BROWN HITS TOP FUEL JACKPOT AT TRICKY DENVER TRACK - Antron Brown won the Top Fuel trophy at Las Vegas earlier this year, but he had no idea whether that same luck would follow him to the high-altitude NHRA Mopar Mile-High Nationals at Denver. He knew Thunder Mountain and Bandimere Speedway at Morrison, Colo., involved as much gambling as the Nevada desert oasis.

“You go to Denver like you’re playing craps, he said. “You just roll those dice and hope they come out right so you stumble onto a good combination that’s going to work.”   


Brown hit the jackpot Sunday for the first time in six races, defeating gritty final-round opponent and No. 1 qualifier Leah Pritchett to kick off the energy-sapping Western Swing.

He won with a 3.792-second elapsed time (his best of race day) at 319.82-mph on the 1,000-foot course, holding off her relentless 3.816, 324.90 in the Papa John’s Pizza Dragster. The former Pro Stock Motorcycle multi-time winner claimed his 48th Top Fuel trophy by about a mere 17-foot margin (0.0363 seconds).

The Matco Tools/Toyota/U.S. Army Dragster earned his third victory in seven finals this year, his 64th career victory, and his third at Thunder Mountain. (He won at Denver in 2009 on his way to a Western Swing sweep and again in 2012, during his first of three Top Fuel championship seasons.)

The victory was the 50th for co-crew chief Brian Corradi, who also netted his first triumph as a tuner at this Denver racetrack.

Brown denied Pritchett her fourth victory this season and fifth in all as she tried to reclaim the points lead from second-round finisher Steve Torrence. Brown moved into second place, 16 points ahead of No. 3 Pritchett and 54 off Torrence’s pace as the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series’ Western Swing heads back to California this weekend for the Toyota Sonoma Nationals.

Pritchett reached the final by defeating Troy Coughlin Jr., Clay Millican, and Tony Schumacher on her way to her fifth final round this season and seventh overall.

Also winning Sunday were Robert Hight (Funny Car), Drew Skillman (Pro Stock), and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle).  

Brown beat Scott Palmer, Doug Kalitta, and Brittany Force to make his third final-round appearance in five races and seventh overall this year.

Brown, who qualified seventh, began with a narrow victory over No. 10 starter Scott Palmer. Brown won in 3.837 seconds at 321.27 mph to Palmer’s 3.861, 318.02 mph. His second-round matchup against Doug Kalitta required both driver and car to be spot-on, and he prevailed (3.796, 315.34 to Kalitta’s 3.814, 324.75).

After the second round, the crew changed rear end, which was a new experience for several crew members. Brown said, “the belt came off, tore up some cables, tore up the whole ignition system. We changed four different things on the car, and we got back up for that [semifinal] round just by the skin of our teeth. But that’s what a championship-caliber team does. I’ve been blessed with a great, great team.”

The semifinal run against Force put the team to the test again, for they had to change the block and fix a cracked crankshaft before they could march to the starting line for the finals. In that semifinal, Brown used a 3.797-second, 317.72-mph effort against the tire-smoking to take his shot at Don Schumacher Racing colleague Pritchett. Brown entered eliminations trailing her by only four points in the standings.

“We started off with our heads down and, Lord knows, we worked so hard and, when we get these deals like this where they’re going to beat us up, we just keep working hard at it. A winner never quits,” Brown said. “And that’s the motto we went by this weekend because this mountain will beat you up and tear you down. But our Matco Tools/U.S. Army/Toyota Dragster, we were going places today.

“We just kept our head down and kept on moving forward and it was the most incredible thing. The coolest part is we went through some tough, tough, tough competition,” he said.

“Scott Palmer could have taken out a lot of people in the first round, but we got around him. Against Doug Kalitta – “’The Quiet Assassin,’ we call him – it was incredible how the whole team stepped up. And we had an incredible opponent (Brittany Force) in the semis, and we had to keep our head down because it could’ve gone either way. Then we raced our teammate Leah in the final, and it was a slugfest,” he said.

“It just felt good to go out there and run .79s [3.79-second E.T.s] all day long, and that’s what it took to get it done. This definitely builds morale, and all we do is just build off this momentum,” Brown said. “We know Sonoma is another good racetrack we love to be at. But this, right here, was the toughest by far, and it just gets us closer to that end result we’re trying for. These don’t come often, so we’re going to enjoy it.”

Brown won at Las Vegas and Topeka this spring. Sunday’s victory was his first in six races as he was unable to counter Steve Torrence as the Texan blazed a swath through the competition to the points lead.

"No doubt, we're having a good season but there's a lot more racing left to do and we just want to continue to get better every weekend,” Brown said.

Sonoma is Stage 2 in the Western Swing, which Brown swept in 2009. He had no delusions that he has any guarantee of repeating that feat of eight years ago.

“It’s tough. The conditions and the changes that these crew chiefs have to make in three weeks is what makes it so difficult [on the Western Swing],” he said. “[Co-crew chiefs] Brian [Corradi] and Mark [Oswald] are the best of the best and we’ve done it before and we’d love to do it again. It’s getting tougher every year to win one race, let alone three in a row.”  

Recognizing that he has raced in seven finals this year and won just three times, Brown said, “The competition is just incredible. Just wait until the Countdown playoff starts after the U.S. Nationals on Labor Day. No doubt we’re having a good season, but there’s a lot more racing left to do, and we just want to continue to get better every weekend. We have to keep pushing, keep getting faster and remain consistent. That’s what it’ll take.”

He knew what it took at Denver.

Even before the event began, Brown said, “We change almost everything on the car before we go to Denver, because Denver is just a way different setup with how we run the car. We put stuff that we’ve been running off to the side, then we’ll swap it back after Denver. That had been our Achilles heel for a stretch before we made it to the finals last year, because Denver had been eating us up a little bit. We’ve won [at Denver] twice and been runner-up five times. We just have to get back to that combination and be competitive. Denver’s just a challenging track.”

Figure it out the Matco Tools/Toyota/U.S. Army team did. Sonoma is the next mountain, figuratively, never mind the entire three-races-in-three-weekends grind.

"It's getting tougher every year to win one race, let alone three in a row," he said. Susan Wade

HIGHT’S DROUGHT ENDS WITH DENVER VICTORY - Robert Hight knows how to win NHRA nitro Funny Car races, but has had a hard time finding the winner’s circle lately, going 34 races without a victory.

Hight snapped that unwanted streak Sunday at the Mile-High Nationals.

The Yorba Linda, Calif., driver piloting the Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS machine powered past Tommy Johnson Jr.’s Don Schumacher Racing Dodge in the finals at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colo.

Hight clocked a 3.995-second run at 317.57 mph to defeat Johnson Jr.’s 4.099-second lap.

“This is a big one,” Hight said. “You start getting mental, but you know you have the team behind you, and the Auto Club stood by us. Everybody keeps coming up and saying you are due, you are due, no you are never due. You have to go out and win one of these things. The Auto Club, they are due because they paid us. They’ve done their job. There’s going to be more coming. You can’t sweep the Western Swing unless you win Denver. What a great job.”

Hight acknowledged he won Sunday despite feeling ill.

“I don’t know if I ate something bad (Sunday morning) or last night, but I was sick all day,” Hight said. “I couldn’t keep anything down and this isn’t the place you want to have that happen, up here on the mountain.”

Hight battled through being sick to win for the first time since the March of 2016 at the NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla.

Hight, the 2009 nitro Funny Car world champion, won for the 38th time in his career and for the fourth time at the Mile-High Nationals (2005, 2010, 2014, 2017). Since his rookie year in 2005, Hight has a 29-9 career-round record at the Mile-High Nationals.

With the victory, Hight moved up to third place in the season points standings behind leader Ron Capps and Matt Hagan. Hight also continued another streak as he has 13 seasons with at least one race win and he also earned an automatic bid into the $100,000 to win Traxxas Shootout September during the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.

Hight’s win Sunday was only the second all season by a driver not from the Don Schumacher Racing camp. DSR drivers have won 12 out 14 races this season, and John Force, Hight’s boss, won Gainesville and Hight was victorious in Denver.

“We have struggled all year and they (Don Schumacher Racing) are winning everything,” said John Force moments after Hight turned on the win light. “I told Chevrolet, we will bring this thing around, trust me, we know how to win. Bringing (Jimmy Prock) back was huge and (Chris) Cunningham and it’s starting to happen. We are alive again! I don’t know what to say, we won on the Mopar hill, God Bless you!”

On Sunday, Hight’s victory parade was comprised of wins over Todd Simpson, Jack Beckman, Cruz Pedregon and Johnson Jr.

“In the second round and the semis, it kept dropping cylinders,” Hight said. “We’re were lucky to get those wins, but every time you go to the starting line with (crew chief) Jimmy Prock in your corner, you believe it’s going to be fixed and you’re going to outrun these guys and that’s exactly what he did in the final. It really makes me proud to see our other teams coming in and helping Jimmy and they are all working together to get this car in the winner’s circle. That’s how come John Force Racing is going to prevail because we work so close together. We’re a family. We work hard and no matter who is in the winner’s circle, we all share the wealth.” Tracy Renck

SKILLMAN MAKES IT TWO IN A ROW WITH DENVER PRO STOCK VICTORY - Drew Skillman has definitely figured things out.

The 29-year-old driver drove his Ray Skillman-sponsored Chevy Camaro to its second consecutive NHRA national event win.

Skillman’s latest triumph came Sunday when he beat Bo Butner in the finals of the Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colo.

Skillman clocked his fastest time of the weekend, 6.916 seconds at 198.15 mph to defeat Butner’s 6.953-second run at 198.88 mph.

“I have the best team out here,” Skillman said. “I have a bad Hot Rod. The car was a bracket car. It just kept running the same number, same number. We knew we were close with the tune-up, we knew we were close with the gearing and it just kept repeating. That’s a sign of a good car. When you can repeat like that and go that fast, we have a good car and a great team.”

Skillman, who won at Chicago July 9, the last race on tour before the Mile-High Nationals, now has five career NHRA Pro Stock wins and he won back-to-back races for the first time.

Skillman, who has engine power supplied by Gray Motorsports, had a fabulous weekend in the thin air. He qualified No. 1 and then beat Richie Stevens in the first round, had a bye second round and then ousted Ken Black Racing teammates Jason Line and Bo Butner for the victory.

“Absolutely,” Skillman said when asked if he was thinking about a sweep of the Western Swing. “That’s what I came out here to do. When we tested, that’s when I knew we had something. We will see what happens in Sonoma, (Calif.), we will go one race at a time. Right now, we are king of the hill, but we still have Sonoma and Seattle left, but I feel confident going into it.”

The Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals (July 28-30) and NHRA Northwest Nationals (Aug. 4-6) in Seattle, conclude the Western Swing.

Thanks to his trip to the winners circle, Skillman moved up one spot to seventh in the season points standings. His current win streak is impressive considering he lost in the first round three consecutive times at Englishtown, N.J., Bristol, Tenn., and Norwalk, Ohio, before the streak started.

“Just the attitude,” said Skillman about what has changed for his team the last two races. “When you get up and start doing well, it helps everybody around here. We’ve always had the same talent. We’ve had the same pieces. We’ve had the same horsepower. We are just finally utilizing all of it in the same way. I think we definitely have the momentum and momentum is huge in this sport. When everyone feels positive and everyone knows you’re going to kick a**, you move forward like you’re going to. We just have to be aggressive right out of the trailer and as long as we do that, we’re here. We can win.” Tracy Renck
KRAWIEC STARTS SURGE FOR NEW STREET ROD WITH BIKE-CLASS VICTORY - Eddie Krawiec completed what crew chief Matt Hines called “an incredible comeback weekend” for the Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson team Sunday, logging the first NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle victory for the newly designed Street Rod at the Mopar Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway near Denver.  

Krawiec took advantage of Matt Smith’s red-light foul aboard the Polaris Racing Victory motorcycle by seven-thousandths of a second in their final-round match-up.

He covered the quarter-mile in 7.145 seconds at 188.28 mph – the second-quickest elapsed time and second-fastest speed in the 38-year history of this event at the Morrison, Colo., facility.

With his 38th career victory, second this season, and fourth at Denver, No. 2-ranked Krawiec sliced class leader L.E. Tonglet’s margin over him in the standings nearly in half, from 141 to 74 as the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series’ Western Swing will continue in California this weekend with the Toyota Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway.

The Vance & Hines racer said he has been learning with the new Street Rod that’s teammate Andrew Hines’ design baby in co-operation with Harley-Davidson. But he said Sunday after running consistent 7.1-second E.T.s in eliminations that he “learned that we’re taking a Wally from Denver.”

Like a real-estate agent says the key is “location-location-location,” Krawiec said the mantra for his team from now until the Countdown to the Championship that starts in mid-September is “data-data-data.” He said they “want to load the arsenal” for the six-event sprint to a 12th series crown for the Vance & Hines organization in 21 years.

Krawiec backed up Matt Hines’ assessment: “We got off to what I consider a slow start. We stunk up the place [at Englishtown] with the new bike, and we’ve been behind the eight-ball.”

The Western Swing is notorious for its three distinctly different conditions at high-altitude Denver, sea-level Sonoma, and oxygen-rich Seattle. So will the emboldened Harley-Davidson perform as well out of thin air?

“That’s the big question we have,” Krawiec said. “It should translate,” he said, his voice hinting that he wasn’t making any promises. “That’s the way we figure it. I guess if you correct some our runs that are made up here to sea level, they should be pretty stout.”

He said without having the luxury of any significant testing time recently, “We just figured [at the shop at Brownsburg, Ind.] if it translates here [at Denver], it should go right down to sea level [and perform well]. We’d like to say we’re going to be back [to frontrunner status] in Sonoma.”

“This is the right time for [the Street Rod] to start heading in the right direction,” Krawiec said.

He was referring to the Countdown, for which the bike class has only three more events to prepare (Sonoma, Brainerd, and Indianapolis). But he’s the top seed for this weekend’s Mickey Thompson Pro Bike Battle bonus race. The all-star field of eight is going for the winning prize of $7,500.

After reaching the final round past David Hope, Joey Gladstone, and Scotty Pollacheck, Krawiec shared the winners circle Sunday with Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), and Drew Skillman (Pro Stock).

Smith, the No. 3 starter, advanced past wife Angie Smith, Andrew Hines, and Jerry Savoie before registering his second runner-up finish of the season. Susan Wade



MONSTER DRAGSTER READY TO ROLL – Brittany Force took the Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster to the No. 6 qualifying position for Sunday’s Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway.

And she’s hoping changes to her car and a new approach to the race weekend will put her in good position to win in the mountainous air in Colorado.

Force’s best pass in four attempts came during the second qualifying session Friday evening, in which she ran 3.782 seconds at 318.84 mph. She recorded two other sub-four second runs, impressive at a track which sits more than a mile above sea level.

“Coming into the weekend, we’ve made a lot of changes, mostly to my seat and my view on things, and everything seems to be working,” Force said. “I’m putting my focus in different places than I used to, and really it’s about driving the car because you love it and staying positive.

“We’ve had a great weekend, ended up No. 6. I’m ready to take on the day, go some rounds, and end up in the winner’s circle.”

Force will face No. 11 Terry McMillen in the first-round of Sunday’s race. Force has already faced McMillen three times this season, winning each matchup.


HAGAN THRILLED WITH DODGE DEMON – This weekend at the Mile-High Nationals, Matt Hagan, nitro Funny Car world champion, was able to make some test laps in the new 840-horsepower Dodge Demon and he gave the muscle car rave reviews.

“It is bad a** dude!,” Hagan said. “I don’t know, they didn’t give us our times. Did a big burnout. Ran a quarter-mile (Friday). It was bad a**. It was a lot of fun. That’s a lot of horsepower for a street car. “It was awesome. If I was going to spend some money that’s what I’d be buying.”

Hagan’s focus now is on Sunday. He struggled in qualifying in his Don Schumacher Racing Dodge as he was in the No. 15 spot with a 4.942-second time. He faces 16-time world champ and No. 2 qualifier John Force in first round.

Force is the only driver who has won a national event other than a DSR driver.

“This race is different,” Hagan said. “I think it might open up the door for somebody else to come in here other than a DSR car just because they’re a Mile-High and the combos are different. All-in-all we’ve just been dominating and we want to keep that ball rolling. I think that we have an opportunity to keep rolling. We’re almost to Indy and almost ready to reset these points and nobody else has won any other races so it’s pretty awesome. I think Force can relate to that. He had domination for 10 years. To throw some punches you’ve got to be able to take some. We’re just going to keep giving it to him and see what happens.”

Hagan acknowledged the competition with his teammates is intense.

“It’s tough. It’s as brutal as it’s ever been. Anytime we race a teammate it is incredibly hard to win. We’ve just got to keep it rolling and hope for the best. It seems like Capps has our number. He’s got everybody’s number right now. He’s won six races and we’ve won three. We’re just trying to keep pace with him a little bit right now.

Hopefully we win a few races and put him on the trailer early. Hats off to that team. Those guys are doing a good job. They’re racing smart on Sunday. They’re not always qualifying the best but when it comes to race day they’re doing a good job going down the race track and turning that win light on. We’re trying to do that but the thing about our car is when it cools down nobody can touch our shit, it hauls *ss. So hopefully when this countdown restarts and the weather comes around in our favor, we can put some wins on the board and win another championship.”

CAPPS DISCUSSES HIS ESPY EPERIENCE – The 2016 ESPY awards show was held on July 12 on ESPN and it was a night 2016 NHRA world champion nitro Funny Car driver Ron Capps will never forget.

Capps was nominee for the Best Driver Award, which was won by Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton.

“What’s funny is my wife kept telling me to go talk and introduce myself,” Capps said. “I wanted to meet Steph Curry and Kevin Durant because I’m a Warriors fan. I walked right up to them and I just wanted to say ‘hi’. But it was funny because I turned into a complete fan and every time I turned around there was somebody that I looked up to as a kid or watched on TV. I was in awe just looking around. Probably Chris Berman was the one that I was most excited to run into. Russell Wilson stood there when we were doing the red carpet.”

The evening is one Capps will never forget.

“Yeah, without a doubt,” Capps said. “Just standing there shoulder to shoulder with guys like Peyton Manning, Steph Curry. It was one of those nights where you just wanted to freeze. Even though we didn’t win, they kept coming over and checking to make sure I was in my seat, and I kept looking at my wife going ‘Ok that means at least we’re in the running.’ They kept sending someone over to check before every commercial. So, I kept thinking, they’re either messing with me or we’ve got a shot at this believe it or not. I really didn’t even think about a speech because I knew we had a shot but didn’t think it would be possibly that we’d actually win and ESPY. After two or three commercial breaks and them coming over and checking on me I got a little excited and thought ‘uh oh maybe I should start writing a speech in my head.” And they announced Lewis Hamilton had won.”

Although Capps didn’t win an ESPY he still loves the ring 2016 NHRA world champ has for him.

“Yeah, it’s crazy. Every race we’ve gone to it’s sort of like winning the championship over because I just haven’t seen a lot of these people since they told me last time I was here ‘you’re going to win the championship.’ So that’s the best part. We pulled up to park the rental car and we pulled up next to the trailer and I hadn’t even seen the banner out there that says 2016 World Champion. I hadn’t even seen it on the trailer and it was on a sign. We pulled up and I was like ‘wow.’ You get these moments once in a while, those moments that remind you of a little kid just trying to dream as big as you can about being something when you grow up and these are those moments. Little moments like that. Especially looking up seeing that on the side of the trailer is cool.”

Capps qualified No. 5 and will race his DSR teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. in first round.

JOHNSON JR. IS VETERAN AT BANDIMERE SPEEDWAY –  Some drivers are competing at Bandimere Speedway for the first time this weekend.

Tommy Johnson Jr. is not one of those drivers.

“I was runner up at this race in 1984 in Super Gas,” Johnson said. “That was my first NHRA final.”

Johnson, who also was a runner-up in Denver in alcohol Funny Car and Top Fuel, would love nothing more than to reach Victory Lane Sunday.

“That would be special. I don’t want it to be my last,” Johnson Jr. said. “It would be nice to finally get it done on the mountain. I feel like part of the Bandimere family I’ve been coming here for so long. I actually raced ET finals here when I was racing motorcycles. I was 13 I think. 1982.”

Johnson knows nothing will come easy Sunday, especially with his teammates vying for the same goal.

“I think everybody is pulling for each other to get to the final but then it’s every man for themselves,” Johnson said. “But we want to keep getting to the final rounds and let us decide between ourselves. It’s been kind of fun. Even if we get out early, we’re pulling for our other teammates to keep the streak going. I think it’s to the point now that we’re all kind of mad that we let one slip away.”

Despite his sub-par qualifying performance, Johnson knows anything can happen Sunday, especially in Denver.

“It levels the playing field. It’s such a crapshoot for the weekend,” Johnson Jr. said. I got runner-up here in Top Fuel in 1990 or 1991, we were an underfunded, low-budget team and ended up in the final round because of that. It levels the playing field so much that you’ll see a single-car team, may be underfinanced, go rounds and do well. It does open the door for that here with the different conditions. Nobody has a really big record book of what to do when you come here. You have one year just like everybody else. You don’t come here and test so it’ll be interesting. There’s parts of the car for this weekend that we run once a year. There’s a lot of stuff that we bring in the trailer and we go home from Seattle, we take it out and put it back on the shelf for next year.”

JOHN FORCE HAS WILD RIDE – Defending Mile-High Nationals winner John Force knows he has a fast PEAK Coolant and Motor Oil Funny Car heading into Sunday’s final eliminations at Bandimere Speedway.

Force, who will start from the No. 2 spot, was in the midst of two good runs in qualifying Saturday, especially in the final session. And though his Chevrolet Camaro SS didn’t make full pulls, at least one was spectacular.

Force’s Camaro pulled a pretty substantial wheelstand at half-track during the fourth and final session, much to the delight of the Bandimere crowd – and to Force himself.

“Yeah, I’ve got a hot rod now,” Force said in a press release. “She wants to talk, she wants to take the power down the hill. I shortened the burnout, and I should’ve had plenty of fuel to bring the whole front end down, and it just got light out there. But, boy, it was truckin’, and I like that kind of race car. I knew it would be on fire, wheelstand or win, whatever comes first.”

The good news is Force won’t have to go to a backup PEAK Chevy, as the 16-time Funny Car champion was able to bring the car back to the ground relatively softly. It wasn’t quite like Cruz Pedregon’s fantastic wheelstand a year ago, but Force enjoyed it.

“I still haven’t got over Cruz’s wheelstand from a year ago – most awesome thing I have ever seen,” Force said. “It doesn’t look like it dented the car; it will be okay. I set her down soft. She came up, came back down and didn’t bounce on me. But that’s exciting, good for the fans, good for me. That won’t get your wins, but it shows that we got power. We’re fighting, right?”

Force’s best run in qualifying came in Friday’s first session, when he first reset the track record elapsed time – only to have daughter Courtney Force take it away one pair later. John Force remained No. 2 for the weekend with a pass of 3.899 seconds at 301.87 mph, second only to Courtney.

But both Forces want to be better on race day. John Force Racing went 1-2-3 in qualifying here, with Robert Hight No. 3, and the team has nine No. 1 qualifiers this season. But only John Force has won in Funny Car.

“We’re low ET almost every week,” Force said. “We’re low ET nine, 10, 11 races, but (someone else) is winning them all. We’ve got a problem. We’ve got to learn how to race on race day. Luckily, my car wasn’t hurt (in Q4), but she was trying to run another .80. It got up on me, but I’m going to be okay.”

WILK TO GO TO BACK-UP CAR – Tim Wilkerson likes to put on a show for the fans, and he did just that on Saturday evening at Bandimere Speedway.

The driver of the Levi, Ray and Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang was on a quick run that got a little wild in the final round of qualifying for the Mile-High NHRA Nationals, and a wicked wheelstand with flames flowing from the header pipes ended with a hard landing. Wilkerson was fine, but his Murf McKinney chassis took a hit, and he will race with a back-up car on Sunday on the mountain.

Wilkerson qualified No. 9 and takes on J.R. Todd in round one.



MORE DRIVERS SPEAK ON PRO STOCK PLIGHT – It’s no secret, numbers are down in the Pro Stock. At almost every race, there hasn’t been a full field of 16 racers. There are 14 Pro Stock cars at the Mile-High Nationals.

There have been a lot of people with different opinions on how to improve the health of the class. One rumor circulating is NHRA is asking about including mountain motor Pro Stock cars at some point in the future, possibly weighing 2,700 pounds. The Pro Stock cars now weigh 2,350 pounds.

Greg Anderson, a four-time NHRA Pro Stock world champion (2003-2005, 2010) addressed the rumor as did season points leader Bo Butner and most recent national event winner Drew Skillman.

Back in 2015 at the Mile-High Nationals, NHRA announced it was making wholesale changes to Pro Stock class.

On Jan. 1, 2016, NHRA required all Pro Stock teams to equip their cars with electronically-controlled throttle body fuel injection systems, making engines more relevant from a technology standpoint. In order to reduce and control costs for the race teams, an NHRA-controlled 10,500 Rev Limiter will be added to the fuel injection systems.

With the EFI changes being in place for 1½ seasons, other Pro Stock drivers talked about their thoughts on the state of the class.

“EFI is really good and there are a lot of good things about it,” Line said. “I wish we were allowed to do some different things in this particular class that we are not. We are kind of stuck in a very small box. So, what you’re going to get is everybody running the same. It would be nice if they would open it up to some other vendors and that would certainly bring more folks into the sport.”

Allen Johnson, a fellow Pro Stock world champ like Line, offered sharper criticism about the change to EFI.

“I don’t think it’s done anything for the class as far as reducing cost or increasing participation,” Johnson said. “I don’t think it accomplished any of that stuff. It’s sort of fun to fiddle with. It’s something I enjoy doing but as far as doing anything for the class, it did nothing.”

Matt Hartford, who races around a dozen races a season, also hasn’t seen EFI giving the class a boost either.

“It cost everyone a lot of money for zero performance gain,” Hartford said. “It is easier on engine components. That is a fact. The engine components do last longer. It should have been done when Warren Johnson wanted to do it 20 years ago. They’re very late doing it but it was the right answer. It needed to happen, but it just happened way too late.”

Johnson offered this suggestion to improve Pro Stock’s car count.

“I think they pay more money first round, that’s how you fix it,” he said. “They have the same problem with the fuel classes. They’ve got four or five fillers that are not full-time racers. If they decide not to come they’ve got 12 or 13 cars too. NHRA has been telling us for the last couple of years they’re going to (increase the purse). We’d like to see it in the first round and that will fix the problem. First round if you qualify, first round money is double what it is, and more people will come up.”

Hartford concurred with Johnson.

“I think the question is, why are we only looking at fixing Pro Stock?,” Hartford said. “Top Fuel barely gets a full field. Funny car barely gets a full field. Pro Stock barely ever gets a full field. Comp never gets any cars. Super Stock is down. This is not a Pro Stock problem. And everybody that keeps talking about how Pro Stock has a problem is blind to the fact that drag racing has a problem. Is 16 cars a lot of cars in Top Fuel? No, it’s a full field. Zero extras. Funny Car only has 16. So, like I said, the more people keep picking on Pro Stock, the worse it hurts the class by continuing just to say Pro Stock is hurting because there’s no car count. That drives anyone who would want to come to the class away. That’s how I feel about it.”

JOHNSON CAUSTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC ABOUT DEFENDING THRONE – If there is one track Allen Johnson loves, it’s is Bandimere Speedway. He’s won this race seven times, tying him with legendary Bob Glidden for most Mile-High Nationals wins.

A year ago, Johnson won again and in the process became the first driver not named Jason Line or Greg Anderson to win a national event. This year there have several different winners, but Johnson has yet to reach Victory Lane. He’s also not making any guarantees for this weekend.

“Last year we didn’t qualify very well,” Johnson said. “I don’t know how we got it done last year. Hopefully we’ll start out a little better this year and be in the top three or four cars and have a chance to go some rounds. We’ve done a lot up here and that gives you confidence. We’re going to approach it just like we do every race and try to do our best.”

LINE TALKS ABOUT MILE-HIGH CHALLENGE – Jason Line, the 2016 Pro Stock world champ, knows nothing comes easy in the thin air of the Mile-High Nationals.

“For sure, way different,” said about the conditions at Bandimere Speedway. “If you don’t come here and test you’re definitely behind the 8-ball. We did not (test). We didn’t last year either, the past couple years we haven’t. It’s just a lot of money. A lot of money to spend on one race. So, we like to not do it. Truth is last year we still should have won the race whether we tested or not. It’s just a lot of money to spend and we would not like to spend it.”


NOBILE WOULD LIKE TO CLOSE DEAL AT BANDIMERE – Racing in the high-altitude of the Mile-High Nationals can give some drivers a headache, but Vincent Nobile accepts the challenges the thin air brings.

“It’s definitely, considerably different,” he said. “Just the air alone, it kills us in the horsepower department. The only way to compensate for that is with pure ratio and clutch. You need to change the car around a little bit as well. It’s just so different racing here. Being that we’ve raced here in the past we kind of have an idea of what we have to do. We just go back to that each time. It’s almost silly in a way, once we leave here, we go right back to normal. We might go to Sonoma in mineshaft conditions, from one extreme to the other. You never know.”

A year ago, Nobile made it all the way to the finals of the Mile-High Nationals before being upended by Johnson.

“Last year, unfortunately, we had some issues,” Nobile said. “Unbeknownst to us, we really didn’t catch it on time, we had an engine going away on us and it was getting worse, worse and worse. Then come the semifinals it actually blew up (but Jason Line had a redlight). We lost to Allen in the finals. What had happened was, because the engine was going away, we had to keep adding ratio because it was losing power and we had to tune it up a little bit. Then when we put a new engine in we had more horsepower than what we were expecting and we shook the tires. We could have won that race for sure.”

HARTFORD UPBEAT ABOUT BANDIMERE – Matt Hartford doesn’t compete full-time on NHRA’s national event schedule, but he does enjoy competing at Bandimere.

“I love coming to Denver,” he said. “It’s a beautiful place to be, it’s a beautiful city. I’m just hoping we have a fast race car.”

Hartford said he’s still running Warren Johnson engines and both WJ and his son, Kurt, both renowned Pro Stock drivers are in his pits this weekend.

“WJ and Kurt will be here this weekend helping us. We’re looking forward to running well.”



STEVE JOHNSON REFLECTS ON YEARS AT BANDIMERE – Veteran Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Steve Johnson is always looking for ways to get his program moving forward.

Friday, prior to the Mile-High Nationals, he took an unconventional path.

“Friday, we did something that probably no one else has done,” he said. “We went to the Harley-Davidson dealership here in town – Rocky Mountain Harley Davidson – and the service department over there allowed me to put the motorcycle on their chassis dyno. It was the only Suzuki in the place. We got a chance to seat the rings, break in the pistons. It’s got some new parts in it. It gave us the opportunity to feel a bit more comfortable about going to a fight and bringing bullets that are already in the gun versus bullets that might be in your trailer. You’ve got to go down the track a few times easy with no timing and all that other stuff.”

That Friday visit calmed Johnson’s nerves.

“All we need to do now is make good decisions with it with the clutch and the tuning and hopefully it will pay off,” Johnson said.

Johnson was unable to leave the starting line on his first and only pass Friday – Pro Stock Motorcycle’s class was reduced to one qualifying session because of the rainy weather – but he did clock a 7.408-second run on Saturday to get into the field.

“If I have to quit right away and they say you can only race one more race or you can only win one more race, it would be this one,” Johhnson said. “No, I have never won here. But the place is just so special and the people are what make it special. This is a racer’s facility. They really pay a lot of attention. I clearly love this place and I love the people. We’ve got hospitality, we’ve got bit events, we’ve got big sponsors, we’ve got no sponsors. I’m lucky that the sponsors I have, Tony Tull (Tull Plumbing) and Slick 50, they make it possible. I’ve got to win this race, man! I’ve got to win this race!”

Johnson recalled how much things were different 20 years ago when he was competing at the Mile-High Nationals.

“I remember the first year we came with Pro Stock motorcycles, everybody parked across the street to get teched,” He said. “Then you got your walking papers and you could come over here. In 1997, we had a meeting and we only had 15 competitors. I said “hey guys, our store in the mall is not doing good. We need to organize a group that manages and looks at the betterment of our category. If we all need pink wheelie bars, somebody needs to negotiate it. If we all need more money, if we all need to do a better job parking, if we all need more tickets, if there’s something that we can do promotionally ahead of time before the event for the sanctioning body or for the actual track, we want to be tied into that. We’re invisible right now. That was 1997 and that’s when PRO2 started, Professional Racers Organization for 2 wheelers.”

Johnson, in only the way he can, talked about some crazy ideas for the sport.

“I like motorsports,” Johnson said. “I love that we have something totally different like this (racing in the high altitude of the Mile-High Nationals). I’d love if there was a jump half way through the track. Larry Dixon would hate that. I’d love it if one of us started at the finish and the other started at the starting line and we run back and forth.”

Johnson is a true veteran of the Pro Stock Motorcycle ranks and he hasn’t lost his passion for the class.

“It’s my career path,” Johnson said. “On Wednesday (July 19), I was at a tech school in Wyoming. (July 21) I was at a tech school here in Denver. It’s a chance to show young people there’s an opportunity not only in motorsports but in the automotive industry and the motorcycle industry. So that’s what I really love. This gives me a platform to be able to talk about the advantages and the opportunities of not going to college and not having that debt and getting right into the industry, coming up with a competency-based credential and saying “you know what, I’m going to make some money”. Do it now and do it while you’re having fun.”

KRAWIEC BELIEVES HARLEYS ARE GETTING ON TRACK – Eddie Krawiec and his Harley-Davidson teammate Andrew Hines have been stars in the class the last several years.

Krawiec and Hines debuted their Harley-Davidson Street Rods at Englishtown, N.J., in June, but it hasn’t been a smooth transition.

Krawiec, however, believes the team is turning the corner and should be ready for the six-race Countdown to the Championship.

“The quick and simple answer is yes (the bikes will be clicking by the Countdown),” Krawiec said. “That’s why we debuted the bikes when we did and I would like to say we have a pretty good brainstrust in our camp and we know what we are doing. We are kind of out here learning because once you hit Indy, game on. You better be right and have your stuff ready and that’s what we are trying to do.”


MOTHER NATURE RULES AGAIN – Mother Nature was an unwanted guest the 2017 Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colo., near Denver Friday.

It rained throughout the day and delayed racing several different times.

The Pro qualifying Q1 started late. The nitro Funny Cars finished their first session, but only about half the dragsters ran before rain struck again.

The rain resulted in NHRA making the decision to have the Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle classes have just one qualifying session each Friday instead of two.

The last four Top Fuel dragsters in Q1 were able to finish their session, beginning at 7:58 p.m. (Mountain Time).


RAIN DOESN’T BOTHER SARGE – Although Friday’s rain caused lengthy delays, it didn’t bother eight-time Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher. Schumacher pilots the U.S. Army dragster.

“Some farmer somewhere is thanking heaven that it's raining,” Schumacher said. “You can’t let the weather dictate your mood. It happens and it has happened during my 20 years in racing quite often. You just get out of the car, take a breather and get back in and do your job.”

Schumacher came to Bandimere fourth in the season points and he has one season win at Gainesville. Schumacher has three Bandimere victories in 2005, 2008 and 2016.

“I never show up at a race thinking we are beat,” Schumacher said. “We have even started to get going yet and we’re always there at the end. Look back over the last 20 years, it’s always me and someone battling at the end. It’s me and Antron (Brown), it’s me and Hot Rod (Fuller), it’s me and (Doug) Kalitta, it me and (Larry) Dixon, and it’s me and (Gary) Scelzi. It doesn’t matter. Last year we had an off season (finished eighth in the points) and you just rebound and we came and won Gainesville. Last year was a destructive year for us and we won Indy and the (Traxxas) Shootout. At the end of the day, we did what most people would have dreamt about. Our standards are just that high because of success over the years.”

Schumacher knows peaking in the six-race Countdown to the Championship is crucial, which is something Schumacher thinks maybe shouldn’t be the case.

“It’s about that (peaking in the Countdown to the Championship,) but that’s unfortunate, and the one drawback to the Countdown,” he said. “You have someone like Torrence running so well, if he stumbles in the Countdown should he be the champ? No. It’s a Countdown. But. Let’s face it, when someone is running that good in the old system the guy would lock it up. I go back and forth. I don’t know what’s right, but I will tell you this, I don’t make the rules, I just live by them.”

DOUG KALITTA HAS TOUGH START, STRONG FINISH – The Kalitta family has had tons of success at the Mile-High Nationals.

The late Scott Kalitta won at Bamdimere in Top Fuel (1994, 1995 and 2004), as did Connie Kalitta (1984, 1985) and Doug Kalitta (2010).

Unfortunately, things did get off to a good start for Doug at the 2017 Mile-High Nationals as he couldn’t get his Mac Tools dragster to start and the team abandoned the run.

Kalitta did bounce back in a big way to take the provisional No. 1 qualifying spot with a track record 3.767-second run.

“I was just thinking you have to stage the car to make it to Sunday,” Kalitta said. “We were real confident going up. The conditions were real good. The thing was going down the track and I just hoping it would stay hooked up and stay running and it did. Hat’s off to my guys. We bounced back after not even making the first run. We ripped off a good one there.”

BOBBY LAGANA ENJOYING RIDE – Bobby Lagana, who works as the co-crew chief on Steve Torrence’s Top Fuel team’s crew, is happy about the team’s success, but also is trying to keep things in perspective.

Torrence, who pilots his family-owned Capco Contractors dragster, came to Denver first in points on the strength of five wins, including the last two races in a row at Norwalk and Chicago.

“This has been awesome and enjoyable, but we’re tip-toeing because the competition here is so difficult,” Lagana said. “You take every round one at a time and hope that you don’t make any mistakes to cause a bad outcome.”

Like all other crew members, Lagana knows the Mile-High Nationals presents a unique challenge to his team.

“Every race is difficult, but the added element of the weather really throws you a big curve and hopefully you have previous data to go back on and you’re not taking a total guess on the first qualifying run. You want to try and lay the foundation for a good weekend by making a good first run.”

Torrence won the Mile-High Nationals in 2015, but Lagana said that performance isn’t a guarantee for success.

“Everybody in the last couple of years has really stepped up their Denver game,” Lagana said. “There have been multiple cars in the 3.70s, and cars have just sort of figured it out. There’s so much horsepower available to us now that you just find ways to harness it and run the clutch right, especially having the track cooled. That really made a big difference with the performances because you are able to run the car a lot harder for the first 300 feet.”

After the long rain delay, Torrence clocked the fastest run of the session at 3.797-second elapsed time.

“The Bandimeres are spectacular and NHRA Safety Safari worked their butts off. They are all great people. It shows us right there in the confidence that they give us in the race track. Hats off to the NHRA Safety Safari guys, they are the best.”


JOHN FORCE HAS EXCITING RUN – John Force won the 2016 Mile-High Nationals and he came out swinging Friday in qualifying.

He clocked a track-record 3.899-second elapsed time at 301.87 mph in his Peak Chevrolet. The run became exciting after the finish line when he and Tim Wilkerson nearly tapped into each other by crossing the center line. Fortunately, there was no collision.

“It was drifting toward the inside,” Force said. “A lot of times on these tracks it goes toward the outside. What I’m saying is it got over there and we got to protect the other driver too. I had that issue before and I got my a** chewed for it. It drifted, I lifted and hey she still ran good.”

Force ended up in the No. 2 spot in the qualifying ladder after Friday.

COURTNEY BETTERS DAD – As good as John Force was in Q1, his daughter Courtney one-upped him. She set both ends of the nitro Funny Car Bandimere Speedway track record with a 3.889-second elapsed time at 328.30 mph.

Courtney drives the Advance Auto Parts Chevy Camaro.  

“We ran really good here last year, so we tried to put everything back like last year and it must have worked,” said Dan Hood, Courtney’s crew chief.




DRIVERS DISCUSS CHANGES NEEDED IN CLASS – It’s no secret, numbers are down in the Pro Stock. At almost every race, there hasn’t been a full field of 16 racers. There are 14 Pro Stock cars at the Mile-High Nationals.

There have been a lot of people with different opinions on how to improve the health of the class. One rumor circulating is NHRA is asking about including mountain motor Pro Stock cars at some point in the future, possibly weighing 2,700 pounds. The Pro Stock cars now weigh 2,350 pounds.

Greg Anderson, a four-time NHRA Pro Stock world champion (2003-2005, 2010) addressed the rumor. Anderson finished second in the points last season. He pilots the Summit Racing Equipment Chevy for Ken Black Racing.

“I heard people talking and I guess rumors start to spread around the pits,” Anderson said. “I hadn’t got that officially yet, it’s interesting. I don’t know about 2,700 pounds they make a whole lot more power than 250 pounds would take up for. It would have to be a little more than that I guess if they did try something like that. I can’t sit here and say I’m against it. We absolutely need cars, so maybe it’s something we ought to look at and we just have to figure out what the right handicap is but 250 pounds wouldn’t quite do her. Those babies run like 6.20s and we run 6.60s, so 250 pounds wouldn’t cover that, but I’m sure we could figure out how to handicap it and make it interesting. I’m not against the concept. It might (work). Obviously, it would take a little while to get it ironed out where you had an even playing field and it would be a constant checks and balance deal to keep it in check. I guess I would consider it.”

Bo Butner, Anderson’s Summit Racing teammate, also wasn’t opposed to NHRA making changes to the class. Butner came to Denver atop the points standings.

“I’ve heard the rumor (about mountain motor Pro Stock cars weighing 2,700 pounds),” Butner said. “Whatever they need to do to keep the class going because there are some teams out here that do this for a living and they have a lot of employees. Whatever it is the team I’m with will adapt and I think we will end up dominating. So, I’m happy with whatever they do. I think they are going to have to really study it, and it’s going to be tough. Hopefully, they will think and do it in 2019 and maybe try some runs through the year. If they let us know in a month, then we have four months to change the world again. You can’t do it. I do believe it will bring more cars in because those guys want somewhere to race. I don’t know if you would get cars going 24 races. You might have four or five of those guys who will chase it. It would be fun and if that becomes a true statement, I’m all for ordering a big motor. Whatever they can do to keep NHRA alive, I’m for.”

Drew Skillman, who grabbed the provisional No. 1 qualifying spot Friday at the Mile-High Nationals with a 6.925-second time in his Ray Skillman Chevy Camaro, offered his thoughts about the possible changes to his class.

“You might as well put us in Pro Mod,” Skillman said. “What’s the difference. I don’t know it is their (NHRA’s) decision and we play in their ballcourt. If you want to play ball, you have to come to their court. I don’t think it’s a combination issue. I think it is amount of money it cost to race issue. To me cutting races is the only way you save money, less races less money spent. I think you get a lot of those guys who run eight or nine races will go to 10 to 18 races. They will be likely to go to more. They will stretch things a little further. They should cut races, or go to production cars. The production cars are awesome. You can make those things run in the 6s. They would have to lighten them up, but they could run something like that. I would like to see them cut some races or go to production, but it’s tough there are a lot of guys who have a lot of money invested in engine shops and I get it from their aspect because they don’t want it (Pro Stock) to go away. I just have a car and if I owned an engine shop, I’m sure I would have a different feeling. They need to think this thing through before they make a decision.”

Back in 2015 at the Mile-High Nationals, NHRA announced it was making wholesale changes to Pro Stock class.

On Jan. 1, 2016, NHRA required all Pro Stock teams to equip their cars with electronically-controlled throttle body fuel injection systems, making engines more relevant from a technology standpoint. In order to reduce and control costs for the race teams, an NHRA-controlled 10,500 Rev Limiter will be added to the fuel injection systems.


HECTOR ARANA SR ANXIOUS TO RETURN – Hector Arana Sr., the 2009 NHRA world champion, missed the last NHRA event in Chicago (July 6-9), but was back with his team at the Mile-High Nationals.

Arana Sr. is recovery left shoulder surgery he had in June. Arana Sr. injured the shoulder while fixing a flat on his team’s hauler as the team was headed back from Englishtown, N.J., after the race June 11.

“I still have five weeks left (in a sling) and then I had to rehab,” Arana Sr. said. “It’s really frustrating because you always want to do something and I can’t just walk away. That’s why I skipped Chicago. I wanted to stay home and not do anything so I can heal faster and get back out here.”

Hector Arana Jr. had a runner-up finish at Chicago, which wasn’t lost on the elder Arana.

“They went to the finals without me, so they are doing great, they don’t need me anymore,” Arana Sr., said chuckling. “It’s a been a while that he (Hector Jr.) has been calling his own shots. I knew they were in good hands and that’s the reason I could stay home and not have to worry about anything. At the Mile-High Nationals, we have to change everything from gear ratios to transfer ratios and different things on the engine, trying to make up for the lack of oxygen that we have here. It’s a challenge and an expensive one to because you only run here once a year. Whatever we use here we can’t use anywhere else.”

“I was the one always trying something different so I could keep him consistent in the points. If something worked on my bike, we would transfer to his bike and if it didn’t work, he didn’t lose ground. Hopefully I can be back before the season is over.”

Adam Arana, Hector Jr.’s younger brother, who raced Pro Stock Motorcycle in 2013-14 and then joined the United States Coast Guard, isn’t showing any immediate to desire to race again.

“I talk to Adam and he’s not counting how many days he has left (in the Coast Guard),” Arana Sr. said. “He might stay there longer. Right now, Adam is stationed in Kings Point, N.Y., which is great because he lives like 25 minutes from Hector (Jr.). They see each other three times a week.”

OPTIMISM RUNNING HIGH FOR MATT SMITH – At Englishtown, N.J., June 8-11, two-time Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion (2007, 2013) experienced a season-low when he didn’t qualify.

Since that disappointment Smith’s Victory Gunner motorcycle has been making progress.

“We qualified No. 1 at Norwalk and then we got beat by LE (Tonglet) in the finals. We were No. 1 qualifier the first day at Chicago and then we put another motor for Saturday and slowed up a little bit and we got bumped to third and we put our good motor back in for Sunday and we were the fastest thing out there and we had a redlight. We have good power right now and we’re excited about running. I like this race. We here right off the trailer last year and went a (7.20). We are normally a top four or five bike here, and that’s all I can ask for.”

Smith has won twice at the Mile-High Nationals – 2007, 2008.

“You just have to be patience here,” Smith said. “The lights don’t come on quick, they draw out and you just have to wait for the light because you short shift these things up here it kills them. You better over rev it 100 RPMs, then short shift at 100. I enjoy the challenge and it’s a beautiful track and the Bandimeres do a great job of having a top-notch facility.”

There has been plenty talk about the ailing state of NHRA Pro Stock class, but Smith doesn’t see problems with Pro Stock Motorcycle class.

“Our class is healthy,” Smith said. “We have anywhere between 19 to 24 bikes at every race. I know this race is only 18, but you have to look at that a lot people from the East Coast don’t come here if they are not in the top 10 (in points).”

Smith has done some limited driving in the Pro Mod class, and he was thrilled to win at Martin, Mich., earlier this month, in the ADRL’s Outlaw Pro Mod class. Rickie Smith won the Pro Mod class.

“I ran the eight-mile class and he ran the quarter-mile class and we both qualified No. 1 and we both won,” Matt said. “It was fun. We knew we had Chicago the following week and we just stayed out on the road and we had a good time. I love racing the car.”

TONGLET CAN’T STOP SMILING – When LE Tonglet became a teammate to reigning NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Jerry Savoie he immediately had lofty expectations for 2017.

And, he hasn’t been disappointed.

Tonglet, who is riding a Vance & Hines-powered Suzuki, arrived at the Mile-High Nationals, first in points, thanks to four wins – Charlotte, N.C., Atlanta, Norwalk and Chicago.

“It’s been a dream season so far. We’ve had a lot of success. It’s a fun year. A lot less work being put on me and my dad. We knew we would be fast but not this early in the season. We figured around Chicago and now we can start turning around and running good but to come out the second race and win it is just a huge statement, then we went on to win another one. The team has won the last five races. We’ve only lost one race so far. So that’s a pretty cool stat for us and it’s been a lot of fun. The team has put a lot of work into the bike in the off season and it just shows on the track.”

Back in 2010, Tonglet won his lone NHRA world championship, but that was with his family team that was constantly watching the budget.

“This team is just great. They’re not going to park anything on any run,” Tonglet said. “We’re going to go out every qualifying run and try to go to No. 1. Last year and the couple years before that we would sit out a qualifying run if we couldn’t improve, but that’s not the case over here. We try to get every point that we can.”

Tonglet’s day job is as a firefighter in Jefferson Parrish in Metairie, La., and his work mates are aware of his side gig.

“Oh yeah, they all watch us,” Tonglet said. “They love it. They love to see us do good. They like watching it on TV.”

Tonglet has a simple goal for the remainder of the season.

“You want to finish one and two (in the points), and it doesn’t matter which one of us is one or two it would just be very cool to do,” he said.

The high-altitude of Bandimere Speedway, doesn’t bother Tonglet, but it is a chore to tackle for his crew chief Tim Kulungian.

“It’s not bad,” Tonglet said about the thin air. “All I have to do is drive. Tim is probably pulling his hair out right now. We’ve both run good here. Last year we both made it to the semis. Jerry’s bike should be clean. They got the setup form last year to go off of. It’s all new stuff with my bike and we’ve never raced it here. It’s going to take a little bit to get used to this high altitude but I have all the faith in the world in Tim.”

The high-altitude does present a challenge for Tonglet in terms of driving the motorcycle.

“(It’s) not bogging, it just is very slow on the shift light,” Tonglet said. “It’s like the shift light doesn’t want to light up. It’s very hard as a rider to hold yourself back from shifting early. We’re just so used to being quick and this is the track that separates the OK riders from the better riders. It usually takes a run to get used to it. I’m not going to lie. It’s very hard because you make so many runs at sea level and then you come here for possibly eight rounds very slow. It’s a lot different. You just have to wait on the shift light. It’s easier said than done."


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