BANDIMERE AND MOPAR MILE-HIGH NHRA NATIONALS FIRST STOP ON FAMED WESTERN SWING: For many NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series drivers, the July trip to Denver, a mile above sea-level, has been one of excitement, stress and history, and the 30th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals this weekend at Bandimere Speedway is no exception.
The yearly race marks the first leg of the famous three-races-in-three-weeks tour known simply as the Western Swing—a trip that has been the source of some of the greatest heartache and also some of the greatest joy for many drivers, teams and crew chiefs in NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing.
For Top Fuel pilot Antron Brown, runner-up last year in Denver and current points leader in the class, the outcome in Denver plays a big role in the rest of the swing, and eventual Countdown to 1 playoffs.
“I’m fired up about the Western Swing,” said Brown. “It’s a real grind, but it’s also a beautiful trip. Last year was the first time I raced at Seattle and did the entire Swing and we’re looking to have another strong showing with our Matco Tools team. We’re halfway through the season, and it’s been a good year for us so far, but we don’t want to let up. We want to keep our momentum going and keep the points lead. Brian (Corradi) and Mark (Oswald) are doing awesome running our Matco dragster. We went to the final at Denver last year and we’re due for another win real soon. We’ve been close and we’re tired of playing bridesmaid.”
For many drivers hovering around the Top 10 cutoff point in the Countdown to 1 playoffs, Denver and the Western Swing could bring joy or heartache to their championship hopes.
“(Bandimere Speedway) is where we started our surge towards the top last year,” said Funny Car driver Jack Beckman, who is currently fourth in the point standings. “All I want to do is go one round better than last year. I’m 7–1 in Denver in a pro car. I’ve only been there twice, and I’ve been in the finals both times and won once.”
Top Fuel driver Brandon Bernstein feels the Western Swing is a last chance for many teams struggling to secure a spot in the Top 10.
“We’ve hovered in the top four in the point standings all season and we need to keep going rounds in the Western Swing. Points are reset for the last six races which comprise the Countdown to 1 and unless you stay in the top five, there’s a pretty good amount of point difference that’s hard to make up in only six races.”
TONY SCHUMACHER NOMINATED FOR 2009 ESPY BEST DRIVER AWARD: Six-time NHRA Full Throttle Series Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher has been nominated for the ESPY Best Driver Award. The ESPY Awards, for Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly, were created by ESPN in 1993. Sports fans can vote for Schumacher and their other sports heroes in 37 categories via an online poll at www.espys.tv or www.espn.mobi.
Voting concludes at 11:59 p.m. ET July 11. Schumacher finished the 2008 season in dominating fashion, by winning a record fifth consecutive and sixth overall Top Fuel championship. He raced to 15 victories and became only the third driver in NHRA history to claim the coveted Driver of the Year Award.
“It’s an incredible feeling to be recognized by the ESPY folks for the third consecutive year,” said Schumacher. “I’m hopeful we can finally present this award to our Army Strong Soldiers. It’s their dedication, teamwork and passion that inspires the U.S. Army Top Fuel team to be successful.” Joining Schumacher on the ESPY Best Driver ballot are NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson, Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton and IRL drivers Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon.
MOPAR MILE-HIGH NHRA NATIONALS, BANDIMERE SPEEDWAY, JULY 10–12: NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series heads back to the Mile-High city for the 30th national event at Bandimere Speedway. Defending event winners include Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel); Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car); Greg Anderson (Pro Stock); and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
NHRA NORTHWEST NATIONALS, PACIFIC RACEWAYS, JULY 17–19: Returning to Seattle for the second leg of the famed Western Swing, NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing makes its 14th stop on its 24-race circuit. Defending event winners include Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel); Tony Bartone (Funny Car); and Jason Line (Pro Stock).
FRAM-AUTOLITE NHRA NATIONALS, INFINEON RACEWAY, JULY 24–26: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series makes its final stop on the famed Western Swing in beautiful Sonoma, Calif. Defending event winners include Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel); Robert Hight (Funny Car); Dave Connolly (Pro Stock); and Matt Guidera (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
HE SAID, SHE SAID
NOT THE TIME TO SLIP UP: Funny Car driver Ron Capps on fighting for points and position in the Western Swing: “This is the point of the season where you need momentum. If you have a bad three races now it could very well knock you out of the Countdown. We’re at the front of the pack and we’re expected to leave Sonoma with the Full Throttle points lead.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
2: Of the 19 different winners in Funny Car at Bandimere Speedway, only two have won back-to-back events. Tony Pedregon did it in 1998 and ’99, while NHRA legend John Force collected three in a row (’94, ’95, ’96) out of his five total wins at Bandimere. Tim Wilkerson will look to be the third driver on that list as he defends his event win this weekend in Denver.
DID YOU KNOW…
…that Mopar’s sponsorship of the Mile-High NHRA Nationals in Denver is the longest continuous running sponsorship of an active event in NHRA Drag Racing? Mopar has been the official event sponsor since 1989.