I love Brainerd. I love the friendly people up there and the town is cool. Everyone seems genuinely happy that we're there and it's a fun place to be.
For those of you that have never been to Brainerd, it's a vacation destination for families looking to go somewhere and just relax for a few days. There are lakes all around for fishing and water sports and the town has numerous miniature golf courses and go-kart tracks for the kids. Many of the hotels have elaborate water parks attached to them. And of course there's the infamous Zoo at the racetrack -- a giant campground that takes on a Mardi Gras-type life of it's own for race week.
But I do have one major complaint -- Brainerd is the only place on tour where the hotels require you to pay a vastly inflated price for a minimum number of nights, regardless of how long you're actually in the room. Most places make you pay -- up front -- for five nights. A few only require three nights. My average room the last few years has been close to $200 a night, so I've been on the hook for $1,000. That's a pretty steep deal and it hurts everyone, especially race teams that gobble up 10-20 rooms for their people or worse yet, a family that wants to come up for a day or two for the races and gets buried by the expense of it all.
"We’re in a must-win situation," crew chief Lee Beard said. "The hotels are so pricey that if we don’t win the race, we lose money."
Inflated hotel prices and minimum-night stays are common practice with the NASCAR set but we've been able to avoid them on our side, except in Brainerd. It's too bad because it really puts a big damper on an otherwise nice place.
The mayor of Brainerd should get involved and outlaw this suspect business practice. Come on Brainerd, you're better than that…