Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – BRAINERD, MN – Serving as an important stop during the 2019 season, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series returns to fan-favorite Brainerd International Raceway for the 38th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, Aug. 15-18. It is the 17th of 24 races in 2019, 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.
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.
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 in 2019. Billy Torrence (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car) and Deric Kramer (Pro Stock) 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. 18.
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 in 2019, 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 of 2019, 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 in 2019 with plenty of momentum. He already has one victory this season in the highly-competitive class as he looks for even more success in 2019. 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 event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing future stars of the sport. After Nitro qualifying on both days, fans can watch the spectacular Lucas Oil “Muy Caliente” jet cars. Jet cars are propelled by jet engines with exciting pre-run flame shows.
Along with the exciting on-track action, the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals will honor first responders with NHRA’s “Salute to First Responders” during the pre-race ceremony.
NHRA fans can take part in the Mello Yello Walking Tour to see the teams hard at work in the pits. Fans can also attend Pro Stock school at on Friday, as well as Nitro School on Saturday to learn how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds. Brainerd International Raceway will host the Cruising with Castello Sealmaster Track Walk hosted by NHRA announcer Joe Castello. Another can’t-miss experience is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes. NHRA fans can congratulate the winners as they celebrate their Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals victories.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 16 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Aug. 17, at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 18.