Take note, all you competitors who ever race against Brina Frank at World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis: She may have an invisible passenger in her car giving her an advantage – Lady Luck. Of Frank’s five career national-race wins, three have been at Gateway, prompting her to call it “my good-luck track.”
Frank, 34, of Mosinee, Wis., celebrated her latest victory there Sept. 29 when she bested a field of 44 drivers in six rounds of competition. She drove a 2019 COPO Camaro FS/B owned by Jim Greenheck, who races in Comp with a 2012 Camaro D/AA, on which Frank’s husband Brandon is the crew chief. Her previous national-event win was in 2015 at the same track when she triumphed in Super Stock in a 2008 Cobalt GT/BA.
The most recent Wally earned by Frank symbolized not only her race win but her talent as a driver, particularly since Gateway was only her fourth event in the COPO. Her first was the Bowling Green LODRS race, just a month earlier, in which she advanced to the last eight drivers (of the 119 in the field) but lost in round five. She was defeated in round one in Super Stock at the U.S. Nationals and round two at Earlville before going the distance at St. Louis.
Frank and her father Jeff Splingaire picked up the Camaro at Turn Key Automotive in Oxford, Mich., two weeks before the Beech Bend points meet, at which she made her first runs in the car. It has been returned to Greenheck, but she does not know his plans for it. She and her father plan to resume racing their Cobalt in Super Stock in 2020. They started the season with the car, but a catastrophic engine failure during their second race sidelined the Chevy for the year.
Frank termed the first round her hardest because she had to race Brett Speer in his 1970 Nova B/SA. “I’ve raced against him a few times, and we’re about 50-50,” she said. “It was tight.” She was better on the tree at .015 to his .042, but he ran .027 over his 10.62 dial while she was .048 over her 9.19. The difference was .006 in her favor.
Portrait photo of Brina Frank by Alex Owens
The lucky round for Frank was the second, in which she broke out by .006, but Brandon Bakies was worse at .013. Her .009 light to Daryl Bureski’s .051 led to his loss in the next round. Mike Lund fouled against Frank in round four by .004, setting up the bye.
In the final Chris Knudsen in his 1969 Camaro C/S held a slight edge off line, .025 to .027, but Frank put the Camaro ahead at the stripe with a 9.306 on her 9.30 dial. His car turned a 10.585 on a 10.57 dial. The winning margin was approximately 15 inches in Frank’s first time racing him.
Preparing for what she called a “monumental final” was “nothing special,” Frank said. “It was my sixth final, so I knew what to expect. It had been a couple of years since my last one. I remained calm even though there were people and the TV camera moving around. I just relaxed. I was on a mission because it was the last race of the season and my last race in the COPO, and I wanted to add a win to my resume.
“It's always nice to win because drag racing is very humbling,” Frank said. “I’m always happy to race as a team with my dad.” She noted the winner’s take of $1,500 has been put toward the new engine for the Cobalt.
The Super Stocker is the only car Frank and her father will race in ’20. She explained he is retiring from his vehicle-repair business in Riverside, Ill., called Jeff’s Auto & Truck. The ’67 Camaro Stocker has been sold, and a dually and fifth-wheel trailer have replaced his toterhome and stacker trailer.
Besides her five national-event wins (which include one in S/S and three in S/G), Frank has four Division 3 victories (two in S/G, one in S/S, and one in S/C) and a national-open win in S/G. Her highest finish in national points was fourth in S/G in 2008, the same year she was second in D3 points in the same category. She was the Jeg’s All-Stars D3 S/S representative in 2015 and has won class at Indy three times in S/S.
Frank was born into a racing family, since he father competed at such tracks as Wisconsin International Raceway by Kaukana, Wis., Great Lakes Dragaway near Union Grove, Wis., and U.S. 41 International Dragway outside Morocco, Ind. She began her career in Junior Dragster when she was 8 years old. She raced at Byron Dragway, was the points champ at Route 66 Raceway, and competed in the Eastern Conference Finals.
At 16 Frank began racing a S/C Spitzer dragster, the first of three dragsters, with the other two being Worthy and American. At one point she competed in S/C and S/G at the same time before transitioning to an S/S Firebird. After rolling her S/G Corvette roadster, she changed to a 1967 Camaro Stocker, “something with a roof on it,” she said. She forsook Super racing in favor of Stock and S/S. “My driving is more consistent when I go between Stock and Super Stock.”
In describing how she approaches racing, Frank recalled a National Dragster article in which a racer talked about words from the song “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers. She said the lyrics most applicable to racing are about knowing when to hold 'em, knowing when to fold 'em, and knowing when to walk away. “You have to be good on reaction time, you have to dial right, and you need to know when to let go at the finish line if you’re late on the tree, you’re going to break out, or you’re going to run your number,” she said. “It’s about knowing where you are on the track and making the best decision.”
Frank could concentrate on making winning decisions because of the solid performance of the Camaro. She described it as “amazing. It was consistent in running the dial. It was perfect,” she said. “We qualified where we wanted, and it worked out so I got the bye into the final. It was important and played into what I wanted to do.”
The 3,370-pound Camaro has the standard COPO chassis except Turn Key Automotive in Oxford, Mich., added Lamb struts, shocks, and brakes front and rear. In the back is a nine-inch housing filled with Strange components and a 4.57 gear. The Hoosier slicks are 30x9-15.
Under the hood is a 427-inch engine rated at 470 hp from the factory and 481 by NHRA. The cast-iron block has a Callies crank and rods, Mahle pistons, Cam Motion cam, and valvetrain pieces on the LSX-LS7 heads are from Johnson, PSI, Chevrolet Performance, and Del West. The Chevrolet Performance/Holley intake contains fuel injection with a Whipple 90mm throttle body. The fuel is VP.
Frank revved the engine to 3,300 at the starting line and shifted the Coan Turbo 400 transmission (which has a Coan converter and 2.48 first gear) at 7,500 with a Precision Performance Products shifter, and saw the tach hit 8,200 at the finish line. All monitoring of the engine performance is done by Holley and Racepak systems.
Making Frank’s racing possible are Chevrolet Performance, her parents Jeff and Cindi Splingaire, and CTech Manufacturing, which is in Weston, Wis., and owned by Greenheck. Frank works as an application engineer at another Greenheck company called Greenheck Fan. It is in Schofield, Wis., and produces equipment and accessories for conditioning, moving, and controlling air in industrial, commercial, and institutional buildings.
When away from racing and working, Frank likes to work out, fish, snowmobile, trapshoot, and ride a Waverunner.