The drivers on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series circuit will have to deal with racing at an elevation of more than 5,800 feet this weekend at Bandimere Speedway. They will also have to deal with warm temperatures and the rising pressure of each race with the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship looming. In other words, it’s precisely what Top Fuel standout Spencer Massey lives for.
Massey will look to make it two straight wins in Denver and three overall when he kicks off the three-week NHRA Western Swing in his 10,000-horsepower Battery Extender by Schumacher Electric dragster at the 35th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway.
With a strong recent track record in Denver along with a penchant for running well during the summer months, Massey is locked in heading into one of the most crucial stretches of the season.
“I like racing in the heat, and I don’t think we fall off much performance-wise,” Massey said. “I love the pressure, and I love when it gets close to the Countdown. I love these situations, and the more pressure the better. The entire team shines in those situations, and we can’t wait for Denver. I love racing there.”
Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock), and Shawn Gann (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also winners of the 2013 event. The race will once again be televised on ESPN2 and marks the 14th of 24 races during the 2014 season.
It’s annually also one of the most difficult races on the NHRA circuit because of the altitude. Massey and his team, along with every other NHRA star, must overhaul everything on their vehicle in order to run well in Denver. That hasn’t been a problem in recent seasons for Massey, who also won at Bandimere Speedway in 2011 and was the No. 1 qualifier at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals in 2012.
With everything that goes into running successfully in Denver, including starting to prepare weeks in advance for the altitude change, Massey knows doing well to kick off the rigorous Western Swing can be a huge boost to his team.
“The altitude makes things so much different,” Massey said. “It’s so much harder to even breathe, and there’s so much time and changes you have to make for just this one race. It takes a lot out of everybody, but we have a car that performs well in these conditions. We’re out here to win, and that’s what keeps everyone going. You don’t put in all that time and effort to lose.”
Massey is also ready to get back to winning after the five-race stretch that followed his back-to-back wins in Atlanta and Topeka netted just two round victories.
That dropped Massey to fifth in points after being as high as third after Topeka, but Massey remains encouraged with how his dragster has performed and is eyeing a return to the top three heading into the Countdown.
“I obviously like going in as the defending champion, but the good thing is the car is running extremely well,” Massey said. “We’ve had some bad luck at recent races, but I’m very excited about how the car is running. It’s a lot more consistent, and it’s going down the track. We’re excited for the Western Swing, and hopefully we can get some momentum going in Denver.”
To do so, Massey, who has 16 career victories, will have to get past a talented lineup that includes the red-hot Antron Brown, who has won twice in Denver and won the most recent event in Norwalk. Other challengers include seven-time world champion Tony Schumacher, as well as points leader Doug Kalitta, reigning world champ Shawn Langdon, rising star and former Denver winner J.R. Todd, sophomore-sensation Brittany Force, Steve Torrence, Khalid alBalooshi, and rookie Richie Crampton.
But when it comes to unique challenges, Massey, a Texas native, is as prepared as anyone in the class.
“It’s usually hot there, and the hotter it is, the better I do,” Massey said. “We have so much data from all these years, and whenever you get on a roll at a certain track you try to keep that tune-up the same. The crew knows exactly how to prepare for this race.”
Pedregon will look to repeat in Funny Car but will face multiple challenges from a star-studded field that includes current points leader Robert Hight; six-time Denver winner John Force, who won the most recent event in Norwalk; Courtney Force; two-time season winner Alexis DeJoria; Matt Hagan; Ron Capps; Del Worsham; Jack Beckman; Tommy Johnson Jr.; and Tim Wilkerson.
Team Mopar/Magneti Marelli Dodge Dart driver Allen Johnson took the Pro Stock win in Denver last year, giving him five career victories at Bandimere Speedway. His main threats include teammate and reigning champion Jeg Coughlin Jr.; points leader Erica Enders-Stevens, who is after her first win in Denver; Vincent Nobile, who is the most recent event winner; Greg Anderson; Jason Line; V. Gaines; Dave Connolly; Shane Gray; and Chris McGaha.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, the Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson team of Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec sit first and second, respectively, in the points standings and will face strong competition from the likes of reigning world champion Matt Smith, John Hall, Hector Arana Jr., Michael Ray, and Scotty Pollacheck.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans will also want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food, and fun for the entire family.
The event also will feature thrilling racing in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.
To purchase tickets for the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, please call Bandimere Speedway Box Office at 800-664-8946 or visit Bandimere.com.