For the past 30 years, Forrest and Charlotte Lucas have watched the Brainerd lakes area grow.
They visit the area once a year when the NHRA’s Lucas Oil Nationals visits Brainerd International Raceway each August.
The Lucas in Lucas Oil is Forrest and Charlotte and they are big into racing and bigger into the fans. That’s why they love sponsoring the NHRA at BIR.
“It’s a good relationship for several reasons,” said Forrest Lucas. “No. 1 we do a lot of business in Canada and so our Canadian fans can come down here and watch the race so that’s a big reason we’ve been doing it. No. 2 we like the area. It’s pretty out here. But the Zoo is what sets it apart from any place else. The track is not the best track and the facilities are not the best facilities, but the Zoo has the best fans in the country.
“We’ve had a good relationship with everybody who works here and who has ever owned it. The whole atmosphere here in Minnesota is great. Everyone is nice to us.”
The Lucas family enjoys hopping in their golf cart after the day’s racing is completed and being among the people and their artistic and functional junk.
“(The Zoo) is just a bunch of good people drinking and seeing who has the biggest piece of junk,” said Forrest Lucas. “They work on these things all year to see who can make the oddest bunch of junk work and then they ride around on it all weekend. It’s just fun to watch all that and see people enjoying themselves.
“It’s just a bunch of people who make this their vacation and Brainerd should be very proud of this. It brings a lot of money to Brainerd. They come in here and they make this their vacation week to meet other people.”
The Lucas family certainly enjoyed the event two years ago when their youngest son, Morgan Lucas, won the Top Fuel event, Hector Arana won the Pro Stock Motorcycle and Frank Manzo captured the Top Alcohol Dragster divisions.
“If we won a lot of races it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal, but we don’t win a lot of races,” said Forrest. “It is a huge deal when your kid wins. It’s like winning yourself. It was a big deal as a parent and for the company it was an even bigger deal.”
Charlotte is sort of a big deal on the track herself.
“I love being at the races,” said Charlotte. “One of the things, I like being out here when Morgan is going that fast. I enjoy being out here driving my own car, too. Right now my car just won the second round and it’s doing fine. It won the Seattle race two weeks ago with a different nut behind the wheel.
“When I drive it doesn’t always do that, but I did make it to the third round here about two years ago.”
The family owns several racing series. They own their own production company and they just finished purchasing their own television channel. Two weeks ago, they opened a boat drag racing strip in Missouri. They’ve built off-road tracks on the West Coast and, of course, they took over the naming rights to Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts.
“We’re knee deep into racing and most short track racing we have some involvement with if we don’t own it outright ourselves,” said Forrest, while sitting on a leather seat in a room suited more for a lake home on Gull Lake than a team trailer. “We have a big involvement with the NHRA and these two cars and this trailer is the most expensive operation we have in racing.
“This event is special. Coming here we see a lot of the same fans, who look forward to seeing us personally. This is where I’m more personally involved with the fans than anywhere else. I think it’s unique as a major sponsor in the racing industry that I go out and see the fans. Most people in my position don’t do that.”
The Lucas family also likes to visit the area. Each year they’ll have dinner at Iven’s On The Bay. They’ve stayed at Cragun’s Resort and they’ve watched Brainerd grow.
“The growth of the town just from vacationers, I would assume, is incredible,” said Forrest. “To attract all these big stores in what has to be a seasonal place says a lot. You have to be doing something right. This area attracts many people. There have been so many people driving in from several states away to make this their holiday for so many years says a lot.”
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.