September 20, 2023

Why closing the Bandimere Speedway makes John Force so emotional

evade nhra bandimere

Losing Bandimere is an emotional blow to John ForceCleverness

  • The Bandimere family, which owns the track, is selling the land but is planning a new, larger facility after just a one-year hiatus from the NHRA schedule.

  • The 155-time winner isn’t keen on trading memories for a sparkling new venue.

  • Force says he’s grown with the Bandimeres from the time he was “a joke” to becoming an eight-time winner and 16-time champion there.

John Force has eight NHRA Funny Car wins at Denver’s Bandimere Speedway, something he may never have thought would happen when he first started racing there.

And with this venue closing after this weekend’s 43rd running of the Dodge Power Brokers Mile-High Nationals, Force let his emotions run free Friday night after his preliminary No. 2 qualifying performance.

“I was so poor,” he said, sharing that the late John Bandimere Sr. opened him up at home and allowed him to sleep there because he couldn’t afford a hotel room. “I was a joke.”

Force gestured to the stands and said, “I was sitting there with my dad and Bandimere Senior in ’79. They’re gone now… but this place is important to us. I’m always excited to come and race on the mountain. I have been coming to Bandimere Speedway for a long time. I have a lot of history here. I’ve accomplished a lot, grown with the Bandimere family. It will be an emotional weekend, saying goodbye to this place.”

mopar mile high nhra nationals

John Force waves to the Bandimere crowd at a race weekend in 2013.John Leyba-Getty Images

The Bandimere family has operated the drag strip on Thunder Mountain since 1958 – nestled into the mountain in the suburb of Morrison, Colo. The goal is to welcome the NHRA back to the Denver market as early as 2025. John Bandimere Jr. said on Wednesday that the current circuit will not be the site of a housing development, but rather a kind of automotive-related venture.

That didn’t help Force much. The owner-driver of the PEAK Chevy Camaro said, “I know the world is changing and everyone needs space and they are building houses. But this thing is something special. I’m angry about it – not angry with the Bandimere family. I know they love it.

“It’s Mount Rushmore. They built this into the side of a mountain. How do you do that?” Force said. “This is God’s gift. This is mythical shit. I love racing and I love this hill – and I want them all to know it.

Force’s victories have been recorded at Bandimere Speedway in 1994, 1995, 1996, 2001, 2003, 2011, 2016 and 2018. Heading into Sunday’s eliminations, his Denver record is 74-31.

evade nhra bandimere

NHRA great Bob Glidden races at Bandimere in 1979.Cleverness

Looking Back: Magic on Thunder Mountain

Dodge Power Brokers NHRA Mile-High Nationals Milestones at Bandimere Speedway

  • 2022: Leah Pruett drives Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) Dodge Power Brokers Top Fuel dragster to victory for TSR team’s first Top Fuel NHRA National win

  • 2021: After a decade-long search, Matt Hagan finally hoists the Wally Trophy in Denver and pilots his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye Funny Car to victory

  • 2021: Factory Stock Showdown class makes its first appearance at the Mile-High Nationals

  • 2019: Tommy Johnson takes his first-ever win at Denver in a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car

  • 2018: Leah Pruett helps Dodge unveil the new Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 1320, races an “Angry Bee” 1320 themed Top Fuel dragster to her first Top Fuel win at Denver

    evade nhra bandimere

    Leah Pruett takes her first win for Tony Stewart Racing at Bandimere Speedway in 2022.Cleverness

  • 2018: Mile-High Nationals marks 30th year with Stellantis brand as title race sponsor, Dodge brand assumes race title sponsorship

  • 2016: Leah Pruett makes her debut as a Dodge/Mopar Top Fuel driver at Denver

  • 2016: Allen Johnson pilots NHRA Pro Stock Dodge Dart to seventh career win at Bandimere Speedway in his 10th straight final round at “Thunder Mountain”

  • 2016: Mopar Mile-High Nationals is the first NHRA event to be broadcast live to a national audience on FOX

  • 2015: Dodge/Mopar driver Jack Beckman takes third Funny Car win at Denver in Dodge Charger R/T

  • 2015: Next Generation Dodge Challenger Mopar Drag Pak takes first exhibition runs, with Bandimere Speedway General Manager/drag racer “Sporty” Bandimere driving one of the Drag Pak race cars

  • 2014: Dodge/Mopar Pro Stock driver Allen Johnson dominates Thunder Mountain, takes third win in a row and sixth in eight years at Bandimere

  • 2009: Ron Capps gets his first Mile-High Nationals win in Dodge Funny Car

  • 2008: “Big Daddy” Don Garlits and Judy “Miss Mighty Mopar” Lilly help unveil the
    new Dodge Challenger Mopar Drag Pak with side-by-side runs across Bandimere Speedway

    nhra mile high nationals day 3

    The Allen Johnson crew celebrates Johnson’s 2016 Pro Stock win at Bandimere.Michael Reaves-Getty Images

  • 2007: Allen Johnson takes Dodge Stratus Pro Stock car to first win at Bandimere Speedway, Jack Beckman scores Funny Car win in final round with only Dodge Charger

  • 2006: Gary Scelzi drives his Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car to his first win in the Denver event

  • 1994: Darrell Alderman wins Mopar Dodge Daytona Pro Stock

  • 1991: Mike Dunn drives Dodge Daytona Funny Car to Mile-High Nationals victory

  • 1991: Lori Johns breaks the five-second mark with a run of 4,991 at Bandimere

  • 1989: The Mopar and Dodge brands begin primary sponsorship of Mopar Mile-High Nationals

  • 1983: Frank Hawley wins Mile-High Nationals in “Chitown Hustler” Dodge Charger

  • 1979: Randy Humphrey wins Mile-High Nationals in Pro Stock with Plymouth Volare

  • 1979: Bob Glidden drives his Plymouth Arrow for the first time at the Mile-High Nationals

  • 1978: First Mile-High Nationals, then Sportsnationals held at Bandimere Speedway

  • 1958: Bandimere Speedway opens

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