Beautiful and breathtaking are the words most often used to describe Bandimere Speedway, the home of this week’s Dodge Power Brokers NHRA Mile-Hight Nationals. Challenging and tricky are two others that come to mind when NHRA racers discuss what it takes to compete in the thin Rocky Mountain air at Bandimere Speedway, which sits more than 5,800 feet above sea level.
This week, crew chiefs will face perhaps their toughest test of the season in Denver, the start of NHRA’s annual Western Swing, which also includes stops in Sonoma and Seattle.
In Top Fuel, most of the attention will be focused on reigning and four-time world champ Steve Torrence, and rightfully so. Winless so far this season, Torrence is coming off back-to-back wins in Denver, which makes him a sizable favorite this week. Torrence may be winless, but he hasn’t exactly struggled. He comes into the Denver race in third place, just 109 points behind leader Mike Salinas and 97 in back of second-ranked Brittany Force. It’s worth noting that neither Force nor Salinas have ever raced in a Denver final.
There are plenty of other former Denver winner’s in this year’s field, including Tony Schumacher, Leah Pruett, Doug Kalitta, and Antron Brown, who is part of a very select group of drivers who have swept all three swing races.
In Funny Car, Robert Hight comes to Denver as perhaps the hottest driver in the class following his win in Norwalk. Hight is also a four-time Denver winner, proving that his Auto Club team, led by crew chief Jimmy Prock, knows a thing or two about high-altitude racing.
So far this season, Hight has regularly traded punches with reigning champ Ron Capps and Matt Hagan, and those three make up the list of likely favorites. Capps won here in 2009, and Hagan is the defending event champion in his Dodge Power Brokers Charger. Also worth noting that John Force is by far the most successful driver at Bandimere Speedway with eight wins in 13 final rounds.
The Pro Stock class returns to Denver for the first time since 2019, and right now, no one is hotter than Erica Enders, who has already won five events this season, including the most recent stop in Norwalk. Enders has only lost three rounds this season, which makes her a big favorite, although she has yet to win in Denver.
Greg Anderson, however, is another story as the five-time world champ has four wins at Bandimere Speedway, including the two most recent events in 2018 and 2019. Anderson is still searching for career win No. 100 and would love nothing more than to win on the first event of the Western Swing. Ironically, Anderson is the only Pro Stock driver entered in this year’s event that has previously won in Denver, although Matt Hartford and Bo Butner have been to final rounds.
Matt Smith, the defending Denver Pro Stock Motorcycle champion, is expected to return to his Denso Buell for this week’s race, which easily makes him one of the favorites alongside his wife, Angie, who also races a Buell V-Twin.
The Smith’s will have plenty of competition to deal with from a fleet of Suzuki racers, including Vance & Hines teammates Eddie Kraweic and Angelle Sampey, both of whom are past Denver winners. Also expected to be in the mix are Norwalk runner-up Joey Gladstone as well as Steve Johnson, Jerry Savoie, and Karen Stoffer, who have each won this season.
In addition to the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Pros, the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA Mile-High Nationals will also feature the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and a special Mile-High No Time Shootout featuring some of the country’s quickest street cars.
You can catch the action all weekend on FOX Sports 1 and NHRA.tv.
You can follow NHRA on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to get a closer look at the action.
2021 EVENT WINNERS
Steve Torrence, Top Fuel; Matt Hagan, Funny Car; Matt Smith, Pro Stock Motorcycle. (Pro Stock not contested).
3.717 seconds by Brittany Force, July 2021; 330.31 mph by Steve Torrence, July 2019
3.889 seconds by Courtney Force, July 2017; 328.30 mph by Courtney Force, July 2017.
6.877 seconds by Allen Johnson, July 2015; 201.01 mph by Shane Gray, July 2015
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
7.111 seconds by Eddie Krawiec, July 2018; 189.73 by Eddie Krawiec, July 2021.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds of qualifying at 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. MDT on Friday, July 15, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, July 16 at 2:30 and 6 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 17.
FRIDAY, July 15, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying at 10 p.m. (ET)
SUNDAY, July 17, FS1 will televise 90 minutes of qualifying at 11 a.m. (ET)
SUNDAY, June 19, FOX network television will televise 3 hours of finals coverage at 4 p.m. (ET)