By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher
Brina Splingaire is a young sportsman racer that calls the Midwest home. She has been involved in drag racing since she was eight years old in the NHRA’s Junior Drag Racing League.
She competed in the Junior Drag Racing League from when she was eight years old up until she turned 16-years-old. After she reached that birthday, she moved on to a different category in the Sportsman ranks.
“A lot of my memories would come from me and my dad going to the track,” Splingaire said. “I would listen to Oldies music when we were going there in the truck. It was more of a bonding moment, as it was just the two of us. We have always said if it wasn’t fun, we wouldn’t do it. He has always taught me that you have to treat each racer with respect. If you lose, you just take it and be OK with it. Some kids throw their helmets, while others are throwing tantrums, or are crying. “When I was younger, I probably cried a little bit, but as you get older, you learn that’s not the way to do things, as there is another way to handle it.
“We have had a blast drag racing. I started drag racing at Byron Dragway and there are a lot of memories with people, who I grew up racing with. Those are the things you will never forget.”
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She moved up to Super Comp after departing the Junior Drag Racing League.
“The idea was since I was driving a dragster, it made more sense to transition to a bigger dragster,” she said. “Most people transition to something slower, like stock, with the foot brake.”
Once she completed high school, she went on to attend Purdue University. She said that she only considered two schools — the University of Kentucky being the other — before becoming a Boilermaker (singular nickname for their sports teams).
“There were only two schools I was interested in going to,” Splingaire said. “One was the University of Kentucky and the other one was Purdue. I got into both of them, but due to the engineering status of Purdue, as well as the location, that’s why I decided to go there. Purdue is located off of I-65 in Indiana — and that’s a route we take to go racing a lot of the time.
“If I had gone to Kentucky, I wouldn’t have been able to go racing as much, as it is further away from home. My school (Purdue) was only a couple of miles from the highway, so I had a friend drive me and meet me on the side of the road, where my dad would meet me, either drop me off or pick me up; it was like he would load me and unload me there.”
While at Purdue, she was also part of the Rifle and Piston Club. According to the school’s website, it is the school’s oldest club.
They are also “dedicated to recreational and competitive shooting while promoting gun safety.”
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“When I was in the club, we would shoot obviously for fun,” she said. “For the competitions, we would have scores that we would try to get. We would have to shoot laying down, standing up, and in other positions. Then, with the highest score, that team wins the competition.
“I have always been around guns and shooting since I was a little girl. My dad is big into shooting and hunting, so he would teach me about gun safety and got me into shooting. He first got me a BB gun as a little kid, then a .22 and it has progressed as I got older. I really enjoy it. Ever since I moved to Wisconsin, I participate in a trap shooting league with my co-workers at work. We do that during the summer.”
While she was a part of the club, she had to prioritize her time. Not only did she have to fit in with her education by doing homework and studying, but set time aside for when she went racing.
“I had to prioritize my time,” Splingaire said. “I pride myself on being organized and having time management. If you want to make it happen, you have to prioritize the time to fit it all in. I also worked out, so I had to fit that into my schedule, as well. I also had to find time to study or to participate in extracurricular activities.”
Splingaire mainly competes in Stock and Super Stock in the NHRA today.
“I have a Chevy Cobalt that is used for strictly Super Stock — and it is called the Chi-town Shaker. In the past few years, I have only run my Cobalt, but unfortunately, my motor blew up last year. The same year, I was selected to purchase a 50th-anniversary Copo Camaro — and my sponsor at the time ended up purchasing it. When my motor blew up in my Cobalt, he ended up letting me drive it; otherwise, I would not have been able to race the rest of the year. For 2020, we plan on racing just my Cobalt.”
The Chi-town Shaker name is a tribute to her father’s friend. You can read more about Splingaire by going to www.chitownshaker.com.
“My dad had a friend — unfortunately, he passed away — who used to race a car named the Chi-town Shaker,” Splingaire said. “We were thinking about names to put on the car, and he thought it would be a good name and tribute to him.”
In her racing career, she has won five national events.
“It is very difficult to win a national event,” she said. “There are so many people, who you come across at these tracks, that have been racing for years, who have not been able to win one. I’m talking about 20-or-30-years and they may not have ever won one. I was lucky enough to win my first win in 2008 at St. Louis and in that same year, I won my second win. It is an unbelievable thing. The next year, I won another, but after that, I didn’t win another until 2015. Drag racing is a very humbling sport, because one day, you can be on top, then in the next event, you can lose in the first round. You have to be able to handle that.
“You can never give up in this sport, as you have to keep your head up and keep trying. It could definitely be discouraging at times, but you have to keep going, as it [the win] could be just around the corner.”
She said she was the first female to go to two final rounds at the same national event, which happened at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway in Brainerd, Minnesota on August 10th, 2008. At that race, she won in Super Gas, but was the runner-up in Super Comp, losing to Rick Bowman, as he went 8.920 at 173.09 mph to her 8.936 at 176.84 mph.
Splingaire defeated Bill Goldammer in the Super Gas final. She went 9.882 at 156.06 mph to get the win, while Goldammer went 9.841 at 162.45 mph in the losing effort.
“I won at Super Gas at Brainerd in 2008, then I runnered-up in Super Comp during the same weekend,” Splingaire said. “It was a very special weekend. There’s a lot of luck involved, but it’s like a blur almost. You win one, you go back, get ready, then you go up again, and you win that — you just do it over and over again, as you’re rotating them. It was easier to race back then in two cars, because now with the car counts being lower, I have been put in situations, where I would win the second round in each, and then, there are not many cars left. Then, you have to hurry and rush and may not be able to make it back with the other car for your next round. It’s definitely more difficult, but that was a fantastic thing to happen back then. It’s something that I’ll never forget.”
That same year that she was able to accomplish the feat by going to two final rounds in one national event, Splingaire was also named the 2008 NHRA Division III Super Eliminator Driver of the Year.
“That meant a lot to me because I finished that year in fourth-place in Super Gas nationally,” she said. “I was also the points leader for a couple of weeks. It was really cool to be able to do that. Racing is very hard — and to be able to win an award like that — that was probably the most winningest year of my racing career. My parents were able to be there with me and I’m glad I was able to share that experience with them.”
While she is mainly sticking to Stock and Super Stock today, she also has a license for Super Comp, Super Gas, and Top Dragster.
“I just like to keep my licenses active for whether an opportunity comes up for me to drive a car, whether it would be for me to drive for somebody else, or if we would buy one of those cars to compete in that class again,” she said. “I keep them active just in case I need them. The only class that we have considered going back into was Super Gas, but we’re going to stick with Super Stock for now.”
Splingaire is an Application Engineer II for Greenheck Fan. Due to her job, she has to use her vacation days to go racing.
“A 100% of the time, my vacation days are allocated to go racing,” Splingaire said. “That’s how I plan my vacation days — and hopefully I don’t get sick, which I don’t normally get sick so I don’t have to worry about that. If I have to leave early on a certain day, as I have to drive from here to Chicago to meet my dad, which is about 4-hours away, I can leave early and make up the time. They are very flexible with that.”
Like many Sportsman racers, they rely on sponsorships. Also, a lot of the time, they fund their operations out of their own pockets.
“I normally make marketing proposals with what our schedule is like, how much it’ll cost with fuel, entry fees, racing expenses, and see if they’ll be willing to work with us,” she said. “If we put a sticker on both sides, it’ll be ‘X’ amount of dollars, but if they want to be on our t-shirts, brochures, Hero Cards, and that’ll be ‘X’ amount of dollars more. We basically have three different tiers for them. I approximate all of our expenses, including diesel costs and tolls, along with the round trip mileage per race.”
Once in her racing career, she was able to qualify for the 2015 JEGS All-Stars. This is the best of the best Sportsman race at Route 66 Raceway in Elwood, Illinois each year.
“I tried so hard to win the points to be able to attend that race,” Splingaire said. “But, while it was good to be there, it was the most disappointing race of my life, because my motor blew up in the time runs. Since that happened, I never got to compete in the races that weekend. I was pretty bummed and disappointed.”
Splingaire was not planning on racing until the North Central Division’s Norwalk Divisional from May 15-17 in Norwalk, Ohio. However, due to the coronavirus outbreak around the world — and in the United States — that race may be postponed.
Yet, when racing returns, she would like to try to compete in the Divisional Championship this season.
“In 2008, when I finished fourth in the nation, I finished second overall in my Division,” she said. “That’s one thing I would like to accomplish. In 2020, we plan on hitting a lot of races, so maybe we can make that happen. After that, I would like to go for the national championship. I think I can with my schedule, as in most seasons, I plan on racing 12-14 races. Unfortunately, we’ve had some engine problems the last couple of years, which have cut our opportunities. However, I think if I can run our full season, I would think we’ll have a good chance at it.”
While she is happy where she currently is racing in Stock and Super Stock, she would be open to potentially moving up one day down the road. She has dreamed about competing in Pro Stock.
“I think if the opportunity was to present itself, I would be open to it and at least consider it,” Splingaire said. “One thing I have always wanted to do was drive Pro Stock, but due to how life has gone and how sponsorships have gone for people, it’ll probably be hard to get sponsorship money to do something like that. I think if the opportunity ever became available to do something like that, I would be more than willing to do that. “Right now, I love drag racing and I love racing Super Stock. I also have a full-time job that I have to handle, too, but if something came up, I would be more than willing to consider it.”
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