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