Deric Kramer and Cory Reed both grew up in Colorado racing Jr. Dragsters at scenic Bandimere Speedway, and now both of the rising stars in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series are eager to be part of the NHRA’s first live broadcast on a national television network.
Those are the moments that Pro Stock’s Kramer and Reed, a newcomer in Pro Stock Motorcycle, have dreamed about, and both racers have big aspirations at the upcoming 38th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, which takes place July 22-24 at the popular family-owned dragstrip that sits along the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, just west of downtown Denver.
The race kicks off the famed Western Swing, and Sunday’s finals will be broadcast live on the FOX national broadcast network. It’s a long way from racing Jr. Dragsters to start their racing careers, but both Kramer and Reed are embracing their returns to the track many refer to as “Thunder Mountain.”
“I’ve raced here pretty much my entire life, and it’s going to be a great opportunity,” said Kramer, who is currently 15th in Pro Stock points. “This is where I learned how to drive. It’s definitely exciting, and the way we approach it, this is where the season starts for us. We definitely want to go out and do our best.”
“It’s definitely going to be the coolest [race] for me yet,” Reed said. “I’ll have more family and friends there. I think it just adds another level of comfort. You don’t really have to go there and think about anything else. It’s just one extra thing off your mind. Going out West for me is definitely cool; this is where I grew up.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Larry Morgan (Pro Stock), and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of the 14th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. The race is also the seventh of 16 for Reed and the rest of the Pro Stock Motorcycle competitors, and the Grand Junction, Colo., native is starting to see things come together on his Precision Service Equipment Buell.
Reed was named the second rider on the Star Racing team before the 2016 season, becoming teammates with three-time world champion Angelle Sampey, and has made impressive strides. Reed, who had just one career race in Pro Stock Motorcycle before this season, has picked up his first career round-wins at each of the past two races, moving to 14th in points with just four PSM races before the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
“I think everything has been building up to this point,” Reed said. “Nobody stops working on this team. [Team owner] George [Bryce] stays on top of Angelle and me pretty good. We’re always working on things and thinking about going faster. I’m always trying to improve on little things.”
Racing at an elevation of more than 5,800 feet, the Bandimere Speedway altitude presents a challenge unlike anything in drag racing. It will be Reed’s first experience at the track on his Pro Stock Motorcycle Buell, but he hopes that familiarity of racing there over the years will pay off.
“I already know about the track, and everyone is looking forward to this race,” Reed said. “We’ve got a good feeling and good vibe going, and we just want to keep it up. Nobody is satisfied.”
Kramer has had his best season in the Pro Stock ranks while continuing to race on a part-time basis in his American Ethanol Dodge Dart.
He has posted three round-wins in five races, two more round-wins than he had at his previous 38 races. Kramer has also qualified as high as 11th twice in the new-look Pro Stock class, which features fuel-injected engines, flat hoods, 10,500-rpm rev-limiters, and shortened wheelie bars. It has been an adjustment for everyone in the class, but it has worked out well for Kramer thus far.
“Our team is a much more unified piece now,” Kramer said. “We’re a lot tighter now. I started racing Pro Stock in 2012, and there are a lot of guys with a lot more laps than me. With the changes to the cars, I feel like a lot of teams are in the exact position as we are now. That gave us an opportunity to improve and be equal to some of the competition.”
Kramer, a Sterling, Colo., native, has made the most of it, but he wants to make even more progress starting in Denver. He called the three-race Western Swing, which also includes stops at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma and at Pacific Raceways in Seattle, one of his most important stretches of the season.
The team will run a second car in Denver, and Kramer, who will also be racing in Brainerd and at the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, is excited about what his team can do at Bandimere Speedway.
“It’s going to be a great time,” Kramer said. “I want to go four rounds every week. As a driver, I don’t go out there to lose. I want to do the best I can, and I try to show that on the Tree. It’s just a matter of building consistency; the more we can repeat a great run, the better we will do.”
NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 5 and 7:30 p.m. on Friday, July 22, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, July 23, at 4 and 6:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 14.
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.