Brainerd Area News | General | Luke | Minnesota News

Get Ready for the Biggest Show in the Lakes

Cruz Pedregon
Cruz Pedregon thrills fans in his Top Fuel Funny Car

It’s that time of year again as the NHRA shakes the earth of BIR once more for the 41st annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals roll into town. The event is a signature on the calendar not just for Brainerd International Raceway, but for the NHRA itself as Brainerd always provides the biggest party on the schedule. I’m Luke, and I’ll once again be your guide to what you need to know to hit up the biggest get-down in the world of drag racing.


With Justin Ashley taking a ground shattering 6th win of the season in Topeka and reigning Brainerd Funny Car winner Bob Tasca III coming in with a win last Sunday, the stars and cars are ready to rock and roll as the ground prepares to quake in the Lakes area.

This has been a turbulent year in drag racing and the NHRA schedule. The final races at Bandimere Speedway in Colorado and now Heartland Motorsports Park in Topeka are in the books, which gives us reason to be thankful for the steady presence of Brainerd International Raceway in its 41st year of hosting an NHRA National Level event. If there ever was a time to celebrate having a track in our community, this is that year.


Lucky for us, Brainerd International Raceway knows how to throw a party.

Austin Prock
All photos courtesy of NHRA


If you’ve never been to an NHRA National event, it’s a party for all your senses. Nitromethane is the “Fuel” in “Top Fuel” and it is like nothing you’ve experienced. It’s a skin irritant, an eye irritant, and a throat irritant. It stings your nostrils. It makes you cough uncontrollably. It makes you feel as if you are suffocating, because you really are getting less oxygen than normal standing next to one. Nothing in the motorsports world is an assault on all of the senses quite like an engine, and standing next to a Top Fuel engine as it fires up activates the adrenal producers in your body. Ever had an engine give you a fight or flight response? Go ahead and walk the pits, you’ll find the nitro… or maybe it’ll find you!


Speaking of the pits, all fans are welcome to walk the pits. In Formula 1 or NASCAR you might have to pay an arm and a leg to get up close and personal. But the NHRA is different, every fan and every ticket can walk right up to the haulers. You and your son or daughter can walk up and get autographs. You can watch the insane engineers and mechanics tear apart the cars faster than you can comprehend right in front of you. There’s few other things in motorsports that compare to getting the full pit experience, and it truly makes you appreciate the hard work that every crew (especially Cruz Pedrigon’s) put in day in and day out.


Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give you your annual warning to bring hearing protection. Especially for kids. How loud are Top Fuel Dragsters? Officially we don’t know because they keep breaking sound equipment. This isn’t a concert, its about 16-32 times louder than that concert you went to. Taking side by side dragsters without hearing protection is immediate, permanent hearing damage. If not for you, bring hearing protection for your kids.

John Force
The legend himself, John Force

14 Classes of Chaos

This year the NHRA is opening up 14 classes of action on the lanes at BIR, up 3 from last year. But what is a class? How are they different? 

Top Fuel Dragsters and Top Fuel Funny Cars are the two biggest and baddest classes on the planet. With Nitromethane engines, the two classes are separated by their type of body. The dragsters are long and skinny, the funny cars look a little more like  a traditional car, with a body that lifts off of the chassis like it was on a hinge. 

Top Alcohol Funny Cars and Dragsters feature alcohol burning versions of the Top Fuel cars, and feature incredibly skilled drivers in some absolutely incredible machines.

 Bracket and index racing classes feature cars trying to achieve a set time objective without being too quick. While this may sound unintuitive to the first-timer, it ensures that all racers, regardless of car or monetary support, can compete. With all cars on an equal playing field, it’s up to the drivers to win and lose races. 

 Pro Mod might be my favorite class.  With some of the world’s fastest cars with working doors, pro mod drivers go for some wild rides with cars that still resemble what you might see on a lonesome highway south of Oklahoma City at midnight.

New this year is the Factory X Class, with lighter cars than the factory stock showdown class and a mandatory manual transmission. With modified cars and road-going bodies, these cars show off the potential of Mustangs, Camaros, and Challengers.


The crowd at the Lucas Oil Nationals is the largest in the Northlands!
The crowd at the Lucas Oil Nationals is the largest in the Northlands!

Come Early, and stick around!

No matter if you have tickets for Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or the whole weekend, BIR and I want to remind you to arrive early.

First off the bat, the Lucas Oil Nationals are the largest sporting event in Minnesota. It’s a massive sprawl of people. It’s no local secret that 371 is a bit iffy with traffic, so the earlier you come, the more traffic you’ll avoid. 

More importantly, your ticket gives you access to an absolutely full day of racing! The track goes hot at 9:15am on Friday and the midway opens at 11:30am, so use that early day to take in the alcohol and factory X racing and beat the crowds! On Saturday the show starts at 9:15 AM, so beat the traffic ahead of time and enjoy 9 full hours of racing! Sunday eliminations start bright and early at 9am with Pro Mods, and a track walk at 10am! I’d highly recommend the track walk, just don’t wear flip flops. You’ll know why when you get there.

The Lucas Oil Nationals at BIR are an entirely unique event with The Zoo partying down every night, and the thunder of the racing happening all day! Stay safe and have fun!