Denver: Mile-high Nationals kicks off West Coast swing

MORRISON, Colo. - It is known as the 'West Coast Swing,' and while it may have the kick-up-your-heels and dance sound to it, the West Coast Swing can be grueling. The NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series hosts three national events in Denver,...

MORRISON, Colo. - It is known as the 'West Coast Swing,' and while it may have the kick-up-your-heels and dance sound to it, the West Coast Swing can be grueling.

The NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series hosts three national events in Denver, Seattle and Sonoma, Calif., on three consecutive weekends. One of the many challenges the racers face beyond the schedule will be the hot racing surface. They must also battle the competition as it heats up too. Once the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals wrap up, there are only 10 races left on the schedule.

Racers in every category will be doing their best to gain momentum and points during the 23rd annual Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals, July 18-21, at picturesque Bandimere Speedway. Larry Dixon, John Force, Warren Johnson and Angelle Savoie are the defending winners in their respective categories. The $1.8 million race is the 13th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Last year Del Worsham picked up a victory in his red Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird at the Sonoma event. Worsham is in the fourth spot of the Funny Car standings, behind the Force Racing trio of John Force, Gary Densham and Tony Pedregon, respectively.

"I'm really looking forward to the West Coast Swing," Worsham said. "Last year it was pretty good to us and we went some rounds. If we can leave with a win, I'll be pretty excited."

Teammate Johnny Gray has his eyes set on some specific goals too. Gray and the blue Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird team are in the No. 8 spot of the standings going into Denver.

"We would like to come out of the West Coast Swing in fifth place," Gray said. "I think we have found some things with the car that will make us more consistent and the team is doing a great job right now. We have full intentions of getting into the top five before going into Indy."

Densham was at the top of the Funny Car standings for four races but was recently passed by his team owner at the St. Louis event. Densham said the timing couldn't be any better for the West Coast Swing.

"We get to race a little closer to home which means my wife will go to all of the events along with more friends and family," Densham said. "We have a lot of friends and family along the coast and when they get to come out to the races, life is good.

"We didn't start racing in the West Coast events until a few years ago, but we have been match racing on these tracks for a while. So it is going to be good to see everyone and race in the national events so close to home."

Ron Capps, driver of the Skoal Green Racing Chevy Camaro, has roots in the Bay Area and is looking forward to the Sonoma race. Capps earned the Funny Car crown at Sonoma in 1997 and earned the No. 1 qualifying position there in 1998. Last year he lost to eventual winner, Worsham, in the first round.

"I went to Santa Clara University so the Sonoma race is like a homecoming for me," Capps said. "I am always happy when the West Coast Swing comes around. No matter how the team is doing and no matter where we are in the standings, I am always focused and ready to race in these events. I look for it on the schedule when it comes out."

Capps is especially looking forward to the three events this year. Besides his Sonoma statistics, Capps has been the runner-up at Denver (1998) and has two wins at Seattle (1995 and 1998). The 1995 event was his first professional Top Fuel victory. He made the switch to Funny Car the next season.

"We've really struggled in the first half of the season," Capps said. "But when you go through a time like that, you really have to focus on putting that all behind you and getting ready for everything in front of you. I have to concentrate on the races we have coming up and I am confident about how we can do as a team because (crew chief) Ed McCulloch does well in these conditions and I am very excited about racing because we usually have a lot of fun during the West Coast Swing."

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Densham , Johnny Gray