There was a text to Kristi Copham on Saturday morning to confirm a phone interview and she responded: “I am out near drifting and it’s very loud.”
A few minutes later, the connection was made and the first question was obvious: What’s drifting?
“We’re having the Drift Bash this weekend,” Copham said. “There are around 500 cars here … a bunch of Mazdas, all going sideways, no one’s going straight.”
Jed and Kristi Copham purchased Brainerd International Raceway in July 2006 — saving it from probable sale to developers. The Cophams immediately started investing to refurbish BIR and regain its status as Minnesota’s premier racing facility.
Jed, 46, was visiting his parents last Nov. 11 in the Fort Myers, Fla., area for a celebration of his father Dave’s 75th birthday, when he drowned off the family boat in the waters near the Sanibel Bridge.
“It took three months to get back on my feet and realize, ‘Jed’s gone, and I have a racetrack to run,’ ” Kristi said. “I had been working with him from the start. As I’m running all over, I still see in my mind scenes of him out here.”
Kristi is her own general manager at BIR. “When it comes to irreplaceable, I have Dan Antrim as the head of the maintenance department,” she said. “He’s been here since way back. Anything that needs to be fixed or improved, Dan is going to make sure that happens.”
The hobbyists — bracket drag racers, drifters, sports car clubs, muscle cars, go-karts, motorcycle racers, you name it — are the lifeblood of BIR on weekends from mid-April to mid-October.
There are also a half-dozen main events to bring in fans, headlined by the 38th annual Lucas Oil national drag races from Aug. 15-18. There’s also a concert called Lakes Jam — country, followed by rock ’n roll — on June 27-29.
Kristi has two children, Alyssa, 18, and Ayden, 13, and a racetrack to run, and a constituency of motorsports enthusiasts to keep coming back annually to rent the track or take in events as fans.
“I think I’m up to the challenge,” Kristi said. “I’ll never let this place go. There’s too much of Jed and me here.”
Read Reusse’s blog at startribune.com/patrick.
Also from BIR in 2019:
• There will be International Watercross Association snowmobile races across BIR’s infield lake as part of “Wet ‘n Wild” weekends May 31-June 2 and Sept. 20-22.
• Muscle cars and Superbikes on Aug. 30-Sept. 1 … how do you beat that?
• The schedule can be found at brainerdraceway.com, including dates for the BIR performance driving school. It’s run by Gary Curtis, a notable competitor in motorcycle and in road racing during his career.