Drag racer Ed Shaughnessy had a winning idea recently.
Brainerd International Raceway and the NHRA approved his suggestion to use taconite tailings in the asphalt mix for the last 660 feet of the soon to be reconstructed quarter-mile dragstrip at the raceway.
This will be the first race track with taconite tailings used as asphalt substrate instead of the commonly used rock aggregate. The first 660 feet of the track also will be paved with concrete -- an increase of 330 feet. The project, which includes an updated timing system, and new telephone lines and television leads under the track, will cost an estimated $500,000.
Shaughnessy, Coleraine, said Friday he is familiar with taconite tailings because some of the towns in northeastern Minnesota use the tailings on some of their streets.
He said these streets have withstood all types of weather and are durable.
He also noted this mixture has been used on some of Highway 37 in northeastern Minnesota.
Scott Quick, BIR general manager, said he is familiar with these roads.
"Those roadways haven't been replaced for years," he said Sept. 11. "We're looking at longevity and keeping a flat surface as long as we can."
Another thing that taconite tailings, which only cost 95 cents a ton, will do is provide better traction for the 7,000 horsepower NHRA Top Fuel and Funny Cars. These two professional classes, capable of speeds of more than 315 mph, race at BIR once a year in an annual NHRA national event.
Shaughnessy said he thinks this new mixture is comparable to concrete.
"The transition won't be as fierce," he said.
The longer concrete launching pad alone will allow a smoother transition for Top Fuelers and Funny Car pilots.
Cory McClenathan, who won the 1997 Top Fuel title at BIR and has posted 27 No. 1 qualifiers in his career, said Sept. 12 this news was "huge" to him.
"That's a lot of concrete," he said. "It will definitely change things," he said.
He said concrete provides maximum traction for these two classes when the race car's clutch actually is locked up, about three seconds into the run.
McClenathan said this change also could entice racers to test at BIR before the annual national event.
He said the longer concrete pad also will allow crew chiefs to push these rockets more, earlier in the runs.
McClenathan's top speed at BIR was more than 318 mph. He won at BIR in 1997 with a speed of 315.01 mph.
He said there are six to 10 timer systems lined up on the clutch and fuel system.
Basically, the clutch is slipping until it locks up, he said.
With a shorter concrete launching pad, he said the clutch has to be slowed down.
"We can be a lot more aggressive on concrete," he said. "Not to say the track has held us back completely."
He said in hot weather concrete stays cool unlike asphalt, which can get hot.
Once these cars hit the asphalt, they can lose traction, he said.
More concrete also will increase the possibility of record-breaking speeds.
The current top speed at BIR for Top Fuel is 326.63 mph set by Mike Dunn last year. John Force in his Ford Mustang holds BIR's top speed record in Funny Car with a pass in 318.17 mph set in 1999.
Quick said he thinks these speed records will be shattered by the first round of qualifying for the 2003 NHRA nationals at BIR next August.
BIR will join six other tracks, which host NHRA national events, with 660 feet of concrete -- Firebird International Raceway in Phoenix; Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.; Heartland Park in Topeka, Kan.; Indianapolis Raceway Park; Pomona Raceway in Pomona, Calif.; and Atlanta Dragway. The only all concrete track is Texas Motorplex in Dallas.
Mike Yurik, director of operations for NHRA, said, in an interview Sept. 12, NHRA is comfortable with this type of asphalt mix.
"The surface is consistent with what we like to see," he said.
If the mixture is a success, he said that is something the track owners who host NHRA national events in the colder climates should research.
Unfortunately, the cost to transport the tailings is expensive because of the density. Shaughnessy said it will cost BIR about $6,000 to ship the needed 300 to 500 tons.
Snyder wins finale
SAUK CENTRE -- Trent Snyder of Ironton piloted his Chevrolet Monte Carlo to victory in the last late model feature of the season at I-94 Raceway Saturday night. Three-time winner and former Brainerd resident Nate Thiesse finished third, Brian Brickzin of Little Falls finished 12th and Will Kendall placed 15th.
Snyder, who qualified eighth, was the polesitter. Thiesse qualified fifth, Brickzin 12th and Kendall 16th.
The raceway Web site reported Snyder led flag to flag but only won by a half car's length over track owner Tim Olson. Olson who moved through the field, overtook Thiesse for second on the fourth lap.
Snyder finished sixth in season points, Brickzin was 11th, Kendall was 21st and Thiesse, who only raced four times, was 22nd.
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