The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series kicks off its annual Western Swing this week with a trip to Bandimere Speedway near Denver, Colorado, home of the 35th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals. The event takes place Friday through Sunday, July 18th through 20th and features all four of the NHRA’s top-tier categories: Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle.
John Force is one of the all-time winners at the dragstrip with six Funny Car wins, his last coming in 2011. He’s the series most recent winner, having taken home the Wally from Norwalk two weeks ago, and now heads into one of the toughest stretches of the season, the three-race Western Swing, beginning in Denver and continuing at Sonoma Raceway in California and Pacific Raceways in Seattle, Washington.
“I love racing at Denver and the fact we sorted out the mechanical gremlins means Jimmy (Prock, crew chief) can stay focused on tuning my hot rod to run in the higher altitude,” said the JFR patriarch. “We shook things up before the Mile-Highs last year (a crew swap with Robert Hight’s team), and it paid off for us. People questioned what we were doing, but we got our 16th NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car championship, so we must have been doing something right.”
Hight, the Funny Car points leader, has a 178-point lead in the standings. He knows, however, that those numbers will mean nothing in a few weeks.
“The points lead is great but we all know a big points lead won’t help you going into the Countdown,” said Hight. “You want to be No. 1 because you get a little bit of a lead but you are going to need to perform in the Countdown starting in Charlotte. The focus right now is the Western Swing and the Mopar Mile-High Nationals this weekend.”
The trickiest part of racing at Bandimere Speedway is its altitude – at more than 5,800 feet, the altitude affects engine tuning, aerodynamics, and more. Courtney Force has had mixed results at the track, but she enjoys the challenges it presents.
“It’s unlike anywhere else that we race,” said Courtney Force. “It's an exciting race to watch because of the challenges. Even the sound of the motor is different here, from a driver's perspective. I'm hoping we can start another hot streak on this Western swing, just like we did my rookie year here.”
Brittany Force is heading to Bandimere for the second time as a Top Fuel driver, but has many fond memories of the track from her childhood.
“I’m excited for the Western Swing, I love being on the west coast and I can’t wait to hit Denver,” said Brittany Force. “One of my favorite memories of going to the Mile-High Nationals is when I was a kid watching my dad race. We’d pack our bags and my sisters and my mom would go on the road to meet up with my dad.”
Pro qualifying for the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals kicks off Friday at 4:45 and 7:15 p.m. MT, concluding Saturday at 3:15 and 5:45 p.m. MT. Eliminations get underway Sunday at 11 a.m. MT. Keep up with the action at www.nhra.com.
Quotes in this piece provided by John Force Racing.
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