DieHard Race Week Start-Up, Brainerd
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Also a fan of hockey, I have heard the analogy of a particularly physical game being described as “going to a fight where a hockey game breaks out!” Believe it or not, the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series kind of has the same thing. It’s called the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, and it is there in Brainerd where it has been said that you “go to a party and a drag race breaks out!” It is true. Race 16 of 23 is held at the only venue on the series that has a self-proclaimed “Zoo,” but don’t worry, these are friendly animals that love their drag racing (provided they leave their cages …). You will see some pretty unexplainable but equally cool things in the campgrounds. There is even the BIR Bandstand, which will host two local acts each night Thursday through Saturday, so you can count on the place rocking and rolling. And speaking of hockey, this event is known to attract an NHL player or two.
And after a hot and steamy summer, the weather for the Brainerd area calls for what will feel like autumn with temperatures each day starting around 50 degrees and daytime highs forecasted to barely reach 70. Translation: Jed and Kristi Copham's track should relinquish some low e.t.s and big mph. Track records will get reset, and with conditions this cool, could Pro Stock Motorcycle finally break the 200-mph barrier? There is only one way to find out: Pack some sleeves and maybe a jacket and come to Brainerd Int’l Raceway. Order tickets by phone at 866-444-4455 or on-site at the Brainerd ticket office.
Just two races remain before the fields are set for the Countdown to the Championship. How does a driver get into the playoffs? Just finish the 17-race regular season (or 10-race regular season in Pro Stock Motorcycle) in a top 10 points position. NHRA.com is the place to find the complete NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series points listing, but here is a list of the drivers who have already secured playoff berths:
Top Fuel – Spencer Massey, Antron Brown, Tony Schumacher, and Steve Torrence
Funny Car – Robert Hight, Ron Capps, and Jack Beckman
Pro Stock – Allen Johnson, Jason Line, Greg Anderson, Mike Edwards, Vincent Nobile, and Erica Enders
Pro Stock Motorcycle – Eddie Krawiec, Andrew Hines, Hector Arana Jr., and Hector Arana Sr.
And now to the battles that exist for the top 10.
In Top Fuel, though other drivers are still mathematically in it, the fight for the 10th and final spot really is between two drivers, Bob Vandergriff Jr., 10th, and Clay Millican, who is four points back entering the weekend. Both drivers have earned only one round-win in the last five races, so putting together a good weekend could be all it takes. The stakes are high for both!
Also of note in Top Fuel, this week, NHRA approved the long-anticipated and often-debated canopy, which will make its debut this weekend, and that will provide an additional talking point.
In Funny Car, only 10 points separate positions eight through 10. Jeff Arend, John Force, and Bob Tasca III, in that order, hold those spots, but none can afford a bad race because reigning series champ Matt Hagan (-62 from 10th) has finally caught fire (six round-wins in the last two races) and is coming up quick for a shot at defending his world championship. Tim Wilkerson is also within shouting distance, and the intrigue in this class should continue right on to the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus Labor Day weekend.
Pro Stock seems to be even: 43 points separate the drivers in seventh through 12th. The only problem is that just four spots remain in the top 10. This is a situation where the "little points" (the three, two, and one points awarded in each qualifying session for the three best e.t.s) and overall qualifying points could add up to a difference of a round either way.
And in Pro Stock Motorcycle, the question still exists, Can anyone stop the Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson team that has swept the season so far through eight races? Eddie Krawiec has won five times, and Andrew Hines has three wins. The Hectors are closing in and seem to be the only ones mounting a charge against Eddie and Andrew, and with this being their sponsor's race, you know that the Aranas will be geared up to change the path that the bikes are on so far this year. The top four riders have definitely separated themselves from the rest of the pack.
If I haven’t convinced you to make the trek to Brainerd but have still wet your whistle, then here is our weekend ESPN schedule, which will focus on all of the aforementioned:
Live second-session qualifying: Friday, Aug. 17, at 6 p.m. (all times Eastern) on ESPN3.com
Qualifying recap: Saturday, Aug. 18, at 11 p.m. on ESPN2
Live eliminations: Sunday, Aug. 19, at noon on ESPN3.com
Eliminations recap: Sunday, Aug. 19, at 9 p.m. on ESPN2
If it’s a family vacation mixed with racing you want, then it doesn’t get much better than Brainerd. The plan for the Rieff family this weekend: Go Full Throttle, then go swimming, biking, canoeing, hiking, boating, campfiring, and whatever else Minnesota has to offer, and then go home!
Come on out and join us!