Conquering Bandimere Speedway’s dragstrip is always a tough task for the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series contestants. On the western border of Denver, it hosts the Mopar Miile-High Nationals each July and poses a riddle to every tuner to overcome the lack of air.
It’s not been an easy start to the weekend, with a tragic mass-murder near the Denver airport that took at least 12 lives and injured at least 50 more. Flags flew at half-mast and prayers were said. Mr Bandimere addressed the good crowd on hand – who’d come despite the tragedy and the relentless heat that has been blanketing the Rocky Mountain area.
At the end of the day, though, it was the competition that triumphed as a surging Spencer Massey led all comers in Top Fuel, Jack Beckman continued to defy the odds of synergy with the best lap in Funny Car, Allen Johnson once again staked claim to the provisional No. 1 in Pro Stock and Hector Arana Jr whipped his father twice in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Point leader Massey hit pay dirt in the earlier, hotter Top Fuel session, when he took his Fram dragster to a quick pass of 3.914 seconds at 309.49 mph. “I’m extremely surprised that nobody ran quicker tonight,” Massey said. “My guys plugged in the tune-up from last year so we just went back to the data we knew and lucked out the first run.”
The balance of the top 12 in Top Fuel are Antron Brown, Doug Kalitta, Terry McMillen – second in the first session, Brandon Bernstein, Shawn Langdon, Morgan Lucas, Khalid alBalooshi, Steve Torrance, Bob Vandergriff, David Grubnic and Tony Schumacher.
Beckman’s a Funny Car monster, taking whatever personnel Don Schumacher gives him to work with and getting the best out of them and himself. Now working with Top Fuel refugee Todd Smith, the duo appears to have hit it off from the get-go. Currently third in the points, Beckman was second in the first session and knocked Robert Hight from the top spot tonight with his 4.131/304.05 trip down the 1000-foot dragstrip.
If Beckman’s Valvoline Next Gen Dodge Charger’s time holds after Saturday’s two rounds of qualifying, it would be his first No. 1 of the season at a track where he won in 2007 and had a runner-up the next year. “I love this place,” Beckman said. “Everything about this place is phenomenal for the drivers and the fans – everybody but the crew chiefs. The crew chiefs can’t wait to put this place behind them because nothing they do here translates to any other racetrack.”
Beckman beat Hight, Ron Capps, Cruz Pedregon (fastest in session No. 1), John Force, Mike Neff, Courtney Force, jeff Arend, Matt Hagan, Tim Wilkerson, Johnny Gray and Bob Tasca III.
Because this is the Mopar Mile-High Nationals, it’s always been a place where Allen Johnson, his father/tuner Roy and the entire Team Mopar Dodge Avenger team wants to do well. They test leading up to the race and they’ve almost got Bandimere Mountain’s number. He always qualifies well here and has three wins at the track, making his quarter-mile pass of 6.962/197.62 not much of a surprise.
“We were really happy but nothing will make me happier,” Johnson said, “than winning that Wally on Sunday to help Mopar celebrate their 75th anniversary.” Also helping with the celebrations is “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, who’s been with Mopar for 51 of those years! “We actually didn’t’ make a very good run because I deep-staged a bit, which scrubbed some time off the run.”
The balance of the qualifiers in Pro Stock are Mike Edwards, local V Gaines, Jason Line, Ron Krisher, Vincent Nobile, Erica Enders, Jeg Coughlin, Greg Anderson, Warren Johnson, Larry Morgan and Deric Kramer.
Both times Pro Stock Motorcycle came to the line, it was Hector Arana running against his son Hector Arana Jr. And each time the youngster beat his dad – and they ended up 1-2 for the day. In the cooler air of evening, Arana Jr was able to take his Buell XB9R to a run at 7.238/184.57. Arana Jr’s had a bit of a sophomore qualifying slump as he’s not had a No. 1 yet this year. He was runner-up in the most recent race at Norwalk, OH and today’s run tied Michael Phillips’ 2010 track record.
“It was a big confidence booster,” Arana Jr said after qualifying third in the last four races. “I’m really amped up right now – my lights have been great so far this weekend and I’m looking forward to having a great time and having fun.”
The fun comes not only from beating his father and teammate, but also beating Andrew Hines, Eddie Krawiec, Matt Smith, Mike Berry, Steve Johnson, Michael Ray, Karen Stoffer, Shawn Gann, LE Tonglet and Jerry Savoie. Among those looking for a way in are Phillips, Matt Guidera and Angie Smith.
The fun of qualifying might actually have come and gone in tonight’s good air. The weather is supposed to revert to miserably hot for the early and mid-afternoon final qualifying opportunities. Not every team makes the run out to Denver, leaving only Funny Car (by one) and Pro Stock Motorcycle’s 20 entries the only over-subscribed classes.
1) Spencer Massey 3.914/309.49
2) Antron Brown 3.923/305.98
3) Doug Kalitta 3.925/307.44
4) Terry McMillen 3.930/297.81
5) Brandon Bernstein 3.947/285.83
6) Shawn Langdon 3.957/303.03
7) Morgan Lucas 4.002/279.27
8) Khalid alBalooshi 4.021/275.90
9) Steve Torrence 4.107/275.28
10) Bob Vandergriff 4.113/278.92
11) David Grubnic 4.160/225.45
12) Tony Schumacher 4.232/264.91
13) Clay Millican 4.530/179.76
14) Steve Chrisman 5.280/137.62
15) Scott Palmer 6.865/107.46
1) Jack Beckman 4.131/304.05
2) Robert Hight 4.135/304.53
3) Ron Capps 4.137/301.54
4) Cruz Pedregon 4.165/297.02
5) John Force 4.188/302.82
6) Mike Neff 4.208/301.20
7) Courtney Force 4.212/297.94
8) Jeff Arend 4.218/298.40
9) Matt Hagan 4.224/288.15
10) Tim Wilkerson 4.237/275.00
11) Johnny Gray 4.327/283.97
12) Bob Tasca III 4.386/275.28
13) Jeff Diehl 4.426/276.69
14) Tony Pedregon 4.434/246.21
15) Alexis DeJoria 4.668/216.93
16) Todd Lesenko 5.077/169.98
17) Todd Simpson 5.187/180.07
1) Allen Johnson 6.962/197.62
2) Mike Edwards 6.966/197.80
3) V Gaines 6.975/197.88
4) Jason Line 6.988/196.93
5) Ron Krisher 6.995/195.56
6) Vincent Nobile 6.998/196.67
7) Erica Enders 7.003/196.33
8) Jeg Coughlin Jr. 7.010/196.73
9) Greg Anderson 7.015/195.87
10) Warren Johnson 7.037/195.22
11) Larry Morgan 7.054/195.68
12) Deric Kramer 7.060/194.80
13) Shane Gray 7.062/194.52
14) Kurt Johnson 7.066/194.66
15) Steve Kalkowski 7.166/192.19
16) Paul Pittman 15.865/55.03
Pro Stock Motorcycle
1) Hector Arana Jr. 7.238/184.57
2) Hector Arana Sr. 7.243/183.62
3) Andrew Hines 7.290/182.70
4) Eddie Krawiec 7.3314/183.00
5) Matt Smith 7.321/182.21
6) Mike Berry 7.321/180.31
7) Steve Johnson 7.338/181.37
8) Michael Ray 7.350/179.54
9) Karen Stoffer 7.358/180.96
10) Shawn Gann 7.375/181.15
11) LE Tonglet 7.388/180.48
12) Jerry Savoie 7.408/175.66
13) Michael Phillips 7.420/179.18
14) John Hall 7.447/176.88
15) Katie Sullivan 7.476/175.80
16) Matt Guidera 7.485/177.02
17) Scotty Pollacheck 7.678/173.34
18) Charles Sullivan 7.693/170.92
19) James Surber 7.913/136.94
20) Angie Smith 10.128/86.99