA heads to Brainerd

As the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series regular season winds down, the 39th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals on Aug. 20-22 at Brainerd International Raceway takes place at a key point in the season. It is the 12th event of the 2021 season and with only one event following the stop in Brainerd before the before the Countdown to the Championship playoffs begin, the action promises to be intense.
 
For drivers with aspirations of racing for a world championship, performing well in Brainerd is critical. It’s also the first race at the facility since 2019, and the nitro stars of the NHRA will be ready to put on a show in their 11,000-horsepower machines. Brainerd International Raceway 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 330-mph action.
 
With a thrilling nitro qualifying session at 6:30 p.m. CT on Friday to kick off the weekend, first-time appearances for the Pro Mod and Mountain Motor Pro Stock classes in Brainerd and a special wheelstander, the penultimate race of the NHRA regular season will be one to remember.
 
Leah Pruett (Top Fuel) and Ron Capps (Funny Car) were the winners of the 2019 event, and coincidentally, the Don Schumacher Racing teammates are also the most recent winners on the NHRA tour. This year’s race at Brainerd will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live final eliminations coverage starting at 2:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Aug. 18.
 
Before her Top Fuel victory in Pomona, Pruett’s last win came in 2019 in Brainerd. It was her second victory at the facility, and she heads into this year’s race riding high after a pair of standout performances on the Western Swing. She advanced to the final round in Sonoma before her breakthrough in Pomona and Pruett is eager to keep rolling in Brainerd, where he has enjoyed tremendous success. Looking to slow her down will be a host of Top Fuel stars, including points leader and three-time defending world champ Steve Torrence, who is looking for his first Brainerd win. Others to watch include Pruett’s DSR teammate Antron Brown, 2016 event winner Brittany Force, veteran Doug Kalitta, Clay Millican, Justin Ashley, rookie standout Josh Hart, Mike Salinas and Shawn Langdon.
 
Brainerd has always been a favorite destination for Capps, who picked up his sixth career victory at the track in 2019. That tied him with Joe Amato for the second-most in NHRA history at the facility and he rolls into Brainerd with plenty of momentum. His victory in Pomona was the first of the season and it sent Capps into the points lead at a key time of the season. He’ll maintain the points lead in Brainerd, but the former world champ will have a number of challenges from the top Funny Car drivers, including Bob Tasca III, who has two wins this year, 11-time race winner John Force, DSR teammate and defending world champ Matt Hagan, Gainesville winner J.R. Todd, Robert Hight, who also has a pair of victories this season, 2017 race winner Alexis DeJoria, Cruz Pedregon and Tim Wilkerson.
                            
The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport. The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service will also make its first appearance in Brainerd, as fans will be able to watch the thrilling and unpredictable action of the 250-mph Pro Mod cars. Points leader Jose Gonzalez has won back-to-back races this season. The stop in Brainerd will also include the 2021 debut — as well as the first Brainerd appearance — for the exciting Mountain Motor Pro Stock class, bringing their popular and powerful 800-plus cubic-inch engines to Brainerd International Raceway.
 
After nitro qualifying on both Friday and Saturday, fans can enjoy the entertaining “Walking Tall” P.T. Cruiser Wheelstander drive by “NitroMike.”
 
As always, fans are granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans a chance to see teams in action and service their hot rods between rounds. 
 
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature one round at 6:30 p.m. CT on Friday, Aug. 20 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Aug. 21 at 2:00 and 5:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. CT on Sunday, Aug. 22. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 7 p.m. ET on Friday and then eliminations action at 3 p.m. on FOX on Sunday. 
  
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 866-444-4455. Tickets also are available online at www.brainerdraceway.com. Kids 12 and under are free with a paid adult. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.  
 
(Courtesy of NHRA Communications)
Adam Sinclair