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NHRA Hits Bandimere Speedway Outside Denver


Cruz Pedregon at the hit

Cruz Pedregon at the hit

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It's been a hot couple of days at Bandimere Speedway outside Denver, CO, where the NHRA is holding its 32nd annual Mopar Mile High Nationals.  With nearly fully clear skies and temperatures hovering near the century mark, it's a wonder anyone got down the track.

But they did it in style over two days and four qualifying sessions, with very interesting and exciting results.  In Top Fuel Del Worsham led from the opening bell and his second, cooler pass on Friday night ended up giving him No. 1 at 3.933 seconds and 314.53 mph.  

It's hard to make power up on the mountain and the stress on engines is tremendous.  Bob Vandergriff is second quick and Doug Kalitta third, the only other drivers in the "3's" this weekend.  Only 17 cars showed up to make the field, leering Rob Passey outside looking in.  

Former Funny Car driver Worsham is relishing his success this season.  He became the first Top Fuel driver to clinch his spot in the Coutdown to the Championship six-race playoff.  "I've only had nine No. 1 qualifying spots in my whole career," Worsham explained, "and four of them happened this season.  Now our goal is to clinch the No. 1 heading into the playoffs. If that happens, it would be amazing."

Another amazing feat was Cruz Pedregon's vault to the top of Funny Car Friday night, with his track record time and speed of 4.095 seconds at 307.51 mph.  "That was really the run of my career," the two-time Full Throttle Drag Racing Series champion said.  "It was loaded for bear and it held on!"  On Saturday Pedregon felt "we learned a lot about what not to do today."  

Del Worsham is having the best year of his long career in Top Fuel

Del Worsham is having the best year of his long career in Top Fuel

Defending event winner Robert Hight is second and Matt Hagan lies third.  Both of them were less than a tenth behind Pedregon.  There were 17 Funny Car entries with James Day, who only staged once in four tries, not getting into the show.

Let's face it about this racetrack: Allen Johnson pretty much owns Pro Stock in the Mopar Dodge Avenger.  Trying for his third consecutive Bandimere win and fourth in the last five seasons here at Thunder Mountain, Johnson always prepares for his sponsor's event, testing and accumulating data about the track.  "We feel that this is our race, and we do everything we can to perform at our very best level."

He was the Saturday heat master - Mike Edwards owned the class on Friday - and in fact the two Pro Stock categories were the only classes that saw improvement on the final day of qualifying.  John upped the ante in both sessions ending up at 6.978 seconds at 197.65.  Local driver V Gaines was second, Edwards third and Vincent Nobile was fourth, all four under the 7-second mark.  Only Edwards does not drive a Dodge Avenger, making Saturday a good day for the sponsor Mopar.

Eddie Krawiec had the Vance & Hines V-Rod Harley-Davidson humming on Friday but Hector Arana came in with his Buell on Saturday to lead that 20-bike Pro Stock Motorcycle category on Saturday, turning a 7.240-second, 185.69-mph 1/4-mile run in the heat of the afternoon to lead Suzuki rider Karen Stoffer, Krawiec, Michael Phillips, Steve Johnson and Andrew Hines among the top-six.

More searing heat is set for final Sunday eliminations at Bandimere Speedway.  Theoretically, the riders and drivers that were quick in mid-day running during qualifying should have the odds, but as anyone who follows drag racing should know, theories rarely matter.

© 2011 Anne Proffit
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