MORRISON, Colo. – If there has ever been one constant in the career of NHRA Pro Stock driver Allen Johnson, it has been success in front of his Mopar sponsors at Bandimere Speedway in Denver.
Now that Johnson has his first world championship, and if it’s somehow possible, the driver of the Team Mopar Dodge Avenger now views the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, the traditional kick-off to the grueling Western Swing, as more important than ever.
A four-time winner on Thunder Mountain, Johnson will try to advance to his seventh straight Pro Stock final round at the legendary facility, which hosts the 34th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, July 19-21. Johnson is one of the defending winners of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event at Bandimere Speedway, a list that also includes Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle). The race will be televised on ESPN2 HD (qualifying Saturday, 10 p.m. ET; eliminations, Sunday, 6 p.m. ET).
Last year’s race featured all eventual world champions in the winner’s circle, marking the only event in 2012 where that happened. Johnson was certainly in that group, breaking the track record at Bandimere Speedway and winning for the third time in four years at the track.
It also propelled him to four more victories and seven final round appearances, meaning Johnson knows the importance of performing well in Denver.
“We certainly view this race in Denver as a big one and we carry that momentum onto the next two races of the Western Swing,” Johnson said. “Traditionally we’ve done well at those next two races as well, so it’s a crucial stretch. It’s a big part of our year and it’s a part of the season we always look forward to when it comes around.”
That much is obvious, as Johnson spends a considerable amount of time testing in the high altitude at the track. He worked with teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr., a two-time event winner in 2013 in his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger, this year and has clearly found the winning combination for the unique challenges of the event when it comes to his own Avenger.
In addition to the wins, Johnson has been the No. 1 qualifier at the event the past three years and four times overall, obliterating the track E.T. and speed records a year ago by going 6.916 seconds at 198.70 mph.
“We test a bunch out there and the combinations we’ve developed out there, chassis-wise, gear-wise and engine-wise have proven successful,” Johnson said. “It just takes a different combination and we were able to hit on one years ago. It’s just expanded from there.
“Hopefully we’ve got a few new things for them this year and we can put a couple hundredths between us and the field.”
A good showing would continue to bolster Johnson and his teammate Coughlin in their pursuit of Pro Stock points leader Mike Edwards, who won his fourth race of the season last weekend in Norwalk.
But Johnson and Coughlin have built momentum in recent events, with Johnson winning in Epping, N.H., and Coughlin taking the victory the following week in Chicago. In all, Johnson has three wins and six final round appearances, which includes a runner-up finish to Edwards in Norwalk.
Johnson remains second in points to Edwards, who has 38 career wins but none in Denver, and he hopes a fifth victory at Bandimere, which would tie him with Warren Johnson for the second most in NHRA Pro Stock history, would give him the same boost it did a year ago.
Plus, performing well in front of the large Mopar contingent is always a good thing for the Greeneville, Tenn. native.
“It’s very gratifying to do well in Denver, especially since that is your sponsor’s race,” Johnson said. “Hopefully we can go out there and do the same thing, but this is an event that the team really looks forward to each and every year.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence there. Our team is a very mature one that works well together, so we’re expecting more good things this year.”
The high altitude presents numerous challenges for all of the NHRA’s stars, who will all be looking to have a memorable weekend in the mountains to kick off the NHRA’s traditional three-race Western Swing.
In Top Fuel that includes points leader Shawn Langdon, who has three event wins in 2013 and has been battling neck-and-neck with seven-time world champion Tony Schumacher. The star-driven class also includes the likes of Spencer Massey, defending world champion Brown, and 2013 event winners Bob Vandergriff, Khalid alBalooshi and Steve Torrence. Other top contenders include Doug Kalitta, Morgan Lucas, Brandon Bernstein, and Clay Millican.
Mat Hagan, the 2011 Funny Car world champion, currently holds the Funny Car points lead, but the class remains as competitive as ever and Johnny Gray, Ron Capps and Cruz Pedregon have all spent time in the top spot in 2013. Gray has four wins and is the most recent event winner in the class, while John Force is riding a hot streak that includes a victory and has bumped him into championship contention. Daughter Courtney has already posted two wins this season, while other standouts in the tightly-competitive class include defending world champion Jack Beckman, Del Worsham, Alexis DeJoria, Tim Wilkerson and former world champion Robert Hight.
The Pro Stock Motorcycle category has featured outstanding racing all season with a field that is separated by thousandths of a second. Hector Arana Jr. has three wins and the points lead, but two-time event winner Michael Ray has moved into second. Other talented riders like recent Norwalk winner Matt Smith, John Hall, Scotty Pollacheck and Hector Arana Sr. are poised for success in Denver as well. Defending world champion Eddie Krawiec and teammate Andrew Hines have also combined for four wins at Bandimere.
In addition to three days of intense racing, there will be loads of family-fun activities in celebration of Bandimere Speedway’s 55th anniversary. On Thursday, July 18, fans are invited to attend the tradition-rich Mopar Block Party in Downtown Golden from 6-10 p.m., featuring a live band, car displays, and a driver autograph session.
There are also spectacular jet car runs on Friday night and a special “Go Red for Women Track Walk” on Saturday morning prior to racing at 8:30 a.m. to bring awareness to heart disease. The Track Walk gives fans the chance to walk the same track where NHRA drivers race at speeds of more than 300 mph and are joined by some of NHRA’s favorite drivers. The experience is free for all Saturday ticket holders.
As always, every ticket purchased for the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals is a pit pass, which offers an extraordinary look behind the scenes in the world of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly skilled mechanics “twirl the iron” between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time with their favorite NHRA drivers.
Mello Yello Series qualifying begins on Friday, July 19 with the first session at 5:15 p.m., followed by another session under the lights at 7:15 p.m. When 8,000-horsepower nitro machines blast off from the starting line with their header pipes full of flames during night qualifying, the scene provides one of the most sensory-filled experiences for any race motorsports fan.
The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, July 20 at 1:45 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 21.
To purchase tickets for the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, please call Bandimere Speedway at (800) 664-8946 or visit www.bandimere.com. For more information about NHRA, please visit www.NHRA.com.
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MOPAR MILE-HIGH NHRA NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 34th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, the 14th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – earn points leading to 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Bandimere Speedway, Morrison, Colo. The track is 10 miles west of Denver, just north of the historic town of Morrison. From Denver, take Interstate 70 west to C-470 and travel south to the Morrison Road exit. Take Morrison Road west to Rooney Road and go north to the track.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, July 19-21.
FRIDAY, July 19 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 5:15 and 7:15 p.m.
SATURDAY, July 20 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:45 and 4:45 p.m.
SUNDAY, July 21 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, July 20, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 8 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, July 21, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of coverage starting at 6 p.m. (ET).
SATELLITE (Digital HD feed):
Friday, July 19, 11:30 p.m. - Midnight (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 24C
Saturday, July 20, 10 - 10:30 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 24C
Sunday, July 21, 9 - 9:30 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 24C
(4180 MHz, vertical; Data Rate: 40.46147055 Mbp; Symbol Rate: 29.27 Ms; FEC: ¾; Bandwidth: 36 Mhz)
Video news release contains race action highlights each day and winners’ interviews on Sunday.
2012 EVENT WINNERS: Antron Brown, Top Fuel; Jack Beckman, Funny Car; Allen Johnson, Pro Stock; Eddie Krawiec, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: Bob Glidden, 7, PS; Joe Amato, 6, TF; John Force, 6, FC; Warren Johnson, 5, PS; Allen Johnson, 4, PS
Top Fuel - 3.862 seconds by Antron Brown, July ’09; 318.39 mph by Brown, July ’09.
Funny Car - 4.095 seconds by Cruz Pedregon, July ’11; 307.51 mph by Pedregon, July ’11.
Pro Stock - 6.916 seconds by Allen Johnson, July ’12; 198.70 mph by Johnson, July ’12.
PS Motorcycle - 7.237 seconds by Hector Arana Jr., July ’12; 186.54 mph by Ryan Schnitz, July ’05.
Top Fuel - 3.701 sec. by Antron Brown, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’12, Charlotte, N.C.
Funny Car - 3.986 sec. by Jack Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 320.58 mph by Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
Pro Stock - 6.471 sec. by Mike Edwards, April ’13, Charlotte, N.C.; 214.35 mph by Jason Line, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
PS Motorcycle - 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.26 mph by Eddie Krawiec, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.
TICKETS: Order tickets by phone at (800) 664-UWIN (8946). Tickets also are available online at www.bandimere.com
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NHRA MELLO YELLO SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. – World championship point standings (top 10) following the 13th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:
Top Fuel: 1. Shawn Langdon, 1,013; 2. Tony Schumacher, 1,012; 3. Spencer Massey, 922; 4. Doug Kalitta, 807; 5. Antron Brown, 799; 6. Khalid alBalooshi, 771; 7. Clay Millican, 700; 8. Morgan Lucas, 639; 9. (tie) Steve Torrence, 605; Bob Vandergriff, 605.
Funny Car: 1. Matt Hagan, 959; 2. Johnny Gray, 858; 3. Cruz Pedregon, 833; 4. Ron Capps, 832; 5. John Force, 823; 6. Jack Beckman, 792; 7. Courtney Force, 784; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 713; 9. Del Worsham, 696; 10. Bob Tasca III, 651.
Pro Stock: 1. Mike Edwards, 1,218; 2. Allen Johnson, 1,065; 3. Jeg Coughlin, 1,020; 4. Jason Line, 817; 5.Shane Gray, 801; 6. Vincent Nobile, 750; 7. Erica Enders-Stevens, 743; 8. Greg Anderson, 712; 9. Rodger Brogdon, 596; 10. V. Gaines, 589.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Hector Arana Jr, 569; 2. Michael Ray, 521; 3. Matt Smith, 487; 4. John Hall, 471; 5. Scotty Pollacheck, 459; 6. Hector Arana, 441; 7. Adam Arana, 361; 8. Eddie Krawiec, 360; 9. Steve Johnson, 341; 10. LE Tonglet, 310.