2019 NHRA Dodge Mile High Nationals

One of the finest facilities on the NHRA tour is the famous Bandimere Speedway just 20 minutes west of downtown Denver Colorado on the other side of the mountain that houses the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheater. Although the track sits at over 5,500 feet in elevation the racing is close and the Bandimere family provides a first class facility not only for the race teams but for us fans as well. I made it a goal to visit this summer as it was ten years ago I visited Denver and had always wanted to return to a race at Bandimere.

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Bandimere Speedway has several interesting vantage points you do not get at many other tracks like being able to walk through the staging lanes and look through the opening of the tower out to the drag strip.

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The west side of the drag strip rises high above the track providing great views of the finish line. Here is Gary Riley in his 74' Pontiac station wagon running in Stock Eliminator

Lane Weber in his 78' Buick Skyhawk

Kyle Tripp in his 86' Dodge Omni ran 14's up in the mile high air. 

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One of the cool things about Denver is that it is run in a different division for sportsman competitors so I get to see cars I do not get to see in Phoenix. Here is the most interesting sportsman car that ran this weekend. John Robinson's diesel powered top dragster that ran mid 6's and over 200mph

After the first sportsman round I walked through the pits as the teams began unloading their cars and warm up for the first qualifying session. Here is the team for John Force unloading for the day

Doug Kalitta's team getting ready to warm up his dragster for the first session. 

Kalitta funny car teammates JR Todd & Shawn Langdon chatting before the first qualifying session.

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Eiji Kawakami from Japan riding a Hector Arana prepared Buell making his first NHRA apperance since 1996

Jianna Salinas making her first pass in competition since her crash in Chicago back in June

Cory Reed's cool looking paint scheme. Notice how it reflects off of the race surface

Angelle Sampey debuting the new Harley FXDR bike for the Vance & Hines Harley team

Cristian Cuadra, son of pro stock racer Fernando Cuadra making his pro stock debut driving a brand new Ford Mustang

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Pro Mod veteran Steve Matusek also made his Pro Stock debut in Denver driving an Elite powered Ford Mustang

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Val Smeland & Fernando Cuadra side by side in the first qualifying session

Jeg Coughlin & Deric Kramer

Longtime Summit teammates Greg Anderson & Jason Line

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Shawn Langdon with a bit of piston smoke after his first qualifying run

Matt Hagan debuting a slick new Dodge Charger body in Denver

It was a tough first session since it was nearly 100 degrees out and nearly 10,000 feet of corrected altitude very few cars got down the race track. Here is John Force & Robert Hight nearly making a full pull

Greg Carrillo made his season debut in Denver, last time I saw him race was last year in Phoenix when he made the semifinals

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Scott Palmer with the parachutes in full bloom after a planned half track shut off pass 

Richie Crampton & Leah Pritchett side by side

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Brittany Force climbing out of the car after shutting off due to a massive fuel leak.

Antron Brown is sent on a single. Notice the massive puddle of fuel pooled under Brittany's car

Antron Brown running low et of the first qualifying session

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Fans enjoying the sweet smell of nitromethane from Cruz Pedregon prior to the night qualifying session

For the first time in many years, two Fords went side by side in Pro Stock competiton

Richard Freeman owner of Elite Motorsports would qualify #1 for the first time in his pro stock career this weekend.

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A couple of former World Champions Bo Butner & Erica Enders

Midwest independent racer Todd Simpson making his first pass of the weekend

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One thing I did not notice until editing photos was that on JR Todd's night run there was a quick flash from a head gasket failure

But luckily for him it would clean up and he would be able to make a full pass under power.

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Bob Tasca & John Force flames up under the lights

Robert Hight flames up

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DSR Teammates Tommy Johnson Jr. & Ron Capps

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Jordan Vandergriff & Brittany Force under the lights during the second qualifying session

Antron Brown & Richie Crampton

The climax of a really cool pyrotechnic show put on by the track after the last pair of top fuel cars

I got the opportunity to take this trip with Gil Rebilas. As we got to the track Saturday morning I got to watch him interview Tommy Johnson Jr. for a video he has been working on.

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Here is Gil shooting some pickup video for his project

Here is a shot I liked of the body for Tommy Johnson Jr's car 

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Before the first pro session on Saturday a traditional thunderstorm rolled through Bandimere so I went and took cover in Scott Palmer's pit

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During the rain delay I got a chance to try out a fish eye lens that Gil had let me borrow. It was really fun shooting with this lens. Here is crew member Matt Hinkle working on the supercharger during the rain delay

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Scott is seen here mixing the fuel during the rain delay

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Scott climbs into the car getting ready to warm it up.

The crew and fans preparing for the famous throttle whack.

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The first qualifying session on Saturday opened with some very dark and cloudy skies overhead

Rookie Jordan Vandergriff at the finish line of a 300+ mph qualifying pass. Note the contrails off of the rear wing. This happens when there is enough moisture in the air

Clay Millican slowing down after an aborted pass.

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During an oildown I would explore around the track. In the pits you can overlook the staging lanes.

I ended up spending some time in a standing room only section behind the starting line. This area is elevated about 5 feet over the starting line and burnout box but the crowds were about 6 deep at the rail so I had to hold the camera over my head to get this shot. Even with a tow vehicle in the way I like the background of this shot

A huge crowd stuck around after two rain delays to enjoy qualifying session.

Even with somebody's head in the way I also kind of like this shot of Steve Torrence leaving the starting line

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The crews for Tommy Johnson & Matt Hagan making the final adjustments prior to the two launching off of the starting line

Before funny car would start I would move to the top of a grandstand walkway for some high angle starting line shots

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After getting kicked out of where I was standing I walked back up to the top end for the last couple pairs. Here is a shot of John Force with the chutes in full bloom

After the last pair of funny car another rain storm came through so I went back to the truck to rest for a little while. For the final qualifying session I decided I would shoot from the east grandstands. Here is west coast runner Joey Grose

Up next was 30-year veteran Kenny Delco who made a nice 6.97 run but after he crossed the finish line the parachutes did not blossom and the rear end locked up which caused the car to make a hard left turn into the wall and roll a couple times. 

Thankfully Kenny climbed out of the car within seconds and is attempting  to bring out a backup car for the next race in Sonoma, CA

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During the cleanup, I would walk around to the staging lanes to take some photos of the teams getting ready for the final qualifying pass

The cool thing about the staging lanes at Bandimere is that it can be accessed by us fans as we walk back towards the pits.

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As I was heading back to the stands I got a text from Gil to come back to the top end where he was because his son, the famous Mark Rebilas would shoot the final session with us. I could not pass that opportunity up so I briskly walked back to the other side

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I like this shot of Deric Kramer as it almost looks like the car blends into the dark racetrack

Veteran motorcycle rider Karen Stoffer

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Austin Prock & Clay Millican reach the finish line. 

Leah Pritchett making the second best qualifying run of the weekend.

Although the image is a little noisy I still like this shot of Doug Kalitta

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Steve Torrence continuing his dominance by qualifying #1 with another track record pass

A great visual representation of a driver driving into the chutes at the finish line. Tim Wilkerson will actually hit the chutes early to time them to blossom right at the finish line giving the car more distance to stop

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Shawn Langdon & Jack Beckman

After trying some different settings I finally dialed in a good night time settings for this shot. But after this run a final rain shower would end racing for the night.

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Sunday was final eliminations. Here is Antron Brown narrowly beating Greg Carrillo in the opening round. Greg was in front until the blower belt came off. Note Greg's helmet lurched forward from the rapid change of momentum

Clay Millican defeating Doug Kalitta in round one

Scott Palmer winning round one in expensive fashion as he would kick a connecting rod out of the side of the engine block 

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Richie Crampton defeating Austin Prock in the opening round

Terry Haddock with a valiant opening round effort but came up short against Cruz Pedregon

Robert High at 317 mph on his bye run in the first round

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16 time champion John Force shows why he is still one of the best as he pedals his way to a win over defending champion JR Todd

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Right behind where I was standing there was an opening to the return road and the background was clean with just mountain and grass. Made for some nice shots of the cars. 

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Jeg Coughlin defeating Fernando Cuadra Jr. in round one

#1 Qualifier Richard Freeman defeating the #16 qualifier Joey Grose

Angie Smith defeating Joey Gladstone

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Brittany Force narrowly beating Scott Palmer in their round two matchup

Steve Torrence keeping up his dominating ways

John Force & Cruz Pedregon meeting up on race day for the NHRA record 106th time with Cruz getting this matchup

The late Terry Chandler's two giving cars meet up in round two. I always think of how special Terry was when these two cars race each other

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Before the semi-finals I moved back to the spot I found on Saturday that quickly became my favorite spot. 

Brittany Force doing her burnout

Brittany fires her shot against Torrence but he continues his dominance and advanced to his 9th straight final round.

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Crew member for Jordan Vandergriff backing him up prior to his semi finals race.

Robert Hight on his burnout for his semi-final race against Bob Tasca

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Crews for Tommy Johnson & Cruz Pedregon making the final adjustments prior to their semi-final race

John Force & Jack Beckman hamming it up for the crowd

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The crew for Matt Hartford guiding him through the burnout

The Summit crew for Greg Anderson watching him launch off the starting line.

Eddie Krawiec launching off the starling line in his semi final win against Hector Arana Jr.

The Vance & Hines Harley crew celebrating Andrew Hines' semi-final win which secured another all Harley final round

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Antron Brown hopped up a five foot railing to take some photos with the fans

Stock Eliminator finalist Dwaine Davis & Gary Riley

Super Stock runner up Brenda Grubbs

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Fans enjoying the final warm up of the weekend and the final smell of nitro from Clay Millican

Bob Tasca checks on his crew prepping the car for the final round

As I was walking back to the stands I saw Jim Dunn sitting on the back of the tow vehicle and thought it made for a cool shot

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A row of Dodge Challenger hellcats lined up at the end of the staging lanes

Pro Stock Bike final round Andrew Hines defeated Eddie Krawiec

Pro Stock Final Greg Anderson defeats Matt Hartford

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Funny Car Final, Tommy Johnson Jr. defeats Bob Tasca

Steve Torrence defeats Clay Millican for his 8th win in 12 races this season.

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Pro Stock Bike winner Andrew Hines

Pro Stock winner Greg Anderson

Funny Car winner Tommy Johnson Jr. with his first Denver win 35 years after his first ever drag racing final round at this track

Top Fuel winner Steve Torrence

This wraps up another blog on another fantastic weekend.While I dont get to Bandimere very often I hope to get there agai soon as it is the finest track I have been to and everything from staff to facility is first class.