(07/23/12) The Mile High city of Denver Colorado is home to one of the most unique tracks on the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, Bandimere Speedway, for the Mopar Mile High Nationals. Since its groundbreaking in 1958, Bandimere Speedway has been known as one of the toughest tracks on engines, teams, and drivers due to its high altitude and low air pressure. The track is so obscure that most teams don’t even bother to test at the track in the off-season. Bandimere is perceived as an odd ball/wild card race so testing isn’t worthwhile; Especially since internal engine components must be completely re-designed to run efficiently in Denver’s climate. With all this being said, you wouldn’t think a brand new team with a rookie driver would have a chance right? Wrong!
It is important to remember that it is nearly impossible to make the same horsepower at Bandimere Speedway because there is less air pressure. Teams must lean out their engines to match the available amount combustible oxygen. This, however, allows crew chiefs to ramp up the supercharger boost and use a more aggressive clutch package to get more power down to the ground. This being said, the first round of qualifying at the Mile High Nationals is always an interesting one. Courtney and John Force made their first Funny Car pass side by side. John ran a respectable 4.368 at 281.54 mph. Courtney Force’s Traxxas Funny Car pulled out of the groove causing the tires to instantly lose traction, resulting in a sub-par 5.209 at 141.13 mph. Mike Neff made a solid run, 4.307 at 261.17 mph, which was much better than that of Robert Hight’s. Hight went up in smoke at the 330’ cone, coasting through the lights at 135.39 mph with an ET of 5.431.
As the sunset and temperatures dropped in Denver, the negative effects of racing on a mountain were much less substantial for the second session of qualifying. Robert Hight made an absolutely stellar pass down the track running a 4.135 at 304.53 mph, a run that brought fans to their feet! Courtney Force kept her Traxxas Mustang glued to the center of the track running a 4.212 at 297.94 mph. John Force and Mike Neff gave the fans a great side-by-side pass, illuminating the score board with a 4.188 and 4.208, respectively. After the last handful of Funny Cars made their pass down Bandimere Speedway, the Traxxas John Force Racing Drivers were qualified as follows: Robert Hight 2nd, John Force 5th, Mike Neff 6th, and Courtney Force 7th.
It was obvious that all of the race teams were more confident going into the third session. They now had data from two completely different qualifying sessions and would get a shot at two more in what would be close to Sunday’s race conditions. Courtney was the first John Force driver to make a run on Saturday. Her Traxxas Funny Car only ran a 6.109 at 102.00 mph after it lost traction at the 330’ mark. Her dad had more luck than she did, but his 4.458 at 278.35 mph was still a less than desirable outcome. Mike Neff looked to be headed the right direction until his Funny Car overpower the track late in the run. Neff still ran a 4.552, but it was clear that a run like that wouldn’t cut it on Sunday. That left Robert Hight to finish off the third qualifying session in Funny Car, but his pass looked similar to those of his teammates. Hight’s lackluster 4.597 at 208.55 mph was a direct result of spinning the tires around the 1/8th mile mark.
The good news heading into the final session for all four of the Traxxas John Force Racing drivers was that they were all locked into the race on Sunday! The current weather conditions were nowhere near good enough for anyone to take a shot at improving their qualifying position, so each team got a final shot to make a good baseline run to prepare for Sundays race. Courtney Force was the lead off driver for John Force Racing. A 4.388 at 282.42 mph was the result of her pass. Mike Neff and John Force took their final shot at Bandimere side-by-side. Mike’s 4.316 at 295.01 was better than that of John’s 4.504 at 274.22, and both drivers would remain locked in their current qualifying position. Robert Hight finally made a good run in the heat, a 4.351 at 286.74 mph, to close out qualifying at the Mopar Mile High Nationals. All four of the Traxxas JFR drivers would remain in the same qualifying positions as Friday: Robert Hight 2nd, John Force 5th, Mike Neff 6th, and Courtney Force 7th.
Sundays raceday festivities kicked off as usual. Robert Hight was the first Traxxas John Force Racing driver to roll under the tower and onto Bandimere Speedway. He was lined up next to Jeffery Diehl, the number 15 qualifier. Hight’s 4.251 made quick work of Diehl, who only ran a 5.142. Mike Neff faced a huge round one matchup against Johnny Gray. After a great side-by-side drag race, Neff’s 4.275 was enough to take down Gray’s 4.366. John Force kept Traxxas’ winning ways alive by defeating Tony Pedregon, 4.357 to 4.468. That left Courtney Force with the challenge of locking all four JFR drivers into round two. The Traxxas Funny Car had plenty of muscle to cross the line in front of Tim Wilkerson and take the win. Courtney blazed through the trap with a winning ET of 4.390; Tim could only manage a 5.453. With Traxxas and John Force Racing representing 50 percent of the remaining Funny Car field, chances of a win at Bandimere Speedway were looking good!
After a quick turnaround, Courtney, John, Mike, and Robert were all ready for round number two at the Mopar Mile High Nationals! Mike Neff had to take on one of the hottest drivers in the category, Ron Capps. Neff’s Funny Car definitely out performed that of Capps, a 4.308 to 4.333, but the win light turned on in Ron’s lane. Ron Caps got a .039 advantage off the stripe, which was enough of a make up the difference in ET, and steal the win on a holeshot. In a matchup that is becoming all to familiar, Courtney Force and Robert Hight had to race each other, a rematch of round two in Chicago. Courtney’s Traxxas Funny Car dropped a cylinder instantly, which gave Robert Hight had a huge lead. She stayed in the throttle, and it paid off. Hight struck the tires at the 1/8th mile mark and Courtney just barely snuck by at the line to take the win, 4.496 vs a 4.498. The margin of victory was .008 in Courtney’s favor and the crowd went wild when her win light turned on! John Force, surely inspired by his daughters huge win, annihilated Cruze Pedregon to move on to the semi-final round (4.412 over a 5.591).
Luckily for John and Courtney Force, they would not have to face each other in the semi-final round. John Force was paired up against the number one qualifier, Jack Beckman. The race was over instantly when John red light, one of the few times in his career that he has done so. Courtney saw the red light, as she was sitting in the burnout box behind John, and knew that the weight of Traxxas and John Force Racing had just fallen on her shoulders. Courtney faced the daunting task of defeating Ron Capps. Crew Chief Ron Douglas must have set the Traxxas Mustang for kill, because it ran one of the quickest times we had seen all day in the Funny Car category. Courtney defeated Ron at easily running a 4.259 at 295.79 mph. Ron Capps was only able to manage a 4.367 at 286.32 mph, nowhere near the performance of Courtney Force! Just minutes later, Courtney faced the realization that she had reached her second final in three races!
It was a bittersweet moment for both Courtney Force and Jack Beckman. Jack has always been one of Courtney’s mentors, teaching her how to race, react, and win in a Top Fuel Funny Car; Believe it or not, Jack actually signed Courtney’s competition license! Now here skills would be put to the test, and Courtney did a great job. She got the jump on the line, and led at every incremental until the 1000’ finish line, where Jack Beckman just edged out Courtney by nine thousandths of a second. Courtney’s Traxxas Funny Car was all over the track, skating left to right from half-track on. She did a spectacular job staying on the throttle and keeping the car off the wall. The ET’s showed just how close it was with Jack taking the win, 4.277 vs Courtney’s 4.289. Although Jack came away with the win, Courtney Force is beginning to show time after time why she is a more than just your typical all American girl! With her runner-up finish, Courtney jumps two positions in the points to sixth and moves one race closer to being locked in to the NHRA Countdown to the Championship!
Traxxas was at the Mopar Mile High Nationals all weekend to show off our full line of hobby level RC vehicles. The Traxxas activation is the place to be on Nitro Alley every time we bring our mobile hobby store, setup our dirt Try-Me track, and demonstrate big air demo’s from the Slash 4X4 and E-Revo Brushless! We even had Courtney Force swing by to sign autographs, take pictures, and talk to fans about what its like to drive her 8000 horsepower Traxxas Funny Car! We also gave away a FREE Traxxas Slash! Does it get any better than that! Traxxas plans to bring all this positive momentum from Denver into Sonoma, July 27th-29th, for the NHRA Sonoma Nationals! If you can’t come to the race, stay up-to-date on Facebook.com/TraxxasRacing or on our Traxxas Racing Twitter page.