After his annual test session at Bandimere Speedway before the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals a year ago failed to yield the results he wanted, Pro Stock veteran Allen Johnson wasn’t sure if the Denver dominance he has enjoyed the past decade would continue.
But during race day, Johnson and his Marathon Petroleum/J&J Racing Dodge Dart came to life, and the former world champion once again lived up to his “King of the Mountain” moniker, winning for the seventh time. That tied him with Bob Glidden and John Force for the most wins at the scenic venue, meaning Johnson has big goals, including an 11th straight final round, at this year’s 38th annual Mopar Mile-High Nationals, which takes place July 21-23 at Bandimere Speedway.
“Last year we just approached it to try to get through the thing because we weren’t good at testing,” Johnson said. “How it worked out, I’m not sure. We hit on something on Sunday and just built on that. We’re going to come out of the box swinging, and we’re really confident we can go up there and do well. We’ve accomplished more than anybody else up there, so that sense of pressure is probably gone. But we do take pride in it, and it’s important for us to do well at this race.”
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also 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. It is the 14th of 24 events during the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season and also the first of three races on the famed NHRA Western Swing.
Of course, Denver has its own challenges, racing at an elevation of more than 5,800 feet, but that has brought out the best in Johnson over the course of a standout career that includes 27 wins. His first final-round appearance on the mountain came in 2002, and Johnson has been to every final round since 2007. That unprecedented success included three straight victories from 2012-2014, and although conditions are unique, Johnson is well aware of what a win in Denver can mean.
“A win is always awesome; I don’t care where it comes,” said Johnson, who is currently 10th in the Pro Stock points standings. “Right now it’s important for us to get momentum and get a little better before the [Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship]. My goal is to eliminate the first-round losses, have a minimal amount of second-round losses, and move up a couple positions if we can.”
The good news for Johnson is he appears to be hitting his stride after a rough start to his 2017 season. He opened the year with seven straight first-round losses in the talented Pro Stock class, failing to find the performance he had been hoping for at the beginning of the season. But Johnson has three round-wins in the past six races, giving him confidence that something big is about to happen, as he competes against the likes of points leader Bo Butner, who has three wins this season, and two-time 2017 winners Greg Anderson and rookie Tanner Gray.
“We hit on something in Epping and picked up a lot, and I feel like we’re about to get things going,” Johnson said. “We want to jump-start our playoff run over the next three to four races. Now that we have a direction, we just keep going a little more. There have been a couple of runs we’ve made that really give us hope with what we’re doing. We’ve been closing the gap quite a bit, and that really has us fired up. It’s time to turn up the wick a little bit.”
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.