Bandimere Still An Allen Johnson Kind of Place
Reigning Pro Stock world champion Allen Johnson continued his qualifying prowess at Bandimere Speedway Saturday, racing to his second pole position of the season during the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals.
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car) and Adam Arana (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also lead their categories as No. 1 qualifiers at the 14th of 24 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events. Sunday’s eliminations in Morrison, Colo., start at 11 a.m. and will be televised on ESPN2 at 6 p.m. (EDT).
Johnson claimed the top spot in Pro Stock with a quarter-mile performance of 6.949-seconds at 198.23 mph in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger, staying dominant on Thunder Mountain. He has been the No. 1 qualifier at Bandimere Speedway the past four years and five times overall; the next step is adding another win at the legendary facility. On Sunday, Johnson will try for his fifth overall win in Denver and fourth in the past five years.
“I think we have a really good race setup for my car,” said Johnson, who automatically will advance into the second round courtesy of a 15-car field. “It was great to be the No. 1 qualifier for Mopar’s 75th anniversary last year and do it again this year for the 25th anniversary of the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals sponsorship is just as exciting. It was very important for us to be No. 1 for these two big occasions.
“We’ve got the Mountain pretty well conquered, and now if the driver can just do his job on Sunday, I think we’ll be in good shape. We want to go out there and secure that win.”
Colorado native V. Gaines, last year’s runnerup to Johnson, claimed the No. 2 spot with a 6.970-second pass at 197.25 mph in his Kendall Oil Dodge Avenger. Gray Motorsports Chevy Camaro driver Shane Gray secured the third spot with a 6.971-second run at 197.13 mph. Point leader and former world champion Mike Edwards, who had qualified No. 1 in 10 of this year’s first 13 races, ended up in the No. 8 position.
In Top Fuel, Torrence and his Capco Contractors dragster secured his first No. 1 qualifier of the season and third of his career with an impressive 1,000-foot performance of 3.880-seconds at 319.60 mph, breaking the track speed record during the final session. Torrence, who is seeking his second win of the season, will meet No. 16 qualifier Mike Strasburg in the first round of eliminations.
“We’ve been struggling this season,” Torrence said. “The track came around to us tonight. It made it to the end and I wasn’t expecting to run that quick. I’m really happy. Maybe we’re turning that corner and the car is going to start doing better. It’s pretty cool to have your name on the top of the list when you come to Bandimere.
“To win, you need to go from A to B four times and we’ve done it only once so far this weekend, so we need to improve on our consistency.”
Torrence’s outstanding run dropped Doug Kalitta and his Mac Tools dragster to second with a 3.889-second pass at 310.13 mph. Rookie Brittany Force continued a hot streak in her Castrol Edge dragster, earning the third spot with a 3.918-second pass at 309.63 mph in her debut appearance at Bandimere. Seven-time world champion Tony Schumacher qualified No. 8 in his U.S. Army dragster _ making the field on his final attempt _ while Don Schumacher Racing teammate/defending event-winner and reigning world champion Antron Brown qualified No. 10.
In Funny Car, nobody could match Pedregon’s record-breaking 1,000-foot run of 4.073-seconds at 307.37 mph from Friday, giving the two-time world champion the No. 1 qualifying spot for the third time in the season and 53rd time in his career. The Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry driver will be seeking his third win of this season on Sunday. Pedregon will face No. 16 qualifier Todd Simpson in the first round.
“I was pleased with the run from Friday and our two runs from Saturday,” said Pedregon, who has two wins this season. “We came back with some really good information so we can come out ready to race. I feel like the team is back on the page now. I’m very happy to retain our track record at Bandimere. This is a difficult place to race so it’s a nice little feather in our cap.”
Reigning world champion Jack Beckman and his Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger secured the second spot at 4.097-seconds and 309.91 mph. Sitting third is Tim Wilkerson, who powered his Levi Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang to a 4.114-second run at 302.21 mph.
Rookie Arana secured his first career No. 1 qualifying spot with a quarter-mile pass of 7.242-seconds at 184.47 mph in Pro Stock Motorcycle aboard his ProtectTheHarvest.com/MAVTV Buell. Arana, running in just his eighth race, has advanced to one final in his career. He will meet No. 16 qualifier Katie Sullivan on her Gary Stoffer-tuned Tough Girl Designs Suzuki in the first round.
“I improved today so that was really nice,” said Arana, a son of former world champion Hector Arana Sr. “My first run (from Friday) would have been good enough to be No. 1. This is a confidence-booster for the entire team but it adds a little pressure because everyone now expects you to do well.”
Brother Hector Arana Jr. maintained the No. 2 spot on his Lucas Oil Buell, running 7.279-seconds at 183.49 mph in the final qualifying session, and will face No. 15 qualifier Jimmy Underdahl in the opening round. In third is Colorado native Mike Berry at 7.281-seconds and 181.89 mph aboard his MB Precision/LAT Racing Oil Suzuki.
“This class is extremely competitive, so I was not going to get my hopes up to be No. 1 at any race,” Arana said. “But now I feel like a win is next on the list. I feel like I’ve come a long way since my first race in Gainesville. I feel like I can not only ride the bike better but can also give better info to my dad and brother so we can make better tuning decisions.”
Sunday’s first-round pairings for eliminations in the 34th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway, the 14th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.
Top Fuel _ 1. Steve Torrence, 3.880 seconds, 319.60 mph vs. 16. Mike Strasburg, 4.174, 283.97; 2.Doug Kalitta, 3.889, 310.13 vs. 15. Morgan Lucas, 4.152, 266.64; 3. Brittany Force, 3.918, 309.63 vs. 14. Scott Palmer, 4.130, 291.57; 4. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.924, 313.95 vs. 13. Brandon Bernstein, 4.108, 251.49; 5. Shawn Langdon, 3.935, 315.12 vs. 12. Antron Brown, 4.043, 306.26; 6. Bob Vandergriff Jr., 3.949, 307.79 vs. 11. Terry McMillen, 4.019, 295.01; 7. David Grubnic, 3.971, 307.65 vs. 10. Tony Schumacher, 4.007, 306.74; 8. Clay Millican, 3.975, 308.57 vs. 9. Spencer Massey, 4.002, 307.51.
Did Not Qualify _ 17. Steven Chrisman, 4.342, 229.24.
Funny Car _ 1. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.073, 307.37 vs. 16. Todd Simpson, Chevy Camaro, 4.695, 237.42; 2. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.097, 309.91 vs. 15. Terry Haddock, Dodge Stratus, 4.448, 276.46; 3. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.114, 302.21 vs. 14. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.360, 292.52; 4. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.122, 307.02 vs. 13. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.316, 307.93; 5. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.124, 299.86 vs. 12. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.171, 299.93; 6. John Force, Mustang, 4.127, 308.99 vs. 11. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.171, 304.74; 7. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.144, 306.95 vs. 10. Johnny Gray, Charger, 4.168, 304.74; 8. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.152, 300.33 vs. 9. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.158, 309.63.
Did Not Qualify _ 17. Jeff Diehl, 4.738, 248.93.
Pro Stock _ 1. Allen Johnson, Dodge Avenger, 6.949, 198.23 vs. Bye; 2. V. Gaines, Avenger, 6.970, 197.25 vs. 15. Steve Kalkowski, Pontiac GXP, 7.301, 188.07; 3. Shane Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.971, 197.13 vs. 14. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 7.080, 194.86; 4. Rickie Jones, Camaro, 6.976, 197.36 vs. 13. Matt Hartford, Avenger, 7.058, 196.79; 5. Deric Kramer, Avenger, 6.982, 195.93 vs. 12. Steve Kent, Camaro, 7.037, 195.99; 6. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.983, 196.39 vs. 11. Vincent Nobile, Avenger, 7.005, 196.87; 7. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.986, 196.90 vs. 10. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 7.000, 196.56; 8. Mike Edwards, Camaro, 6.995, 197.51 vs. 9. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Avenger, 6.996, 196.96.
Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Adam Arana, Buell, 7.242, 184.47 vs. 16. Katie Sullivan, Suzuki, 7.395, 179.80; 2. Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 7.279, 183.49 vs. 15. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.374, 181.32; 3. Mike Berry, Buell, 7.281, 181.89 vs. 14. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 7.360, 181.23; 4. Michael Ray, Buell, 7.289, 180.48 vs. 13. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.327, 180.65; 5. Shawn Gann, Buell, 7.298, 183.19 vs. 12. Angie Smith, Buell, 7.321, 181.86; 6. Matt Smith, Buell, 7.298, 183.39 vs. 11. John Hall, Buell, 7.317, 180.60; 7. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 7.311, 181.98 vs. 10. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 7.316, 181.84; 8. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.313, 181.40 vs. 9. Hector Arana, Buell, 7.315, 183.29.
Did Not Qualify _ 17. Jerry Savoie, 7.412, 179.71; 18. Freddie Camarena, 7.490, 178.54; 19. James Surber, 7.508, 178.45.No Comment