Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – MORRISON, CO – When it comes to his home track, Deric Kramer isn’t afraid to dream big. That’s why the Pro Stock standout’s high hopes at Bandimere Speedway, home to this weekend’s Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil, include taking over Allen Johnson’s throne as the dominant Pro Stock racer on the mountain.
Johnson, who retired from the class following the 2017 season, had an incredible run at the track that included seven victories from 2007-2016. Like everyone, Kramer was in awe of that success, but he had his first accomplishment there a year ago, qualifying No. 1 for the first time in Denver. The next step is his first win at the scenic facility in his American Ethanol Novozymes Camaro to kick off the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series’ famed Western Swing.
“Ultimately, when Allen retired, my goal was to be the next ‘King of the Mountain,’ and I want to win there as much as he has and more,” said Kramer, who has three career Pro Stock wins. “You need lots and lots of runs (to have success in Denver), but I think that puts me in a good position. I think Allen being here, testing, developing motors up here, I think that helped him a lot. For me, I think being here and being able to make runs here will help a lot in the future. You have to get that feeling racing up here, and being able to drive as well as tune is definitely part of it.”
Leah Pritchett (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 and FOX, including live final eliminations on FOX at 3 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, July 21. It is the eighth of 18 races during the 2019 NHRA Pro Stock season and Kramer has come on lately, winning in Chicago and qualifying No. 1 at the most recent Pro Stock race in Norwalk.
Following his breakout season a year ago, when Kramer won the first two races of his professional career and advanced to the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship for the first time, Kramer seems intent on making another positive step in 2019. He’s currently seventh in points, but Kramer believes he’s in a much better spot when it comes to competing for a title in the talent-filled class.
“I think the biggest thing we learned last year was how to transition from racing every week to racing across the season,” Kramer said. “We had raced primarily part-time seasons, and last year was the first time we were close to a full season. We went to every event like it was a brand new event, and we didn’t stretch out parts well enough to know that. We made mistakes and that affected us down the stretch. Knowing that now, I think it will help us.”
Kramer is confident he can start the NHRA’s famed Western Swing, which also includes stops in Sonoma and Seattle, on a good note in Denver, and racing close to home means a great deal for the Sterling, Colo. native. There will be plenty of top names to try to disrupt his fun in Denver, including points leader Bo Butner, defending winner Anderson, Norwalk winner Chris McGaha, Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Erica Enders, but being motivated won’t be a problem for Kramer this weekend.
“Our car has been running great,” Kramer said. “Being able to dominate all four sessions and then qualify No. 1 again would be ideal, and hopefully that’s the path we can go down. I started my racing career in Denver, all the way back when I was seven years old. It’s my home track and there’s definitely a lot of history there, and you always want to do well.”
Pritchett will try for her first win of 2019 and second straight in Denver against points leader Steve Torrence, who has seven wins in the past eight races, Brittany Force and Antron Brown
After winning last year in Funny Car, the legendary J. Force will try for his 150th career win, facing off with stars like points leader Robert Hight, defending champ J.R. Todd and Matt Hagan.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Arana Jr. aims for a second win in Denver, though it won’t be easy squaring off with points leader Andrew Hines, defending world champ Matt Smith and Ryan Oehler.
The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport. Fans will want to be sure to catch the Dodge Pennzoil celebrity race on Friday as well as a No-Prep exhibition on Saturday.
After Nitro qualifying on both Friday and Saturday, fans can watch a pair of spectacular Muy Caliente jet cars. Jet cars are thrust driven propelled by jet engines with exciting pre-run flame shows. Friday and Saturday conclude with a spectacular pyrotechnic display.
Along with the exciting on-track action, the Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil will honor first responders with NHRA’s “Salute to First Responders” celebration. Actress and model Carmen Electra, who has graced the side of Jim Campbell’s Cattleman’s Cut Funny Car this season, will serve as the Grand Marshal for the event on Sunday.
NHRA fans can take part in the Mello Yello Walking Tour to see the cars and teams hard at work in the pits. Fans can also attend Nitro School to learn how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds. Bandimere Speedway will host a Mello Yello autograph session and allow fans to meet their favorite drivers as well as the Cruising with Castello Sealmaster Track Walk hosted by NHRA announcer Joe Castello. Another can’t-miss experience is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes. NHRA fans are invited to congratulate the winners of the event as they celebrate their Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil victories.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
The 18th annual Mopar Big Block Party Presented by Pennzoil will return on Thursday, July 18, from 6-10 p.m. in downtown Golden. The event includes an autographing signing with NHRA stars, as well as the chance to check out Dodge//SRT Mopar drag cars and FCA US production vehicles. The free-admission fan event includes live music from the Steve Thomas Band, the chance to grab seat time in Dodge Demon race simulators and Pennzoil virtual simulators, food and drink stations and much more. Fans can also share their Block Party experience on social media by using #MoparBP19 or #MoParty. For more information, visit the blog section at www.Mopar.com.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:15 and 7:15 p.m. on Friday, July 19, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, July 20, at 4:15 and 7:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 21.