The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli returns to historic Brainerd International Raceway for the 30th time in the Ryan Companies US presents the Jed Copham Tribute Weekend on July 16-18.
Last year, Brainerd hosted the Trans Am for the first time since 2017. Two-time TA champ Amy Ruman ran her best race of the season, battling Tomy Drissi for second place behind Ernie Francis Jr., who pulled out nearly a 20-second lead. For lap after lap, Drissi challenged Ruman for the runner-up position before slipping by in the Cloverleaf Corner on the 19th lap. Moments later, Francis went off course twice in three corners and pitted the One South Florida Ford Mustang for the day with a mechanical problem.
Drissi made the most of Francis’ retirement to take his fifth career victory in the No. 8 Lucas Oil Chevrolet Camaro. Ruman held on for second despite losing the power steering in her McNichols Company Corvette in the closing laps, with Simon Gregg rounding out the podium.
Originally known as the Donnybrooke Road Course when it opened in 1968, the very wide 10-turn, 3.1-mile circuit first hosted Trans Am at the height of its Golden Years (1966-1972). Parnelli Jones won the opener in 1969 in Bud Moore’s Mustang. Privateer Milt Minter scored a major upset in 1970, winning in a Camaro, while Roger Penske Javelins won in 1971 (Mark Donohue) and 1972 (George Follmer). (Video: Trans Am Flashback to 1969 Donnybrook)
After a two-year break, Trans Am returned to the rechristened Brainerd International Raceway in 1975, with Peter Gregg, Bob Tullius and Jerry Hansen among the winners over the next four years.
The circuit hosted Trans Am throughout the 1980s. Paul Newman scored his first professional triumph in 1982, winning from the pole and leading every lap in Bob Sharp’s Datsun 280ZX. Willy T. Ribbs won the following three years for Neil DeAtley and Jack Roush. Other winners included Greg Pickett (1986), Elliott Forbes-Robinson (1987) and Hans Stuck (1988). Irv Hoerr drove his Oldsmobile to victory in 1989, in what proved to be the final Trans Am event at Brainerd for 21 seasons. (Video: Trans Am at Brainerd Full Race from 1987 Season)
Copham – a three-time Trans Am competitor at Brainerd – purchased the complex in 2008. A hands-on owner, he made improvements to both the facility and the racing program. Copham was instrumental in the return of Trans Am, which came back to Minnesota in 2010 and ran two events in both 2011 and 2012. Tony Ave won the 2010 race on the refurbished 2.5-mile, 13-turn layout, and followed by winning both 2011 races and the 2012 opener.
Ruman went on to win the second race in 2012, and also triumphed in 2015. Doug Peterson won in both 2013 and 2014, while Cameron Lawrence won the TA2 race in 2013 and scored his lone TA victory in 2017.
Mike Skeen was the TA2 winner last year, followed by Thomas Merrill, Rafa Matos and Scott Lagasse Jr. Ken Thwaits won in XGT and Lee Saunders in SGT. All three winners went on to win their respective titles.
Trans Am drivers will compete in a full test day on Friday (July 16) with practices filling Saturday (July 17) morning before the Trans Am qualifying block starting at 3:15 p.m. Central. Sunday (July 18) closes the three-day event with two 100-mile sprints from Trans Am drivers, the first from TA2 at 11:25 a.m. Central, TA/XGT/SGT/GT goes green at 2:55 p.m. Central.
The weekend will be live streamed on the Trans Am by Pirelli Racing App starting on Saturday. Download and subscribe: https://bit.ly/34qQfCG