Brainerd International Raceway owner Jed Copham died on Sunday as the result of a swimming accident. He was 46 years old.
Copham had been swimming from a boat owned by his parents near Fort Myers, Florida when he disappeared. Search and rescue teams found his body on Monday.
“This is a tragic and sad day for Brainerd International Raceway, the entire racing community and the Brainerd Lakes Area,” BIR spokesperson Geoff Gorvin said. “Everyone here is still in shock and trying to make sense out of it.
“Jed was the face of BIR and spared no expense to improve the track, the infrastructure and the entire experience at BIR. Nobody championed motorsports like Jed did. He worked tirelessly to make sure BIR was a safe and challenging place to race, a fun place to watch racing and a welcoming place with many opportunities to try your hand at racing.”
NHRA president Glen Cromwell also paid tribute.
“On behalf of everyone at NHRA, our thoughts and prayers go out to Kristi, their two children and all of those in the racing community that knew and worked alongside Jed,” he said in a statement.
“Twelve years ago, Jed and Kristi took over what has now become one of the more legendary race tracks on the NHRA national event circuit. Because of his passion and his own drive to race performance vehicles, the customer experience was vital to Jed. He knew how to put himself in the shoes of both BIR’s patrons and participants.
“The NHRA has been thoroughly impressed with the many improvements made to the facility in recent years, including more efficient ingress, improved ticketing operations, new scoreboards and more asphalt for parking, to name a handful.
“A true racing enthusiast at heart, Jed often looked forward to the future of the sport and innovations in racing. We appreciate all of the ideas and forward thinking that Jed has brought to NHRA Championship Drag Racing and will miss him dearly.”
Copham and wife Kristi bought BIR in 2006, less than two weeks before the venue hosted the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals. Along with his strong focus on track and safety improvements, his ownership was defined by the construction of a section of track that separated the road course from the drag strip, allowing it to be configured for drag and road racing simultaneously for the first time since the track was built in 1968.
He also worked tirelessly to improve the fan experience for the 100,000 spectators that attend the NHRA round each year, introducing new ticketing systems and relocating ticket booths to improve traffic flow during the race weekend.
Copham was also a racer himself, getting his start in drag racing and later taking part in SCCA races, International Watercross Association events, the latter featuring snowmobiles racing on open water, and endurance races.
He is survived by his wife Kristi, daughter Alyssa, son Ayden and parents, Dave and Cheryl Copham.