Tag: Denver (Page 1 of 2)


In his final start at one of his all-time favorite racetracks, Bandimere Speedway, two-time Top Alcohol Dragster world champion Jim Whiteley bowed out early in his first (and last) appearance there in a Funny Car. Whiteley, who dominated Top Alcohol Dragster on the mountain in each of his championship seasons, 2012 and 2013 (and for four straight years before that, 2008-11), qualified high but finished low.

It may not have been a full eight-car field (these days, it almost never is), but the six-car lineup was a tough one, with three Top 10 drivers from 2022, including the top two – Shane Westerfield, who led the national point standings all season and seemed destined to win a second national championship, and Doug Gordon, who ultimately did. Two drivers still looking for their first major Top Alcohol Funny Car victory – Doug Schneider and Christine Foster, the distaff member of a husband-and-wife team with husband Chris Foster – also made the show.

As the No. 2 qualifier with a 5.81 at 253.18 mph, Whiteley seemed sure to face one of them in the first round. Spoiler alert: he didn’t. Instead, he got stuck with the worst possible draw – Gordon, the reigning world champ who’s led the 2023 NHRA standings almost wire-to-wire all season but stumbled to a best of just 7.56 at 137 mph in two aborted qualifying attempts here.

Whiteley left first and would have joined No. 1 qualifier Brian Hough as one of just two drivers to run in the 5.70s with a competitive 5.79/252, two-hundredths of a second better than his best qualifying run. Unfortunately for him, Gordon beat him to the 5.70s with a 5.70-flat at 257 mph, just a few miles per hour short of the incoming track speed record held by Jim’s wife, Annie, who, with a run of 260.01 mph, will go down in history as the only Top Alcohol Funny Car driver ever to crack 260 at Denver.


To keep Joey Gladstone from his long overdue first NHRA title, it took the fastest run in Mile-High Nationals Pro Stock Motorcycle history. Denied victory in four previous finals and appearing in his second in a row, he was out first and laid down a fifth straight run in the 7-teens but still got run down by Matt Smith’s record-setting 190.22-mph blast, 7.09 to 7.16.

“When I let it go and saw the light was green, I knew it was a good light,” Gladstone said. “I thought, ‘OK, you did your job.’ Somewhere around the 300-foot mark, I started thinking, ‘Hey, maybe…’ Then I heard him at the eighth-mile and finally saw him at about 1,000 feet. After that he just drove away from me.”

From the quarterfinals on, Smith, who broke both ends of the Bandimere Speedway track record in qualifying (7.090 seconds at 189.79 mph), reset the track speed mark every time he crossed the finish line. “You can’t be too mad about losing when a guy’s running like that,” said Gladstone, who dipped into the 7-teens in last-shot qualifying and remained there throughout eliminations, outrunning everybody but Smith.

Gladstone pounded pal Ryan Oehler, who red-lighted, in the first round with yet another .00 light, a .008, in an almost uncontested 7.17/186 to 7.34/182 match. He climbed off the bike and proclaimed to a national television audience, “Eddie, you’re done,” before second-round opponent Eddie Krawiec raced Kelly Clontz, and, sure enough, took the measure of his longtime nemesis in the next round, 7.15/185 to Krawiec’s 7.18/186.

“Everybody knows what you have to do to be fast on the mountain,” Gladstone explained. “Add three or four teeth to the rear sprocket and put two floaters next to each other so the clutch doesn’t pull the motor down too much and bog off the line. No matter what you do, you’re making 27 percent less horsepower when you get here.”

In the semifinals, Gladstone prevented a rare husband/wife final, upending No. 2 qualifier Angie Smith, who’d been in the 7-teens all weekend, by 16-thousandths of a second, 7.19/185 to 7.21/186. A heavy underdog in the final, a race he figured he had a “one in four” shot at winning, he afforded himself every opportunity to win with a superior reaction time, but there was no stopping Smith, who cracked 190 mph for the third run in a row with an all-time Denver record of 190.22 mph.

“I had him for a while,” said Gladstone, who now trails fading points leader Steve Johnson by just 46 points – about two rounds.  “But nobody was gonna beat that guy today.”


Any Pro Mod fan could’ve predicted exactly what was going to happen when the Tree flashed green for Jim Whiteley and Khalid AlBalooshi in the first round of the Mile-High Nationals: Whiteley would move first.

He did. By a lot. Whiteley, who’s been winning on holeshots all year, left on AlBalooshi, who’s been losing on holeshots since he started driving, by a full tenth (.030 to .137), stayed off the centerline without overcorrecting when things got a little hairy downtrack, and hung on for a huge holeshot win, 6.11 to 6.03. Both passed the 330-foot mark with 2.62-second times, and though AlBalooshi was going 3 mph faster by the time they hit half-track, 186 mph to 183, Whiteley was never headed in a satisfying if not particularly close (.033- second margin of victory) decision.

Back in the same lane 90 minutes later for the quarterfinals, Whiteley, who always performs well at his home track (including six straight Top Alcohol Dragster victories in the 2010s), fell to teammate “Stevie Fast” Jackson the same way he’d taken out AlBalooshi: on the starting line. With a .041 reaction time, the YNot driver was anything but late, but Jackson, winner of the past two NHRA Pro Mod championships, nipped him, 6.08/233 to 6.07/230, in a doubly important match – it was for a bye to the final. Whiteley, who ousted Jackson on a holeshot three weeks ago at Norwalk, came up short this time by 12-thousandths of a second – about two feet at the stripe.

Two-thirds of the way through qualifying, Whiteley’s immaculate YNot/J&A Service Camaro was still mired in the 6-teens. Just over the hill from the world-famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre, he charged down the Bandimere Speedway course Friday evening in the first qualifying session to a 6.14 at 229 mph and delivered a nearly identical 6.15 the next afternoon. It was Saturday evening in last-shot qualifying that the prospect of going rounds in eliminations Sunday got much more realistic when Whiteley took a quantum leap forward with a 6.06 for the No. 7 spot.


Ninth in the standings coming into this race and hot off a productive pre-race test session, Cory Reed hit Denver for the Mile-High Nationals and battled through two tough days of qualifying to go rounds on raceday. Amazingly, he ran the same E.T. at the same speed in all three sessions: 7.22 at 184 mph – 7.220/184.42 Friday night, 7.223/184.65 Saturday afternoon, and 7.226/184.90 under the lights Saturday night.

Just for the hell of it Saturday afternoon, Reed showed up at the starting line bald. Not Michael Jordan bald. More like Terry Bradshaw bald – the ol’ male-pattern-baldness look. “It’s working for Matt Smith,” he joked. “Who knows? Maybe it’ll work for me. But I might have to cut off the rest of it.” Sure enough, Reed’s head was completely shaved when he rolled under the tower Sunday morning to face Smith’s teammate, reigning U.S. Nationals champ Scotty Pollacheck, in the first round of eliminations.

In the first pair of the round, Reed staged first, left first, passed the 60-foot clocks first with a nice 1.06-second time, and held off Pollacheck for a huge win. The PSE rider outran Pollacheck, too, with his best run of the weekend to that point, 7.208 to 7.213. At the finish line, the bikes were separated by just 15-thousandths of a second.

That put Reed up against Smith, the incoming points leader and winner of the most recent event on tour, Norwalk. He crashed into the teens with a fantastic 7.19 but fell to the 7.14 of Smith, who tied the 7.11 track record five times over the course of the weekend and went on to win the event. Again, Reed had it at the 330-foot mark and could have won on a holeshot with the same .047 reaction time he had against Pollacheck, but a .093 left him just short opposite Smith’s .099.

“We still had a great weekend,” Reed said philosophically. “I just like going rounds. We had a lot of fun and learned a lot.” Heading into Sonoma, where everybody should be deep into the six-second zone and the fastest bikes consistently over 200 mph, Reed remains in the Top 10, just behind Karen Stoffer, who made her NHRA debut 25 years ago at this weekend, and teammate Joey Gladstone, who narrowly red-lighted in the first round.


Perennial title contender Annie Whiteley has always excelled at her home track, winning the Central Regional in 2018, making three other final-round appearances (2014, 2015, and 2019), and qualifying No. 1 three years in a row (2014-16) and four times overall, including last year. But this year, picturesque Bandimere Speedway, on the easternmost ridge of the Rocky Mountains in suburban Denver, wasn’t kind to Top Alcohol Funny Car’s most successful female driver ever. As has happened all too often since her season-opening victory in Belle Rose, La., the weekend ended in a frustrating first-round loss, her fourth in a row in NHRA competition.

Though just hundredths of a second from the pole, Whiteley qualified mid-pack and was unceremoniously bounced first round of eliminations in the most infuriating possible manner: on a holeshot. Heading into last-shot qualifying with a best of 5.76 at 253 mph, she guided the J&A Service/YNot Racing Top Alcohol Funny Car to a straight-as-six-o’clock 5.75/254 to lock down the No. 4 spot.

All around her were other national event champions running in the 5.70s in the thin mountain air: incoming national points leader Doug Gordon (5.71), 2017 world champion Shane Westerfield (5.72), former national winner Kris Hool (5.79), and 2020’s third-ranked driver, Brian Hough, who just missed the .70s with a 5.80-flat. Upstart Kyle Smith also ran a 5.75, but he was four-thousandths of a second quicker than her 5.758 with a 5.754 that earned him the No. 2 position and a much more favorable first-round matchup with Steve Macklyn, who was about a tenth and a half slower than them.

Whiteley, as she always seems to do, got just the wrong opponent in the always nerve-wracking opening round – Hool, who sometimes red-lights, but, when he’s on his game, can cut a light with anybody. Against Whiteley, he did. And, naturally, he made his quickest and fastest run all weekend right then. After an excellent .037 reaction time, Hool had it all the way for a 5.78/249 win over her slightly quicker 5.75/256, which held up for top speed of the meet to the very end, when Gordon tied it in a 5.69 final-round win over Westerfield.

“I just can’t cut a light at this track,” Whiteley said. “Same thing at Belle Rose. At Belle Rose, it’s because they have to back everything down so much to make it down the track that the car won’t move off the staring line. Here … I don’t know what it is.”


Perennial Top Alcohol Funny Car contender Annie Whiteley, who won Denver in 2018 and was runner-up in 2014, 2015, and last year, suffered a rare middle-round loss at her home track, one-of-a-kind Bandimere Speedway in the Rocky Mountain foothills just west of Denver. The many-time national event champion and current national speed record holder qualified high, as usual, but came up just short of yet another final-round appearance.

Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot team, based just four hours from Bandimere in scenic Grand Junction, Colo., began eliminations from the fast half of the field, as always, No. 1 for the third time in four starts this year with an aggregate best of 5.734 at 258.91 mph. Pole qualifier for the fourth time in her career on the mountain, she actually got the top spot by less than a thousandth of a second by virtue of winning the best-speed tiebreaker over eventual winner Doug Gordon, who also ran a 5.734, by 5 mph – 258.91 mph to 253.90.

Crew chief Mike Strasburg, from neighboring Utah, cooked up a high-altitude combination for the first round of eliminations perfect for the unique conditions all mile-high racers face. Whiteley reeled off another winning run, a 5.73/257, but a similar 5.74/256 in the semifinals left her just short. Torque converter driver Bill Bernard got off the starting line a little quicker for a 5.75/248 holeshot win. From here, Jim and Annie Whiteley’s YNot team heads into an uncertain future – who knows when COVID-19 restrictions will permit another race? – with a win and three semifinals finishes on its 2020 score card.


High on the mountain at scenic Bandimere Speedway, Cory Reed and teammate Joey Gladstone fought the conditions with everyone else at the Mile-High Nationals, the only race of its kind on the 18-race NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock Motorcycle tour. Reed and crew contended with Denver’s notoriously thin air, squeezing out a 7.48 at 181 mph on the first of four scheduled qualifying laps – a full half-second and 15-20 mph short of their Team Liberty bike’s 6-second/200-mph potential at sea level.

When the two-wheeled contingent rolled under the Bandimere tower Friday night for Q2, Reed picked up dramatically to a 7.35 that catapulted him to 11th on the grid, and when seasonal high-country showers washed out the Saturday morning session and reduced qualifying to a three-shot affair, he battled to keep the underpowered machine from bogging off the line as the engine gulped for oxygen that wasn’t there. He picked up yet again to a 7.32/182 and ended up 13th in the final order, stuck with an undesirable first-round match against perhaps the toughest possible foe: many-time world champ Andrew Hines, who has dominated the 2019 season, is a Colorado native, and thus knows the tricky high-altitude conditions as well as anyone.

It didn’t turn out well for the 2016 NHRA Rookie of the Year, who, as usual, got the jump at the Tree. Reed shot off the line with a noticeable lead but by the 150-mark found himself trailing the racer who has dominated Pro Stock Motorcycle competition more than any driver in any professional category all year. Hines, who dominated eliminations with 7-teens in all four rounds, crept further ahead with every push of the air-shift button and advanced with a 7.17, low e.t. of the round, while Reed faded with a 7.38.


After breaking through for a long overdue first career victory at her home track in 2018 in the wake of numerous near-misses, championship contender Annie Whiteley just missed another Top Alcohol Funny Car title at Bandimere Speedway this year. At the third event of the six-race NHRA Central Regional season, Whiteley, who scored at the Central opener in Dallas, established low e.t. with a 5.70 in the semifinals but lost to Nick Januik in the final, 5.77 to 5.71.

It was Whiteley’s third final-round appearance in the past five races and her third runner-up since winning the rain-delayed Dallas race. As always, crew chief Mike Strasburg and the reigning Central Region champion YNot/J&A Service team brought a special tune-up to this event crafted just for the mile-high conditions they see nowhere else on tour. “They changed the transmission ratio, changed the compression ratio, even put on special [smaller] tires to deal with the altitude,” she said. “Mike and the guys always have a whole list of things to change for this race, and it all worked – the car ran great.”

Whiteley wound up second in the final qualifying order with a 5.72, just behind No. 1 Shane Westerfield’s 5.71 and just ahead of Januik’s 5.73. Entering eliminations second in the national standings with a commanding points lead in the Central Region, she pounded out a winning 5.82 at 257 mph on a single in opponent Doug Schneider’s absence. In the semifinals opposite Kris Hool’s competitive 5.77/248, she threw down low e.t. and top speed of the meet, a 5.70-flat at 260.26 mph, the only 260-mph run all weekend, to assume the favorite’s role going into the final against Januik, who also won the Las Vegas regional in April.


Cory Reed got quicker and faster every time down the track at the Mile-High Nationals and entered the first round solidly in the top half of the field, primed for a long run in eliminations. Then his bike bogged right off the line and Steve Johnson, who’d never beaten him, disappeared into the distance for an easy 7.29-7.41 win.

“I left, and the bike didn’t go anywhere, just kind of went ‘buhhhhh…’ ” Reed lamented. “It took off to the right, really hard. I wasn’t even looking through the windshield anymore to see where I was going. I got on the limiter – the shift light was on for a while as I tried to keep from running into the wall – and I had to double-hit the button to get into 4th gear. No way you’re going to win with a run like that.”

Reed’s disappointment was compounded when every rider he would have faced in the ensuring rounds ran slower than what he’d been running. Qualifying No. 8, as Reed did at this event, almost inevitably leads to a second-round loss to the No. 1 qualifier, but this time No. 1 Eddie Krawiec was upset by the slowest rider in the field, No. 16 Karen Stoffer, and never made it to the second round. “I wouldn’t have had to run 7-teens to win here,” Reed said. “7.20s like we ran Saturday would have been enough. Karen only ran another a 7.34 in the second round [when he would have raced her] and Jerry Savoie only went a 7.28 against her in the semi’s – another ‘gimme’ race. Both guys red-lighted in the final, so no matter what I ran, I would’ve won.”

Until the first-round letdown, Reed’s Team Liberty Buell was improving every time he rolled out from under the tower, from a 7.53/180 to a 7.41/182 to a 7.25/184 to a 7.23/184 in last-shot qualifying that carried him into the top half of the program. “We kinda screwed ourselves on the first two runs, then put in a clutch on Saturday like we ran with Star Racing [in his 2016 Rookie of the Year campaign] and it showed a lot of promise,” Reed said. “Our 60-foot time was better than anyone’s. That’s where we belong – that’s Ken [Johnson’s] specialty – but for some reason, the damn thing bogged again Sunday morning. No idea why it would fall on its face like that, but the more the rounds went on, the more frustrated I got.”


After years on the cusp of victory at her adopted home track, Top Alcohol Funny Car star Annie Whiteley went the distance at Bandimere Speedway, the Denver-area track husband Jim owned for his entire his career. Annie, who had a runner-up, two semifinal finishes, and two first-round losses at Bandimere, won the 2018 final by the just about closest possible margin over former Indy Comp winner Jirka Kaplan: 3-thousandths of a second.

“It feels so good to finally win here,” Annie said. “Jim just won here every time. I couldn’t even tell you how many times he won [six in a row – the last six years he competed in Top Alcohol Dragster: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013]. It was nice to finally win after getting so close so many times.”

Whiteley, who scored earlier this year at the Belle Rose, La., regional and the 4-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, started from the No. 2 qualifying position behind two-time championship runner-up John Lombardo, 5.74 to 5.78. Kaplan strapped a .007 to .140 holeshot on Lombardo in the first round to eliminate the top qualifier, 5.86 to 5.85, and singled in the semifinals. Whiteley had to do it the hard way and win all three rounds head-to-head to take home the title. She matched her No. 2 qualifying time right to the thousandth of a second in a 5.785 first-round decision over Steve Macklyn, who red-lighted, and topped perennial championship contender Jay Payne in the semifinals, 5.91 to a shutoff 6.58.

In the final, Whiteley wheeled her YNot/J&A Service Camaro to her quickest and fastest run of the weekend, 5.76/255, to hold off Kaplan, who also made his quickest and fastest lap of the weekend, by literally a foot. “I never saw him,” she said. “I just stared straight ahead like I always do and never noticed the win-light come on. After losing in every other round, most of them a couple times, this is just a great feeling.”

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