For Murray Hebert, it's all about giving the local fans somebody to follow and support at the 26th annual Lucas Oils NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway this weekend.
The Super Gas class racer enjoys making the short trip from his home and business in Baxter to BIR and performing in front of the hometown crowd.
"It gives the people in Baxter and Brainerd someone to cheer for out here because I'm the only local guy," said Hebert. "There are 600 cars here and I'm the only guy from town."
The annual trip to BIR is one the owner of Murray Hebert's Heating and Cooling in Baxter has made for the past two decades.
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"I've been racing and chasing these guys for 20 years, everyone gets bigger, better, faster," said Hebert, 43. "We used to sleep on the ground and now we got a $200,000 motorhome."
Hebert, who has a wife, Deisy, and a 14-year-old son, Murray Jr., began his racing career 25 years ago and has driven his "old school" 1971 Chevy Vega over the entire span.
"I made it, built it, rebuilt it and tuned it," said Hebert. "I did everything myself. I've used the same car the last 25 years and it just keeps getting faster and better."
It is hard to miss the Vega, whose bright yellow paint shimmers in the warm afternoon sun, grabbing the attention of all who pass.
Murray Hebert, along with crew member and longtime friend D.J. Holmquist, put the hood back on Hebert's 1971 Chevy Vega. Holmquist and Nathan Smith, Brainerd, have formed Hebert's race crew for 10 years. Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"It's been yellow for 20 years. It's pretty eye-catching," said Hebert. "Everybody knows it's me, Murray Hebert."
Beginning as a childhood dream, racing took hold of Hebert when he and a group of friends hit the race tracks. His love for the sport only grew from there.
Hebert travels all around the continent, racing in Saskatchewan, Canada, Topeka, Kan., Colorado and Chicago.
"We just got back from Chicago, where we went all the way to the final round (at the NHRA Divisional Points Meet)," he said. "We're pretty well No. 1 here this weekend."
Hebert is looking for his first victory in Brainerd since he experienced his favorite racing moment, winning at BIR in 1992. The Baxter resident will use the help of longtime friends D.J. Holmquist and Nathan Smith to earn a trip to the winner's circle. Holmquist, who flies in from Boynton Beach, Fla., and Smith, Brainerd, take the pressure off Hebert.
"We've worked and traveled together for 10 years," Hebert said. "I don't really have to do anything once we get here. They get me up to the lane, line me up and check the tires."
Holmquist has been involved with racing for 21 years and enjoys working with Hebert.
"I love the horsepower, the adrenaline rush, the fast cars, the speed, the fun and the fact racing is from point A to point B," said Holmquist. "I've worked on top alcohol dragster's to Murray's car to you name it. I love it."
Hebert reaps the alternative benefits to racing locally as the exposure at BIR helps in the business world.
"It's good advertising for the business. All my contractors and people I work for in Brainerd and Baxter come watch me, support me and have a good time out here," said Hebert. "We have a big tent set up with refreshments for all the people in Brainerd and Baxter to come see us and sit down, enjoy themselves and watch the races."
Hebert finds the need for a similar skill set between his heating and cooling business and racing.
"You've got to be mechanically inclined and you got to fine tune everything, and that's just the way the heating and cooling business is," Hebert said. "You've got to be right. It's got to be right and people got to be happy. They watch us run and they can see we ain't no dummies. We know what we're doing."
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