After two months of denying spectators because of COVID-19 restrictions, Brainerd International Raceway has found a creative and nostalgic way to welcome fans to watch professional road racing July 11-12.
BIR is inviting fans back for its Fan Appreciation Weekend, a free drive-in-style event that will feature the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli and the Sports Car Club of America, two organizations that started racing at BIR more than 50 years ago. The weekend finale is a pair of 100-mile, 40-lap races on Sunday, one of which is the Jed Copham Memorial Race, sponsored by Ryan Companies. Copham is the late BIR owner who died tragically in a swimming accident in November 2018.
BIR has been hosting spectator-free races for the past month, following COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines by limiting the number of racers and using the track’s expansive grounds to maintain social distancing between the teams. For the Fan Appreciation Weekend, BIR is taking a nostalgic drive-in-style approach to celebrating its long history of road racing by encouraging fans to drive up next to the safety fence and watch from their cars, and not from the bleachers. The road course is 2.5 miles long, which gives fans many vantage points to watch from, and they can freely move around the track to try different vantage points during the race.
To help fans even more, the Trans Am Series is providing six hours of live streaming on Sunday. Fans can download the free Trans Am Series app on their mobile device so they can watch racing on various parts of the track when the cars aren’t driving right past them. The live streaming includes announcers calling the action and a producer’s cut that is much like watching racing on TV. Another option is to listen to the announcers on BIR’s radio station: 87.9 FM.
“We’re really excited about the weekend because it’s hard to watch road racing on a 2.5-mile road course,” BIR owner Kristi Copham said. “But watching with the help of this app is really going to be a game changer. Fans can watch all the action on every section of track, which will keep everyone involved in the race.”
The “drive-in style” approach, which allows tailgating, is an approved spectating method, according to the Minnesota Department of Health’s COVID-19 guidelines, Copham said. But BIR still strongly encourages social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands. The track takes extra precautions at the front gate and throughout the facility as well.
“The race itself is going to be a great part of the weekend, but we’re also looking forward to using this opportunity to thank our fans, the Brainerd Lakes Area and the racing community for all their support, especially during these difficult times,” she said.
Sunday’s finale will honor Copham’s late husband, Jed, who was passionate about racing, especially road racing. In fact, he raced against the Trans Am Series’ professional drivers each year when the circuit came to BIR, and held his own. The Jed Copham Memorial Race is BIR’s chance to honor his commitment to racing and his tireless work to make BIR a safe and challenging place to race, and a welcoming track for fans and racers alike.
The Trans Am Series has a long and rich history at BIR that dates back to 1969. Featuring professional drivers from throughout the country, the series includes five classes of racing: TA, TA2, XGT, SGT and GT, with classic muscle cars like Mustangs, Corvettes, Camaros and Challengers. The schedule has practice and qualifying sessions on Saturday, followed by qualifying and the pair of 100-mile, 40-lap final races on Sunday.
SCCA will be on the road course for club racing between the Trans Am sessions. SCCA is great wheel-to-wheel racing, with a variety of open- and closed-wheel classes, as well as vintage racing.
Admission and parking are free. Limited camping is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Brainerd International Raceway
What: Fan Appreciation Weekend
When: July 11-12
Attraction: Trans Am Series, including the Jed Copham Memorial Race
Fans: Allowed using the “drive-in style” approach
Cost: Admission and parking are free