Brainerd International Raceway is the first track Greg Anderson ever went to and returning there each year for the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, which takes place Aug. 17-20, is something the Duluth, Minn., native always enjoys. But heading there in the midst of a successful season makes the trip home that much sweeter for the four-time Pro Stock world champion.
Anderson is having another banner season as he gears up for a run at a fifth world title. He has two victories and sits second in points behind KB Racing teammate Bo Butner in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro, which means the annual trip to Brainerd should be a good one. Anderson hopes that also means a third career win at the popular facility is in the works.
“The last thing you want to do is flop in front of family and friends up there,” Anderson said. “It’s great coming in there running well and we’ve got confidence everywhere we go. (Brainerd) is such a great atmosphere to race in. You’ve got The Zoo there to entertain you and I have a lot of great memories at that place. I went there for years and years with my father and it’s the first track I ever went to. I’ll have a lot of friends I grew up with and family come down for the weekend.”
Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Del Worsham (Funny Car), Drew Skillman (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live final eliminations coverage starting at 2:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Aug. 20. It is the 17th of 24 races during the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, making it the penultimate race of the regular season.
With that in mind and the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship looming, performing well at the Lucas Oil Nationals is always imperative for Anderson. He continues to drive well and has six final round appearances in 2017, but getting back to his winning ways is his main priority heading to the Countdown to the Championship. He’s watched Gray Motorsports racers Tanner Gray and Skillman win the last four events, while Anderson lost to Butner, who has three wins in his breakout season, in Anderson’s most recent finals appearance in Norwalk.
“I need to find my way back to the winner’s circle,” said Anderson, who has 88 career wins. “Bo is showing us the way and he’s doing a better job of racing than I am. We have to be perfect driving and we haven’t been great with the car. You have to have four flawless runs on Sunday. We have to learn and get better for the Countdown. We have to improve over these next two races.”
That includes Brainerd and Indy for the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, where Anderson has shined with six victories. But Anderson knows there must be improvement heading into the NHRA’s six-race playoffs and he remains as motivated as ever, especially with Butner’s emergence. Anderson lauded the work he has done, while also noting how much it drives him and longtime teammate Jason Line, the reigning world champ and a Wright, Minn., native.
“It’s really been kind of cool,” Anderson said. “You go back 12 months and Bo ran really well but struggled with reaction times. He’s cutting good lights now and he’s learned how to win. It’s neat to see the progression. He’s a tough, tough out right now and we’ve got our work cut out for us. But it’s going to make Jason and I better drivers. We know we have to be better and that pushes us.”
Force captured her first Top Fuel victory at Brainerd a year ago and will look for a second to try and track down points leader Steve Torrence, who has a career-best six victories in 2017.
Worsham wants another Funny Car win at BIR to help jump into the top 10. Worsham sits 13th in points, with everyone looking to catch reigning world champ and six-time 2017 winner Ron Capps.
Hines won for the third time in Brainerd in Pro Stock Motorcycle, but is after his first win in 2017. LE Tonglet has dominated in that regard, posting five victories this season.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 2:45 and 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 18 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Aug. 19, at 12:45 and 3:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 20.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 218-824-RACE (7223) or 866-444-4455. Tickets also are available online at www.brainerdraceway.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate.