NHRA

Owner of Brainerd International Raceway, one of NHRA’s top tracks, dies in Florida swimming accident

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BRAINERD, Minn. — The owner of Brainerd International Raceway in Minnesota has died in a swimming accident off the Florida coast. Jed Copham was 46.

The raceway said Copham had been swimming from his parents’ boat on Sunday near Fort Myers when he went missing. According to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, authorities recovered his body near a boat ramp Monday morning.

His death remains under investigation, but the sheriff’s office says there “appears to be no criminal aspect” to the inquiry.

“This is a tragic and sad day for Brainerd International Raceway, the entire racing community and the Brainerd lakes area,” BIR spokesman Geoff Gorvin said in a news release. “Everyone here is still in shock and trying to make sense out of it. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to Jed’s wife, Kristi, his two children, his parents and his extended family.

“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.”

Copham had owned the raceway near Brainerd in central Minnesota since 2006.

A passionate racer and champion of motorsports, Copham built a section of track that separated the road course from the drag strip. That allowed the raceway to offer drag racing and road racing simultaneously.

The NHRA released a statement mourning Copham’s passing:

“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,” said NHRA President Glen Cromwell in a news release. “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.”

Contributing: @JerryBonkowski

Lewis Hamilton aims to match Michael Schumacher’s F1 win record

Lewis Hamilton Schumacher record
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SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton has set many Formula One marks over the years, but few are as significant as the Michael Schumacher record he can match Sunday at the Russian Grand Prix.

Victory for Hamilton at the Sochi Olympic Park would see him draw level with Schumacher at 91 career victories, more than any other driver in the 70-year history of F1.

It also would increase Hamilton’s commanding 55-point lead over teammate Valtteri Bottas in the championship standings, putting him closer to a seventh world championship, matching another Schumacher record.

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History is on the side of Hamilton, who won Sept. 13 at Mugello. He’s won four of the six Russian races so far, and all six were won by Mercedes drivers. His closest challenger is likely to be Bottas, who beat Hamilton in the 2017 edition of the Russian Grand Prix.

Elsewhere in the championship hunt, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen’s season has gone up in smoke since his Aug. 9 victory at Silverstone. An overheating engine forced the Dutch driver out of the Sept. 6 race at Monza and then a similar problem struck just before the start at Mugello. Verstappen was far slower off the line than the cars around him and was struck by Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo.

That leaves Verstappen 80 points off Hamilton in the standings and a 25-point deficit to Bottas.

If Hamilton does win to tie Schumachher at Sochi, more fans will see it in person than any other race in a 2020 season mostly run before empty grandstands because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Organizers say the race weekend is sold out but haven’t given final ticket sales figures.

Race promoter Alexei Titov previously told Russian state TV that the stands would be at 50 percent of their capacity, which equates to around 30,000 spectators.

That’s far more than the previous season high of 3,000 fans for the most recent race, the Tuscan Grand Prix at the Mugello circuit.

Unlike at the last two races in Italy, there will be a full entertainment program on offer for fans with concerts featuring some of Russia’s most popular musicians.

Russian organizers say they’re taking precautions to keep fans safe and will have medical staff posted at checkpoints around the venue, and that spectators will have their temperature measured on entry.