Torrence, Hagan and Smith Win at Bandimere
As the NHRA’s Western Swing kicked off at Bandimere Speedway outside Denver, a near-capacity crowd welcomed drivers and teams to this year’s Dodge//SRT Mile-High Nationals presented by Pennzoil. The annual kick-off for the three-race event for the National Hot Rod Association was cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. To no one’s surprise, eager fans not only filled the stands for Sunday’s finals at Thunder on the Mountain, but they were also hooting and hollering both Friday and Saturday night under the lights as race teams staged their cars for qualifying rounds. After missing the nitro classes last year, it didn’t surprise anyone that the local drag race fans stayed late into the evening to watch jet dragsters close the show.
Top Fuel Final Ends Cinderella Story
Joey Haas was making his first appearance of the 2021 NHRA season at the Mile High Nationals. Like many of the smaller teams trying to compete on the premier circuit for drag racing, Haas and his team often have to make do with much less than Don Schumacher Racing, John Force Racing, or Capco Contractors Racing. Having qualified tenth, Hass had a first round showdown with Pro Mod driver Alex Laughlin, who gratefully drove the Scott Palmer entry after his Elite Racing team parked their Pro Mod cars for the weekend. Laughlin has seen success in multiple classes, but Laughlin smoked the tires in the first round of eliminations and lost to the eventual runner-up. Haas's fairytale of a day continued when Leah Pruett developed an oil leak at the line giving the Totten Motorsports driver a single run. After Clay Millican had problems, Joey Haas would find himself face-to-face in the Final Round with the hottest driver in recent Top Fuel history. Steve Torrence admitted he too was pulling for his opponent, as he laid down a 3.86 ET at 320.36 mph. Don’t take it personally Joey, that’s how he treats all his friends.
Blogger’s Note: Haas has been fundraising for 2021 Top Fuel sponsorship by selling packets of Alliance Coffee Company’s medium-roast blend. Each bag has Haas’s Top Fuel dragster pictured on the front with the message that his coffee “Will get you where you need to go FAST.” Fans can order a bag of the 300 mph custom-blend online. We’re thinking it must contain pixie dust.
Hagan Gives Schumacher First 2021 Win
Last year it seemed liked Don Schumacher Racing couldn’t lose in the Funny Car ranks of the NHRA Camping World drag racing series. Unfortunately for DSR, John Force Racing returned to the track in 2021 with some really fast race cars. As luck would have it, both John Force and teammate Robert Hight ended up on the same side of the ladder at Thunder on the Mountain. Force, who has eight wins at Bandimere among his 153-NHRA career wins, defeated Hight with a 321.96 mph pass but lost to Ron Capps in quarterfinals. After eight races into the 2021 season, Funny Car would have a sixth different winner given that Matt Hagan, Ron Capps, Alexis DeJoria, and Tim Wilkerson all advanced to the semis. After the smoke cleared off the final tree, Dodge-backed Matt Hagan earned the Wally at his sponsor’s Mile-High Nationals event.
Matt Hagan's win at the NHRA Dodge//SRT Mile High Nationals was the first for the 2021 season for Don Schumacher Racing in Nitro Funny Car. Now with six winners in eight events, it would be impossible to predict a winner for the Sonoma Nationals. After all, Ron Capps, Tim Wilkerson, and Alexis Dejoria are definitely hungry for a win and they are Hagan's teammates.
Krawiec Couldn’t Stop Matt Smith Racing
Anytime you have to face both Matt and Angie Smith in the late rounds of final eliminations it is probably going to be a long day. Moreover, Eddie Krawiec would have to eliminate Number 3 Qualifier Steve Johnson in the quarterfinals in order to have the opportunity. The Vance & Hines rider needed all of his .002 reaction time to beat Johnson’s faster ET, which was one of the quickest ever at Bandimere Speedway at 7.127 seconds. With almost identical reaction times, Krawiec simply out ran Angie Smith to line. But, in the Pro Stock Motorcycle final, husband Matt was faster off the line and posted a quicker 7.118 ET.
Good news upcoming is Pro Stock Motorcycle is scheduled to compete in all three NHRA races for the Western Swing. The bad news, at least for his competition, is that back in 2007, Matt Smith won consecutive Pro Stock Motorcycle races in Denver and Sonoma making it as close as someone could get to sweeping the Western Swing since the class never raced in Seattle. However, Eddie Krawiec has since accomplished that same double-win feat twice. Nonetheless, Smith is a self-proclaimed slow starter who feels he is ahead of schedule for a Championship run in 2021 NHRA Camping World competition.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series is headed to California wine country on July 23-25 for the second stop on the famed Western Swing. A huge contrast in altitude awaits the teams with Sonoma Raceway just 15 feet above sea level.