Denver: Mile-High Nationals preview, schedule

WHAT: 24th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, the 13th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Professional competitors in four categories earn points leading to 2003 NHRA POWERade championships. Sportsman...

WHAT:
24th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, the 13th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Professional competitors in four categories earn points leading to 2003 NHRA POWERade championships.
Sportsman competitors in five categories earn points leading to 2003 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series championships.

WHERE:
Bandimere Speedway, Morrison, Colo. The track is 10 miles west of Denver just north of the historic town of Morrison. From Denver, take Interstate 70 west to C-470 and travel south to the Morrison Road exit. Take Morrison Road west to Rooney Road and go north to the track.

WHEN:
Friday through Sunday, July 18-20.

WHAT TO EXPECT:
Teams will need to adapt to the high altitude and the thin air at the mountainside facility, after battling the warm temperatures and varying climates at the two previous events (Columbus, Ohio and St. Louis). The Funny Car category only reached a sub-five-second level three years ago when Whit Bazemore ran 4.990 seconds in his final round win over current teammate Scotty Cannon. The nitro categories will endure the atmospheric conditions, but Pro Stock drivers, especially rookies, will find it difficult to power their naturally aspirated vehicles to the finish line in a time that will qualify them for the 16-car field. The bikes will battle the elements as well and the Colorado-based Vance & Hines team will look to put a Harley-Davidson in the winner's circle for the first time in NHRA history.

FAST FACTS:
The event is the first of the enduring three-race West Coast Swing, a historically pivotal trio in the chase for the NHRA POWERade championship, which also includes stops at Seattle and Sonoma, Calif. ... Top Fuel driver Doug Kalitta has yet to win at Bandimere Speedway in two final round attempts, but his cousin Scott ('94-'95) and uncle Connie ('84-'85) are two of the four Top Fuel drivers to win at least two in a row at the facility. The other two are Cory McClenathan ('97-'98) and Joe Amato did it twice including four in a row ('99-'00 and '87-'91: Due to renovations, there was no race at Denver in 1988)...Angelle Savoie is the only active Pro Stock Bike rider to win at Bandimere Speedway.

NOTES OF INTEREST:

Kenny Bernstein Comes Out of Retirement to Sub for Injured Son-- Six-time NHRA champion Kenny Bernstein returned to the cockpit at Topeka, Kan., following his son Brandon's crash at Englishtown, N.J. which has sidelined the younger Bernstein for the remainder of 2003. At the time of the crash, Brandon was second in points with three victories on the year. Kenny showed no effects of not driving a Top Fuel dragster since November of 2002. At his first event the 58-year-old Bernstein qualified No. 2 and advanced to the semifinals before falling to Doug Kalitta. Last year at St. Louis, Bernstein took advantage of Larry Dixon's DNQ, winning the race for the first time in his career in Budweiser's hometown.

Perennial Funny Car Champ Force Making Up Ground - What's going on with 12-time Funny Car champion John Force? The NHRA icon has been playing catch-up all season long and is still seeking his first victory of 2003. He has shown improvement with back-to-back runner-up finishes at the last two events, but he still hopes of visiting the winner's circle soon. Force hasn't had a winless year since 1986, a Funny Car record 16 consecutive seasons with a victory. With a three-car operation, Force's Ford Mustang is the one that is struggling. His two other drivers, Tony Pedregon and Gary Densham, currently occupy first and fourth place in the standings respectively and have combined for seven wins on the season. Force is currently sixth in the NHRA POWERade standings and is 403 points behind points-leader Pedregon.

Student Leads Teacher - Pro Stock driver Greg Anderson is the former crew chief for six-time NHRA Pro Stock champion Warren Johnson. After competing in the Pro Stock category on a limited basis from 1998-2001 (racing 21 out of 22 races in 1999), Anderson left Johnson's team and committed himself to the entire NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series beginning in 2002. After a career-best finish in the POWERade standings (No. 3), final round appearances (six), No. 1 qualifying positions (two), and won-loss record in eliminations (32-19), Anderson has established himself as a top contender for the 2003 Pro Stock crown. Anderson recently set the national record for time and speed en route to the win at Englishtown, N.J., and is currently 70 points ahead of Warren's son Kurt in the POWERade standings.

Regarding Weather -- In drag racing weather plays a vital role as crew chiefs examine data and tune their race cars for maximum performance. Most teams have sophisticated weather stations on board their team transporters so they can access up-to-the-minute weather information as well as forecasts.

Fan Accessibility - No other major motorsport offers the kind of fan accessibility like the NHRA. Every ticket, general admission or reserved, is a pass to the pit areas of all of our professional and sportsman competitors. Fans get the opportunity to get up close and personal with their favorite drivers and teams. They get to interact with the various competitors, talk shop, or just hang out and watch the teams work. Fans have access to the pits as teams fire up their engines in preparation of their next pass down the track. With the continued growth of the NHRA, nothing helps separate the drag racing's premier sanctioning body, like fan accessibility.

Safety Safari-- These men and women are a team of professionals dedicated to making the sport safe for the competitors and keeping the action on the track moving for the fans. Spend the day or a few hours with this crew and watch as they take care of preparing the race track for competition, responding to crashes and cleaning up oil and debris on the racing surface.

ABOUT THE TRACK:
John Bandimere Sr. purchased a parcel of land west of Denver to build a race track as a supplement to the family auto parts business. The small drag strip began as a facility to provide a safer environment for young people to learn about cars and race them off the streets. Over the course of 40 years, Bandimere Speedway has grown to see many improvements. The greatest improvement was a $4 million renovation in 1988. During the construction, the facility took a year sabbatical from the NHRA national event circuit in order to comply with NHRA standards. During the 1988 facelift, Bandimere Speedway tripled spectator seating, paved the pit areas, improved spectator parking, and added a state-of-the-art timing and press tower that includes corporate suites.

MOPAR MILE-HIGH NHRA NATIONALS GENERAL INFORMATION:

SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying will run at 4:15 and 7:15 p.m. on July 18 and will continue at 2:15 and 5:15 p.m. on July 19. Final eliminations begin at 12:30 p.m. on July 20.

TICKETS: Tickets are available for the 24th annual Mopar NHRA Mile-High NHRA Nationals. Call Bandimere Speedway, (303) 697-6001, (800) 664-UWIN, or Ticketmaster, for ticket information. Ticket information also available at ticketmaster.com or nhra.com.

TELEVISION: ESPN will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 7 p.m. (ET) on July 19. ESPN will televise one hour of early eliminations at 2:30 p.m. (ET) on July 20 and ESPN2 will televise three hours of final eliminations at 6 p.m. (ET) on July 20.

ON THE WEB: NHRA news, photos and driver information available at www.nhra.com.

-nhra-

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