MORRISON, Colo. – As a past Top Fuel winner at Thunder Mountain, Spencer Massey knows what it takes to get the job done at what many refer to as the most extreme racing conditions that NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series teams face each season.
Massey, who is currently third in the season points standings, hopes to score another victory at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, July 19-21 at Bandimere Speedway, located 10 miles west of downtown Denver.
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of the event, which will be televised on ESPN2 HD (qualifying Saturday, 10 p.m. ET; eliminations, Sunday, 6 p.m. ET).
Massey says that from a driving the car standpoint he approaches every race the same, however he admits the 5,860-foot altitude at Bandimere Speedway requires two sets of distinctive tune-ups: One for the driver and another for the car.
The driver: Get into town a few days early to let the body adjust to the altitude; stay fully hydrated at all times; pace yourself and get plenty of rest.
The car: Dust off the Bandimere Speedway notebook; install the drastic measures setup; change every component on the car; increase supercharger overdrive; try your best tricks to compensate for lack of oxygen and minimal downforce; cross your fingers and hope for the best.
Massey, who won at Denver in 2011 and led qualifying last season on Friday and ultimately finished with a semifinal effort, contends that despite his success there he’s certainly no expert, but he does enjoy racing in the unique environment.
“The only thing is for that race you have to prepare yourself physically to be able to manhandle the Mountain,” Massey said. “The crews also have to work harder there because it’s a totally different setup. Our guys have built 15 different sets of rods and pistons just for this race. If you are fortunate enough to make eight runs in the weekend, it’s always very demanding up there for the crew. But I think our team really embraces it well.”
Massey says the team that embraces the challenging conditions the best usually comes out on top at Bandimere. A victory there could provide a nice boost for his team at just the right time.
After finishing third in the championship last year, Massey has got off to another strong start in 2013 and has won races at Charlotte, N.C. and Epping, N.H. He was runner-up at Bristol. However, during the last two outings he’s posted exits in the first and second rounds, yet he is holding on to the third spot in the series standings at the controls of his Schumacher Electric dragster.
Meanwhile, series leader Shawn Langdon and seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher have been swapping the points lead back and forth like a hot potato. All the while, defending world champ Antron Brown has won races and is lurking in fifth, and fourth place Doug Kalitta, a five-time No. 1 qualifier and Norwalk runner-up, is certainly due a victory at any moment in his Mac Tools dragster.
“The competition has been unbelievable,” Massey said. “It’s like bracket racing. There are so many cars that can win. Even if you do have a great run, you could still get beat. The competition is so close. It really pushes everyone to focus and be better racers. As a driver you love to have that kind of competition. It’s been exciting.”
With only five races remaining in the Regular Season, Massey says the time to make a move will be at Denver, Sonoma and Seattle during the Western Swing. Given his track record in those three events, he likes his team’s chances. Perhaps even to become the eighth driver to sweep the Western Swing.
“I feel like we’re building up right now,” Massey said. “Everything has to jell and you have to have a little luck with a lot of skill. Every team has their ups and downs along the way. It’s a long season.”
Massey, who has proven in the past that he can put together lengthy final round streaks and jaw-dropping performance streaks – such as his incredible 40-plus consecutive runs without an oildown from two years ago – he says he would prefer that a streak like that come around in September, October and November this year.
“I would like to have our upswing near the end of the year,” Massey said. “Last year we won a bunch of races early in the year and then kind of fell off at the end of the season. If we could have our momentum swing around the Countdown this year that would be when we want it the most.”
In Funny Car, Matt Hagan is the points leader and the 2011 Funny Car world champion is looking to retain his points lead in a tough category. Johnny Gray leads the category with four wins and a hard-charging John Force, Ron Capps, Courtney Force and Cruz Pedregon are all hoping to add a victory to their resumes at this event.
Two-time Denver Pro Stock winner Mike Edwards became the first racer of the year to clinch a berth into the Countdown to the Championship with his four wins this season and will be looking to continue his dominance on the field. Defending world champ Allen Johnson, a four-time Bandimere Speedway winner, Jeg Coughlin, Jason Line, Greg Anderson and Vincent Nobile are all looking for wins in Colorado.
Riders to watch in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category include series leader Hector Arana Jr., a three-time winner this season, red-hot Michael Ray, who has won two races recently, Norwalk winner Matt Smith, Epping champ John Hall and Scotty Pollacheck, who is a win waiting to happen. The Screamin-Eagle Vance & Hines team of defending world champ Eddie Krawiec and three-time champ Andrew Hines, have local ties in the area and also will be among the pre-race favorites.
In addition to three days of intense racing, there will be loads of family-fun activities in celebration of Bandimere Speedway’s 55th anniversary. On Thursday, July 18, fans are invited to attend the tradition-rich Mopar Block Party in Downtown Golden from 6-10 p.m., featuring a live band, car displays, and a driver autograph session.
There are also spectacular jet car runs on Friday night and a special “Go Red for Women Track Walk” on Saturday morning prior to racing at 8:30 a.m. to bring awareness to heart disease. The Track Walk gives fans the chance to walk the same track where NHRA drivers race at speeds of more than 300 mph and are joined by some of NHRA’s favorite drivers. The experience is free for all Saturday ticket holders.
As always, every ticket purchased for the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals is a pit pass, which offers fans an extraordinary look behind the scenes in the world of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly skilled mechanics “twirl the iron” between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time with their favorite NHRA drivers.
Mello Yello Series qualifying begins on Friday, July 19 with the first session at 5:15 p.m., followed by another session under the lights at 7:15 p.m. When 8,000-horsepower nitro machines blast off from the starting line with their header pipes full of flames during night qualifying, the scene provides one of the most sensory-filled experiences for any race motorsports fan.
The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, July 20 at 1:45 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 21.