Northland drag racers have strong showings at BIR

The race class is called King Street, and Brian Mahnke of Proctor can certainly make a claim to being king of that class at Brainerd International Raceway the past four summers.

The race class is called King Street, and Brian Mahnke of Proctor can certainly make a claim to being king of that class at Brainerd International Raceway the past four summers.

Mahnke continued his domination this past weekend at the 27th annual NAPA Auto Parts Show and Go. It was the second race of the three-race Muscle Car Series, which started with the Street Car Showdown on Memorial Day weekend and ends with the 25th annual Muscle Car Shootout on Labor Day weekend.

Mahnke, 37, has won the Muscle Car Series' King Street title the past three years and has a commanding lead after beating David Sash of Duluth in this weekend's finals. Mahnke covered the quarter mile in 8.285 seconds at 170.69 mph to Sash's 8.717 pass at 156.08 mph.

The King Street class features head-to-head drag racing, with the first car across the line winning.

"It's pretty much unlimited," Mahnke said. "You can do whatever you want as long as the car has license plates, headlights, taillights, blinkers, but that's about it. Other than that, it's pretty much run whatever you want to run. You'll see everything from a Pinto to an Audi in there. There's all kinds of different stuff. You're running anything from a complete stock chassis to a full tube chassis like a Pro Stock car (used in the NHRA).


"You can do whatever you want. In our class everything is heads up. I'm not a fan of bracket racing, and that's why I do this."

Mahnke trailers his 1972 Chevrolet Camaro to the track, but it is street legal, even with its 632 cubic inch big block Chevy engine. Mahnke was the No. 1 qualifier and had the fast run in King Street class with his final pass. He will be going for a three-race sweep -- and fourth straight overall title -- Labor Day weekend.

Mahnke, who works as a dock operator with the railroad, only makes the three Muscle Car Series events each year and doesn't race anywhere else.

"You have to be ready to go. We don't have time to test or anything," Mahnke said. "We have one time trial and then go right into qualifying, but then you have four qualifying sessions to work on your car. There's some competition. There are some guys who are right there, so it's better to be lucky than good."

In other racing action, Rick Gulbranson of Hermantown won the 12.50 Index class, Jesse Backstrom of Grand Marais won the 13.00 Index and Shannon Halverson of Cook beat Gary Carlson of Duluth in the 13.50 Index finals.

Jad Carlson of Duluth, meanwhile, defeated Jim Ripley of Hermantown in the Real Street Unlimited final.

Mahnke camps with Carlson and Ripley and brings his family, wife, Katie, and 5-year-old daughter, Ella, to the track.

"We all know each other (at BIR)," Mahnke said. "Our class races right before Jad and Jim, so I don't get to watch those guys. But we all camp in the same spot, so we're together all weekend. It's serious, it's competitive, but it's a lot of fun, too."

Related Topics: PROCTOR
Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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