The thrilling Western Swing once again starts at Bandimere Speedway as the top stars in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series return for the 38th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals. Sunday’s finals will be showcased live on the FOX national broadcast network.
The Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals is the 14th of 24 events during the 2017 NHRA season and marks the traditional starting point for the famed and challenging Western Swing, which features three straight races in the western region of the United States. With only four races following the event before the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship begins, the best in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle will battle for wins and crucial championship points.
The Western Swing consists of events at scenic Bandimere Speedway and also includes stops at Sonoma Raceway in Northern California and Pacific Raceways in Seattle. But the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals poses a unique challenge, as racing at an elevation of more than 5,800 feet affects everything from engine tune-ups to aerodynamics. Crews must expertly change their setups to power-making combinations and battle the lack of downforce to solve the challenging racing environment from racing in the mighty Rocky Mountains.
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock), and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 and FOX, including live final eliminations on FOX at 3 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, July 23.
Schumacher, an eight-time Top Fuel world champ, has enjoyed immense success at Bandimere, winning for the third time last year in his U.S. Army dragster. He is one of only five Top Fuel drivers to sweep the Western Swing, winning all three events in 2008. Trying to top him will be a bevy of standouts, including Don Schumacher Racing teammate Antron Brown, the defending back-to-back world champ who swept the Swing in 2009; points leader Steve Torrence; three-time 2017 winner Leah Pritchett; Clay Millican, who posted his first career Top Fuel win in Bristol; Doug Kalitta; Epping winner Brittany Force; and rookie Troy Coughlin Jr.
Force won for the seventh time in Denver a year ago, as the 16-time Funny Car world champion is tied for the most wins at the track in NHRA history. He is also the only Funny Car driver to sweep the Western Swing, something he’ll try to repeat in 2017. Force is the lone John Force Racing driver this season with a victory, as points leader and reigning world champ Ron Capps has posted an impressive six wins in his title defense. Capps' teammate Matt Hagan has three wins this year, while other class standouts include three-time Denver winners Robert Hight and Jack Beckman, Tommy Johnson Jr., Courtney Force, Tim Wilkerson, Cruz Pedregon, and J.R. Todd.
Allen Johnson lived up to his “King of the Mountain” nickname once again, winning for the seventh time at the track in Pro Stock. His mastery of the track has included 10-straight final rounds on the mountain, and Johnson will look for another Denver win to get his 2017 season on track. The Pro Stock veteran is 10th in points and battling for the final Countdown spot. He’ll face off against points leader Bo Butner, who has three wins; two-time 2017 winner Tanner Gray; and other 2017 winners Greg Anderson, the only driver to sweep the swing, Erica Enders, Chris McGaha, and reigning world champ Jason Line.
Hines won for the fourth time in Denver in Pro Stock Motorcycle, tying for the most in PSM history. Hines’ teammate, Eddie Krawiec, is right behind with three wins at the facility, while Hines, a five-time world champ, will look to make it five victories against the likes of reigning champ Jerry Savoie; LE Tonglet, who has four wins in 2017; 2016 rookie of the year Cory Reed; Hector Arana Jr.; Scotty Pollacheck; Matt Smith; Steve Johnson; and Angelle Sampey.
The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport. After nitro qualifying, fans can watch the spectacular Muy Caliente Racing jet dragsters sponsored by Lucas Oil, driven by the general manager of Bandimere Speedway, "Sporty" Bandimere. Jet cars are thrust driven propelled by jet engines with exciting pre-run flame shows.
Along with the exciting on-track action, the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals will honor first responders with NHRA’s “Salute to First Responders” celebration.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food, and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 5 and 7:30 p.m. on Friday, July 21, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, July 22, at 4 and 6:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 23.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 800-664-UWIN (8946) or 303-697-6001. Tickets also are available online at www.bandimere.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate.