Torrence and Johnson Jr. Victorious at 40th Annual Dodge Mile High Nationals
Two-time Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan led Sunday's ever-so-popular Track Walk with an endless line of NHRA fans on hand for the 2019 Dodge Mile-High Nationals presented by Pennzoil. The mid-summer event at Bandimere Speedway traditionally marks the first race of the "Western Swing" for the NHRA Mello Yellow Drag Racing Series. Each year the sport's best Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers congregate outside Denver at Thunder Mountain to post track speeds in excess of 300 mph while earning valuable world championship points.
Current Funny Car point's leader Robert Hight earned his seventh Green Low-Qualifier's ball cap in Saturday's qualifying by a scant .002-second elapsed time of 3.976 seconds to slip past eventual winner Tommy Johnson Jr. It was the 67th low qualifier for Hight, who may have gotten a break as foul weather ended the session with four drivers (J. Force, Capps, Pedregon and Tasca III) waiting at the tree. Current Top Fuel point's leader Steve Torrence showed no signs of letting up. The reigning world champion dominated the field in qualifying with consistent 330 mph runs to earn the twenty-second Number One qualifier of his career.
The combination of hot temperatures and thin mountain air certainly agreed with Torrence all weekend. Under the lights on Friday night, Torrence wheeled his Richard Hogan tuned CAPCO Contractors dragster to the first 330+ mph run in the history of Bandimere Speedway. On Sunday, Torrence defeated Richie Crampton, Brittany Force and Clay Millican to claim his 35th career Wally, which ties the resilient Torrence with Big Daddy Don Gartlits for eighth most in Top Fuel history. In the final, a relatively slow 270.21 mph run was enough to defeat the tire-smoking 267.64 mph blast of Clay Millican.
Johnson Jr. claimed his second victory of season and the 19th Funny Car Wally of his career by beating Bob Tasca III's 302.14 mph run with a 4.102 ET at 308.50 mph. Johnson, who is second in the point's championship, drove his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to victory with wins against Jeff Diehl, Fast Jack Beckman and Cruz Pedregon. For Johnson Jr., the win was the first at Bandimere since he made his debut in Super Gas some 35 years earlier back in 1984. The Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues July 26-28 with the NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway in the second race of the NHRA's famed three-race Western Swing
Photo Courtesy of Jim Lambert / Shutterstock.com
Bandimere Speedway (pictured) is a historic quarter-mile dragstrip located outside Morrison, CO, also known locally as Thunder Mountain.