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Weekend Brings NHRA Twists And Turns At Brainerd
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It was Antron Brown and his team that adapted well to the conditions and defeated Leah Pruett in the Top Fuel division at the NHRA Lucas Oil event in Brainerd, Minnesota. This was the 73rd career win for Brown. Photo By Mike Burghardt

The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series moved to Brainerd International Raceway (BIR) for its latest event. The track, located about two hours outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota was the site for the 14th race on the 2023 schedule and next to last event of the regular season, before the “Countdown to the Championship” starts. The track is known for very good racing conditions, which often result in near record performances. But this year, warmer weather changed a lot of that during the first two days of qualifying. An unexpected engine failure of a Funny Car resulted in the loss of the second round of Top Fuel qualifying on the first day. This was due to darkness and the lack of time to get the track back into safe running order, following the oil down. The track has no on track lighting, so cars cannot go safely down the track in the dark. But the NHRA Safety Safari track preparations crew did an amazing job to get the track back to safe running order for Saturday qualifying and even better for Sunday’s eliminations. The weather also shifted direction, providing the optimal conditions for great, competitive racing. The improved weather conditions basically threw all the information that the teams gained during qualifying out the window.

In Top Fuel the quicker qualified cars all advanced out of round one except for Doug Kalitta, who matched up against Clay Millican. Millican moved on, 3.689 at 331.04 mph to 3.72 at 327.82 mph effort. During qualifying, a run in the mid 3.70’s was good. In the opening elimination round, high 3.60’s became almost normal. With both lanes being virtually equal, it was all up for grabs. Antron Brown made the most of it. After qualifying sixth, he took out Shawn Langdon and (#3 qualifier) Steve Torrence to advance to the semi-final round. On the other side of the ladder, Justin Ashley stumbled his way into the semi-final round, as they could not get the car to run right. Brittany Force came out with a strong 3.694 334.15 mph run to advance into a match up with Leah Pruett. Pruett defeated Force 3.750 at 333.41 mph to 4.309 at 262.49 mph to match up against point leader Ashley. In another second round match up with Millican, Mike Salinas set things upside down, setting a new track speed record of 338.26 mph and recording low elapse time of the event at 3.654 seconds for the win. The speed gives him the third fastest Top Fuel dragster speed in history and makes him the only other Top Fuel driver in the top 10 speed list, other than Brittany Force. But his celebration was short lived as Brown took him out in the semi-final round, 3.708 at 332.75 mph to 3.710 at 333.74 mph. Pruett then upset Ashley, 3.733 at 331.94 mph to 3.753 at 322.73 mph. The final featured a repeat of six years earlier at this same event, where Pruett trailered Brown for the win. But that was not the case this year, as Brown left first and drove away to a 3.715 at 326.08 mph to 3.757 at 331.12 mph win, the 73rd of his career.

In Funny Car, upsets were the big story in the opening round of eliminations as part-time racers Dale Creasy Jr. and Dave Richards took out regulars JR Todd and point leader, Matt Hagan. The loss by Hagan opened the door for the others chasing him in the series point battle and Ron Capps had a chance to take the series point lead. He came into eliminations as the #1 qualifier with a 3.894 and continued that consistency into the final round. where he squared off against his rival, Robert Hight. Capps had beaten out Hight for the 2022 season title by about three points and Hight was looking to pay him back. But Capps was ready for the challenge, leaving first and driving away to a 3.887 at 332.75 mph to 3.900 at 324.90 mph performance for his 75th career event win. That moved him into first place in the series point battle.

Pro Stock saw Dallas Glen collect his class leading fourth event win of the season from the #6 qualifying position. He took out Jerry Tucker, Erica Enders and Aaron Stanfield to advance to his final round match up against Kyle Koretsky. Koretsky took out Camrie Caruso, (#1 qualifier) Greg Anderson and Deric Kramer on his way to the final round. In the final, Koretsky got away first (0.023- 0.038), but suffered severe tire shake. He could then only watch as Glen streaked to his fourth season win (eighth of his career) with a 6.556 at 207.56 mph performance.

Going into the final regular season event, Dodge Power Brokers NHRA US Indy Nationals, the point leaders are Justin Ashley (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Dallas Glen (Pro Stock). The famed Labor Day Weekend event is a point and a half event (1.5 times points per round).

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Earning his fourth win of the season, Dallas Glen drove to victory in Pro Stock at Brainerd, squaring off in the final with Kyle Koretsky. Glen is the current points leader in the division. Photo By Mike Burghardt