Story By: NHRA – MORRISON, CO – Coming off his first victory in more than three years, Cruz Pedregon is headed to one of his favorite tracks in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series feeling as good as he has in a long time.
The two-time Funny Car world champ won the most recent race in Norwalk, giving Pedregon considerable momentum heading into this weekend’s Dodge//SRT Mile-High NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil at Bandimere Speedway.
The track has been a longtime favorite of the veteran, unique challenges and all. Racing at an elevation of more than 5,800 feet forces changes and a level of difficulty not seen anywhere else on the NHRA tour. That’s part of the reason Pedregon, a two-time winner in Denver, loves racing on Thunder Mountain to kick off the NHRA’s famed three-race Western Swing. He also gets to race in front of a passionate crowd, one well aware of the success Pedregon has enjoyed in 2021.
“I’ve always loved racing in Denver and this is my favorite time of the year,” Pedregon said. “I like the challenge of it and it’s not a cookie-cutter atmosphere. I really enjoy it, and we have a lot of momentum going. I feel like we’re well-prepped for this race and we’ve been on such a high after Norwalk. It’s great to be back to Denver after a year away (due to the COVID-19 pandemic), and hopefully we can start the Western Swing on a good note in Denver.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were winners of the 2019 event in Denver. This year’s race will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including final eliminations coverage starting at 4 p.m. (ET) on FS1 on Sunday, July 18. It is the eighth race of the 2021 NHRA season and Pedregon will look to continue his upward ascent at Bandimere Speedway. The victory in Norwalk took him to seventh in points as he’s meshed well with a new team that includes crew chief John Collins.
It was Collins who guided Johnson to the victory in Denver in 2019, and he’ll look to do the same with Pedregon this weekend in his 11,000-horsepower Snap-on Tools Dodge Charge SRT Hellcat. Though Pedregon is riding high after the victory, he’ll have his work cut out against a loaded Funny Car field that includes points leader Bob Tasca III, defending world champ Matt Hagan, John Force, Robert Hight, J.R. Todd and Capps. But the veteran feels like his team is coming together at the perfect time this season.
“Everybody has done a great job of working together,” Pedregon said. “I had to change some things with my driving because this car drives a lot different. We’re not all the way up to speed, but we’re close. (Collins) has got a great handle on the car and we’ve started to come around. We’re all getting a feel for it and we’ve had a lot of near-misses in Denver over the years. I’ve probably won more rounds in Denver than just about every track, so we all enjoy it there.”
Count Top Fuel star Leah Pruett as another who loves racing at Bandimere Speedway. Driving her 11,000-horsepower Mopar Dodge//SRT dragster at her sponsor’s race will have Pruett beaming all weekend, especially considering she has won at the fan-favorite facility in 2018. Finding more success in Denver would be the perfect remedy to what’s been a difficult start to her 2021 campaign.
But all of that can go away immediately with success in front of a huge crowd at the top-notch facility, though a win won’t come easy. Pruett will have to contend with the likes of three-time defending world champ and points leader Steve Torrence, Antron Brown, Doug Kalitta, Shawn Langdon, Clay Millican, former world champ Brittany Force and Mike Salinas, but Pruett promises her Don Schumacher Racing team will be ready.
“We’ve had a challenging start to the season gaining the proper momentum, but believe our undeniable capabilities paired with our nose to the grindstone in the shop and training work ethic will produce not only the results we expect, but our Mopar fans do as well,” Pruett said. “The Dodge//SRT Mile-High Nationals has always been my most enjoyable event to compete at for a variety of reasons. Starting with being surrounded by dedicated like-minded Dodge//SRT and Mopar enthusiasts really brings the ultimate vibe.
“I am personally looking forward to our season taking a major turn for the competitive best, and believe the Dodge//SRT Mile-High Nationals is the perfect place to do it. I believe our off-the-trailer numbers on Friday night will be very instrumental in the qualifying order, which means nothing is more important than being prepared for that run.”
Andrew Hines has simply dominated on the mountain in Pro Stock Motorcycle, finding the perfect combination over the years to combat the high-altitude challenges on the two-wheeled machines. He has five wins at the track, including his 2019 triumph, while his Vance & Hines teammate, Eddie Krawiec, has four. A long lister of riders will look to end that Denver dominance, including defending world champ and points leader Matt Smith, Steve Johnson and Scotty Pollacheck.
The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service makes its first-ever appearance at Bandimere Speedway, marking what should be a thrilling Denver debut for the action-packed class. It is also the fifth appearance of the 2021 season. The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport, as well as the Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown class.
As always, fans are granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans a chance to see teams in action and service their hot rods between rounds.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature one round at 8:00 p.m. MT on Friday, July 16 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, July 17 at 4:45 and 8:00 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 18. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday and 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, and then eliminations action at 4 p.m. on Sunday.