To suggest that the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA Mile-High Nationals is a unique event would be a massive understatement. Almost everything, from the breathtaking views offered by Bandimere Speedway to the thin air that confounds even the smartest crew chiefs, makes it different.
That same uniqueness applies to good old Tricky Tipster as he attempts to handicap the Denver field each year. At this stage of the season, normally easy to go with the championship leaders or those who have recently been hot, but oftentimes, those two things don’t matter in Denver. It’s sometimes best to go with past Denver performances, and a few other variables. To that end, we’re picking Steve Torrence, Robert Hight, Matt Hartford, and Matt Smith as our pre-race favorites.
The favorite: Under normally circumstances, we’d probably have Justin Ashley at the top of this list since he’s done better than anyone else this year and seems to be at the top of his game when it comes to driving. Then again, this is Denver, and few drivers have enjoyed as much success here as Steve Torrence and his Capco crew. A winner here in 2015, 2019, and 2021, Torrence and his crew chief, Richard Hogan, seem to adapt quickly to the unique conditions in Denver. Torrence is also just 97 points behind leader Ashley in the standings so a big showing here could close the gap significantly.
The contenders: Outside of Torrence, we really like Leah Pruett, who not only races a Dodge backed dragster, but is also the defending event winner. Oh, and Pruett is riding a big wave after winning the most recent event in Norwalk. Honestly, the TSR dragster should be a co-favorite along with Torrence so it wouldn’t at all be surprising to see them race in the final round.
Ashley hasn’t had much success in Denver but then again, he hasn’t raced here much so he’s certainly not out of the running for a fifth win this season. Antron Brown does have a solid history of success at Bandimere Speedway with three wins in four finals since 2009 so this might be a good time to look at the Matco Tools team.
Finally, JFR teammates Brittany Force and Austin Prock are a threat to win any race, regardless of venue so they’re also among our contenders. Force also has a runner-up finish here in 2014.
The dark horse: We like Clay Millican and the Part Plus team in this spot because they’ve historically run well in Denver and of course, they recently enjoyed a big win Chicago. Oddly enough, Millican is still fighting for a spot in the Top 10 (he’s currently No. 12), so a few win lights here would be a very welcome sight.
Steve Torrence Capco Contractors 4-1
Leah Pruett Dodge Power Brokers 9-2
Justin Ashley Phillips Connect 6-1
Brittany Force Monster Energy 7-1
Antron Brown Matco Tools 8-1
Josh Hart R+L Carriers 8-1
Austin Prock Montana Brands 9-1
Mike Salinas Scrappers 10-1
Doug Kalitta Mac Tools 11-1
Clay Millican Parts Plus 14-1
The favorite: Five times Robert Hight has been to the final round in Denver and all five times he’s left with the Wally trophy. Hight and crew chief Jimmy Prock have won here in 2005, 2010, 2014, 2017, and 2022 and in most of those wins, they’ve been dominant. Hight already has two wins this season, but he’s only been past the second round once in the last four events, which means the Rocky Mountains are probably a welcome sight for the Cornwell Tools team. It’s also worth noting that there are currently 14 cars on the pre-entry list so the low qualifier is likely to get a bye run in round two. That’s a huge advantage so the battle for the top spot will be crucial.
The contenders: There are a lot of them including the obvious in three-time world champs Matt Hagan and Ron Capps, as well as 2023 event winners Bob Tasca III and Tim Wilkerson. Hagan won here as recently as 2021 while Capps has a win in 2009 to go with three runner-up finishes.
By the end of the Western Swing its not hard to think that Alexis DeJoria, John Force, J.R. Todd, or Cruz Pedregon, will have their first win of the season.
The dark horse: The last time we did this, Blake Alexander came through in the clutch with a win as our darkhorse pick. This time, were going with someone who seems almost destined to become NHRA’s next first-time pro winner, Chad Green. So, far this year Green has been a semifinal machine with six appearances in the final four so it’s just a matter of time before he makes it to a final. Denver also has a long history of upsets and first-time winners.
Robert Hight Flav-R-Pak Chevy 4-1
Ron Capps NAPA Toyota 5-1
Bob Tasca III Motorcraft Ford 6-1
Matt Hagan Dodge Power Brokers Dodge 6-1
Alexis DeJoria Bandero Toyota 7-1
Tim Wilkerson SCAG Mowers Ford 8-1
Cruz Pedregon Snap-on Dodge 9-1
J.R. Todd DHL Toyota 10-1
John Force Peak/Blu Def Chevy 10-1
Chad Green Bondcoat Ford 12-1
The favorite: After winning this event last season, and winning the most recent race in Norwalk, Matt Hartford seems like a logical choice here. In fact, the Total Seal entry didn’t just win in Norwalk, it was dominant with a low qualifying performance. It’s almost difficult to believe that Hartford had never been a low qualifier in Pro Stock until the 2023 season and now he’s led the pack three times in just eight races. Horsepower and qualifying performance aren’t’ the only things that Hartford has going for him right now. His driving has also been solid.
The contenders: This list should start with Deric Kramer, who is not only having the best season of his career, but he’s also a Denver native who tested extensively at his home track ahead of the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA Mile-High Nationals. Kramer would love nothing more than to win in front of his hometown fans and this might be his best chance to do so.
Championship leader Dallas Glenn is a contender wherever he goes and the same could be said for Aaron Stanfield, who was a runner-up to Hartford last year. The wild card of the bunch is reigning world champion Erica Enders, who enjoyed a strong outing in Bristol with her first win of the season, but has otherwise struggled. Enders has never won or been to a final in Denver but it would be a mistake to believe the Elite team isn’t capable of either.
The dark horse: During his championship season in 2017, Bo Butner went to the final in Denver where he lost to Drew Skillman. Butner hasn’t had much success this season but there have been a few bright spots, including the Chicago race where he qualified No. 3. Once again, Denver can be an unpredictable track where almost anything is possible so a win by the JHG Camaro wouldn’t be at all surprising.
Matt Hartford Total Seal Camaro 4-1
Deric Kramer GetBioFuel.com Camaro 5-1
Dallas Glenn RAD Torque Systems Camaro 6-1
Aaron Stanfield Janac Bros/J3 Energy Camaro 7-1
Erica Enders JHG/Elite Camaro 7-1
Greg Anderson HendrickCars.com Camaro 8-1
Troy Coughlin Jr. JEGS.com Camaro 9-1
Camrie Caruso Tequila Comisario Camaro 10-1
Cristian Cuadra Corral Boots Mustang 12-1
Kyle Koretsky Lucas Oil Camaro 12-1
Bo Butner JHG Camaro 14-1
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
The favorite: The V-twin bikes figure to have an edge here but reigning world champ Matt Smith seems to have an edge almost everywhere, including Bandimere Speedway, where he has won four times, including the last two events. Smith has said that he’s committed to racing a Suzuki for the full season in 2023 but given his history, one would have to imagine there is a chance, however small, that his red Denso Buell makes a guest appearance this weekend. Even if he stick with his Suzuki, Smith’s handle on high altitude racing makes him a favorite, albeit by a small margin.
The contenders: Continuying the V-twin theme, we give the nod to Hector Arana Jr. and Angie smith, who each have very competitive Buell entries at their disposal. Arana Jr. is also riding the wave of his most recent victory at the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals in Norwalk and he’s won before in Denver (2018). As for Smith, she’s off to a solid start this season and should easily qualify in the top three or four this weekend, setting the tone for a strong finish.
Where does this leave the rest of the field? Vance & Hines riders Gaige Herrera and Eddie Krawiec have some momentum, especially Herrera who is still the runaway points leader. Steve Johnson also merits some consideration as he’s already won a race this season
The dark horse: If reaction times count for anything (and they do), then Marc Ingwersen is a win waiting to happen. Ingwersen, who also happens to ride a Buell V-twin, is the leader in average reaction time and when one combines that with the unique conditions in Denver, there might just be a first-time winner in the making.
Matt Smith Denso Suzuki 4-1
Hector Arana Jr. GETTRX Buell 5-1
Angie Smith Denso Buell 6-1
Gaige Herrera Vance & Hines Suzuki 7-1
Steve Johnson Mac-Rak Suzuki 8-1
Eddie Krawiec Vance & Hines Suzuki 8-1
Chase Van Sant Trick Tools Suzuki 10-1
Marc Ingwersen Buckeye HD Buell 12-1
Jianna Evaristo Scrappers Suzuki 14-1