After four years away, Pro Stock is back at Brainerd International Raceway for this weekend’s 41st annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, which means it’s the first time since 2019 that five-time world champ Greg Anderson will compete at the track where he grew up racing.
It’s one of the many reasons the Duluth native is excited about this weekend, as Anderson heads to Brainerd with the most momentum he’s had this season in his HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro.
He qualified No. 2 in Topeka last weekend and finished as the runner-up to defending world champion Erica Enders, marking his first final round appearance during the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.
That gave Anderson a much-needed boost of confidence and returning to Brainerd remains extremely special for the veteran. He’s won three times in Pro Stock at a track that gave Anderson is start in the sport and nothing would make him happier than to win a fourth in front of the die-hard Pro Stock fans in Brainerd.
“It feels like it’s been forever since Pro Stock has been there, so I’m really looking forward to this,” Anderson said. “I love this track. It’s where I cut my teeth racing and where I spent all my time when I was young. It’s a great track and you have ‘The Zoo’ on top of it. It’s always been a strong Pro Stock-supporting track. People have missed us being missing and it’s a strong fanbase for us. We also have new employees going there for the first time and I think they may be even more excited than I am. I’m really looking forward to having them there and seeing how much they will enjoy it.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel) and Bob Tasca III (Funny Car) won in 2022 and this year’s event will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 (FS1) and the FOX broadcast network, including eliminations coverage starting at 4 p.m. ET on FOX on Sunday, Aug. 20. It is the 11th race during the 2023 Pro Stock season, and Anderson and his team seem to be hitting their stride at an important point of the season.
The class returned in Topeka after nearly a month break and Anderson posted his best performance of the season, showcasing the improvements the team made with the extended time off between races. With Brainerd coming as the penultimate race of the regular season, followed by the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indy and then the Countdown to the Championship, Anderson knows how critical this stretch is.
He moved up to sixth in points in Topeka and will also be part of the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge bonus race on Saturday in Brainerd, taking on Deric Kramer in one semifinal rematch. Enders and points leader Dallas Glenn make up the other matchup, putting the four drivers in line for a big weekend.
Anderson, who also has to contend with the likes of Troy Coughlin Jr., Matt Hartford, Aaron Stanfield, Cristian Cuadra and Camrie Caruso, is eager to take advantage of the opportunity, knowing how much a Brainerd win would mean and how it could set up a big finish for the 101-time event winner.
“I always want to be strong from start to finish, but it’s really important to peak at the right time,” Anderson said. “We haven’t been a mile off this year, but we just needed some fine-tuning. I’m excited going forward and it’s going to be a wide-open race in this class to win a championship. There were a lot of positives from the last three weeks and we came to Topeka with a better product.
“Hopefully we turned the corner, but what’s important to me is to get a win. I don’t want to go to the playoffs without a win. We were close last week, but we didn’t get it done. We need to do that before the playoffs start, and this race in Brainerd and Indy, they’re two of the races at the top for me.”
Torrence, a four-time Top Fuel world champ, won for the second straight year in Brainerd in 2022, looking to become just the second Top Fuel driver in NHRA history to win three straight times at the historic track. But everyone is chasing points leader Justin Ashley, who has six wins this season, while other stars include defending world champ Brittany Force, Leah Pruett, a two-time Brainerd winner, Clay Millican and Antron Brown.
Funny Car’s Tasca heads to Brainerd off a repeat win in Topeka, something he’ll try to replicate this weekend. Standing in his way are a host of challengers, including points leader Matt Hagan, defending world champ Ron Capps, John Force, Cruz Pedregon, Sonoma winner J.R. Todd, Alexis DeJoria, Robert Hight and Tim Wilkerson.
The event also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, as well as action in the FuelTech NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by Type A Motorsports. On the Pro Mod side, the event in Brainerd marks the first race in the category’s “Road to the Championship” playoffs, with Justin Bond taking the points lead into the first-year playoff format for the class.
After nitro qualifying, fans can enjoy a thrilling show from “NitroMike” and his “Walking Tall” P.T. Cruiser Wheelstander, as well as action from the snowmobile category. There will also be autograph sessions throughout the weekend, along with a cacklefests.
Fans are invited to the Nitro Alley Stage all weekend, which will help create a festive atmosphere leading into Nitro Alley. The Nitro Alley Stage will be the main entertainment hub in the pits when the Camping World Drag Racing Series competitors are not on the track, hosting Nitro School, meet and greets and much more. As always, fans get a pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. Fans can see their favorite teams in action and servicing their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers, and more. They can also visit NHRA’s Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, merchandise, food, and fun.
Race fans at Brainerd can enjoy the special pre-race ceremonies that introduce and celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the fan favorite SealMaster Track Walk. The final can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes, where fans are invited to congratulate the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals event winners.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 2:45 and 6 p.m. CT on Friday, Aug. 18 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Aug. 19 at 12:45 and 3:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. CT on Sunday, Aug. 20. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 8 p.m. ET on Friday, 1:00 p.m. on Sunday on FS1, and then eliminations on FOX at 4 p.m. ET Sunday.
To purchase tickets to the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, fans can call 866-444-4455. For more information on the NHRA, please visit www.nhra.com.