The journey wasn’t always easy for Matt Hagan at Bandimere Speedway, but the three-time Funny Car world champion broke through for his long-awaited first win at the legendary facility in 2021.
It was a memorable moment for Hagan, and he’s looking for another at this weekend’s 43rd annual Dodge Power Brokers NHRA Mile-High Nationals. The track is celebrating its 65th anniversary in 2023, which puts a huge spotlight on the weekend.
That spotlight gets bigger for Hagan, the current Funny Car points leader, with Dodge’s longtime association with the facility. But he welcomes the moment in his 11,000-horsepower Dodge Direct Connection Charger SRT Hellcat as the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series opens its famed three-race Western Swing.
“It was tough to win that first Mile-High Nationals Wally trophy. But I love the scenery and the atmosphere at that track with the fans,” Hagan said. “Everybody enjoys themselves at the event, and the stands are packed. When I do a burnout, I can see the people so deep along the fences, and they’re excited. It’s such a cool event with the Dodge and Mopar involvement. I love meeting the fans there. We’ll be set to run strong, I can tell you that much. It’s a blast. We have to thank the Bandimere family for giving us one of the most outstanding drag racing facilities in the world.”
Leah Pruett (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Matt Hartford (Pro Stock), and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) won the 2022 event, and this year’s race be broadcast on both the FOX broadcast network and FOX Sports 1 (FS1), including eliminations coverage starting at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 16 on FOX. It is the 10th of 21 races during the 2023 season, and Hagan is in a good place approaching the second half of the year.
He’s won three races this season and went to the final round at the most recent event in Norwalk, giving the team plenty of momentum heading into Thunder Mountain. Of course, racing in Denver presents unique challenges not seen anywhere else on the NHRA tour, but Hagan likes his team’s chances, even going against the likes of Hight, John Force, Cruz Pedregon, Tim Wilkerson, and Alexis DeJoria.
Hagan will also take part in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge on Saturday, facing off against J.R. Todd. The other matchup is Bob Tasca III and Ron Capps, as the new bonus race offers points and a bonus purse on Saturday. It’s another exciting element for the weekend, but Hagan knows he must be focused during what can be a rigorous event.
“Denver is its own special place, so the momentum we had coming out of Norwalk in the [final round] is big,” Hagan said. “We always take a different combination to Denver that we’ve done well with. It’s given us one win and three No. 1 qualifiers. Denver is its own animal. The mountain is incredible to conquer, but it’s tough to do. The momentum of the guys working together and being in sync is huge. We do have a lot of momentum with the rounds we were able to go in Norwalk. We’re always learning, so you carry that into every race.”
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 3:30 and 7 p.m. MT on Friday, July 14, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, July 15 at 2:30 and 6 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. MT on Sunday, July 16. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 7 p.m. ET on Friday, 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, and then eliminations on FOX at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday.
To purchase tickets to the 43rd and final Dodge Power Brokers NHRA Mile-High Nationals on July 14-16 at Bandimere Speedway, fans can visit www.bandimere.com.