At my latest trip to Brainerd Optimist Drag Strip I got the urge to take a photo similar to one I saw from 1971. Wayne Holland took the picture, looking at the staging lanes but also encompassing the track. It’s a super cool black and white shot, so I thought I’d try to mimic it with a nighttime shot of the modern day facility. Aside from the cars, not much has changed in 40 years according to these pictures!
However, lots of things have changed that can’t be seen in the pictures. At this time, the drag strip had been open a mere seven years, and it remained in its quarter mile configuration. During the 1960’s, it was a hotbed for Super Stock racing, along with several other local tracks. Throughout the’70s and ’80s, the track was a major place to race, and it was even home to a few IHRA points races. Moving into the ’90s, the track and it’s lessee Steve Longley made a huge splash by creating a class for outlaw street cars in the south and supporting it with a healthy purse. Now, Brainerd is home to a monthly “heads up” race, and several bracket races per year. Brainerd also has special events, such as the Beat the Heat World Finals (this past weekend) and numerous “street car” style events.
Through the years, Brainerd Optimist Drag Strip has changed drastically, but when I reviewed my picture, and compared it to Wayne’s shot from 1971, it made me think about the similarities in a 40-year span. I’ve watched Pro Mods, Funny Cars, Outlaw Street Cars, and I even saw the Little Red Wagon wheelstander in the ’90s. I hope the track regains some of its steam over the next few years, so I can go back in 40 years, stand in that same spot and take another picture.