Racing at Bandimere Speedway will forever be a special experience for Jack Beckman for a variety of reasons. Beckman attended his first race at the one-of-a-kind facility while stationed at Lowry Air Force base in Denver in 1984. He followed that memorable weekend at the track with another 23 years later when Beckman there in Funny Car.
Two more wins have followed at Bandimere Speedway for the 2012 Funny Car world champion, making the place as special now as it was when he first experienced it 34 years ago. Beckman hopes to add a fourth win at the track in his 10,000-horsepower Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T, as the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series kicks off the famed Western Swing in Denver with the 39th annual Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals powered by Mopar, July 20-22.
“We won there in 2007 and that was my first full year in Funny Car, and that was one of my highest highs there,” Beckman said. “Every time I go back there it’s a little bit of a pinch-me moment because it takes me back to when I was 18 years old and watching my heroes race their cars there in 1984. It’s just such a special place because it’s breathtaking. There’s only one track carved into a mountain. The car never sounds the same, it doesn’t idle the same and it doesn’t accelerate the same. Things are just different and you better have taken the time to prepare yourself.”
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Drew Skillman (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (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 22. It is the 14th of 24 events in 2018 and one of the most challenging stops on the NHRA circuit to start the three-race Western Swing. Racing at an altitude of more than 5,800 feet presents a multitude of problems, but Beckman has learned to thrive in those difficult conditions.
Part of that is simply making the most of the experience, which includes a number of appearances for the longtime Dodge driver. But balancing the fun with the work has always been important for Beckman and the 27-time event winner has managed to do it well.
“Maybe it helps that I’m such a big fan of the sport because there’s still a lot of things I can get out of an event without stressing myself out too much as a driver,” Beckman said. “I can put my fan hat on with the pre-race festivities, and then change into my race hat when it’s appropriate and focus on what I need to do in the car.”
But Beckman also knows he needs a solid result in Denver as the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship nears. He had early-season success, posting a win in Gainesville, but hasn’t managed to replicate that. Beckman hasn’t dropped far from the points lead, sitting in a tie for second with Don Schumacher Racing teammate Matt Hagan, but he is chasing points leader Courtney Force, who has four wins in 2018. More importantly, Beckman and his team, led by crew chiefs John Medlen, Dean Antonelli and Neal Strasbaugh are looking to get back to that consistency after a number of changes to the car.
“Our qualifying was stellar and we were great in all conditions,” Beckman said. “We’ve been trying to get our head above water since then. I feel like we’re learning stuff each race and in this sport it’s two steps forward, one step back sometimes. But we’ve got three brilliant guys and we will get back to where our car was earlier in the year. We just don’t have the consistency we did earlier in the year. But a lot of times is what happens is one small change takes you right back there.”
Three-time Top Fuel world champ Antron Brown has three Denver wins, but is seeking his first in 2018 against the likes of points leader Steve Torrence and defending world champ Brittany Force.
Drew Skillman will try to become the ninth different winner in Pro Stock in 2018. Points leader Tanner Gray, Jeg Coughlin Jr. and world champ Bo Butner will be among the top challengers.
Eddie Krawiec won in Denver for the fourth time in 2017 and the reigning world champ is the current points leader over talents like Andrew Hines, Matt Smith and L.E. Tonglet.
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 Majestic jet car from El Arabe Racing, the Lucas Oil Muy Caliente jet and the Lucas Oil Terminal Velocity jet. Jet cars are thrust driven propelled by jet engines with exciting pre-run flame shows.
Those in attendance will have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with a few of the most renowned names in drag racing during the NHRA Legends Tour. This will feature meet-and-greets, autograph sessions, and a variety of other activities. Legends scheduled to attend the Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals include Kenny Bernstein, Judy Lilley, John Bandimere Jr. and more.
As always, fans can 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 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 5:15 and 7:00 p.m. on Friday, July 20, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, July 21, at 5:15 and 7:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 22.
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.