Story By: NHRA – DENVER, CO – It’s been three years since Deric Kramer has been able to race Pro Stock at his home track, Bandimere Speedway.
But the good news is Pro Stock returns to Thunder Mountain for the first time since 2019 as the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series kicks off the famed three-race Western Swing at this weekend’s 42nd annual Dodge Power Brokers NHRA Mile-High Nationals in Denver.
That has Kramer plenty excited, as the category didn’t race at his home track last year, and a dream weekend for the area native would be his first Pro Stock win at Bandimere Speedway. Coming off his first semifinal appearance of the year at the most recent race in Norwalk in his Get Biofuel Chevrolet Camaro – as well as a solid test session on the mountain last week – Kramer is thrilled to be back racing in Denver, and with a car capable of winning.
“It’s the first time in three years I’m racing just down the street from where I live, so I can’t wait,” Kramer said. “We got to test at the track last week and I’m just extremely excited. I started racing in Pro Stock here at Bandimere in 2012 and it’s always been a special place to me. I learned how to drive a Pro Stock car at altitude and just remembering what that’s like, this weekend is going to be fun for me.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) won the 2021 event, and this year’s race will be broadcast on both the FOX broadcast network and Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including live eliminations coverage starting at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 17 on FOX. It is the ninth of 19 races during the 2022 Pro Stock season and Kramer hopes the Norwalk result is the start of a strong string as the Countdown to the Championship playoffs loom.
He’s been solid thus far, qualifying in the top five at six of the first eight Pro Stock races, but it’s a nod to just how competitive the class is that Kramer hasn’t won or been to a final round yet. But he continues to push forward, knowing that getting hot on the Western Swing, which also includes stops in Sonoma and Seattle, could be perfect timing for his championship push.
“Testing went well and things felt great in the car,” said Kramer, who is currently eighth in points. “We tried a couple things we thought might help in Denver and I guess we’ll find out when everyone else shows up. We come out there with the expectation to win, but it’s so competitive in our class right now. It’s the most intense competition ever. If you can finish the Western Swing strong going into the playoffs, that’s the best way you can do it. But you can’t just stumble right now and then expect to have a great Countdown.”
Of course, Denver presents some of the biggest challenges on the NHRA tour, as massive changes are needed for each car while racing at an elevation of nearly 6,000 feet. With Pro Stock not racing at Bandimere Speedway since 2019, it will be the first appearance for several young star drivers, including Dallas Glenn, Kyle Koretsky, Aaron Stanfield, Mason McGaha, rookie Camrie Caruso and Troy Coughlin Jr.
Veterans like points leader Erica Enders, who has an incredible five wins in 2022, defending world champ Greg Anderson, who has 99 career wins, Chris McGaha and Matt Hartford will also be on hand, posing plenty of challenges for Kramer. But the biggest one in Denver is usually just trying to solve Thunder Mountain.
“You have to do everything so much more decisively,” said Kramer, who has four career Pro Stock wins. “You can’t be lazy grabbing gears. You have to be on it and snap into it. Up there on the mountain, you have to force it to happen. Even though the runs are slower in Denver, you have to do everything faster. There’s a lot of things that can go wrong if you’re not on your game.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Smith went 13 years between Denver wins, but the defending world champ impressed last year with his victory. He’ll look to keep rolling on Thunder Mountain and pick up his first win of 2022, but Smith will have his hands full against a loaded lineup that includes rival and points leader Steve Johnson, who has never won in Denver, Norwalk winner Angelle Sampey, Angie Smith, four-time race winner Eddie Krawiec, Joey Gladstone, Jerry Savoie, and Gainesville winner Karen Stoffer.
Top Fuel’s Torrence has won the last two Top Fuel races in Denver, showing his skills on Thunder Mountain with victories in 2021 and 2019. The four-time defending world champ will look to continue his dominant Denver run against the likes of current points leader Mike Salinas, Brittany Force, Tony Schumacher, Antron Brown and Leah Pruett.
Funny Car’s Hagan finally cashed in at Denver a year ago, winning a race that had been on his bucket list for years. He’ll look to do it again while facing off with stars like points leader Robert Hight, eight-time race winner John Force, defending world champ Ron Capps, Alexis DeJoria, Bob Tasca III and two-time race winner Cruz Pedregon.
The event also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, which includes some of the sport’s top drivers, as well as the Mile High No Time Big Tire Shootout. After nitro qualifying on Friday and Saturday, fans can enjoy a spectacular jet car racing exhibition featuring the Team “Muy Caliente” Jet Cars. There will be a special fireworks display after racing on Friday and Saturday as well. The race also features the NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League shootout, with eight young drivers competing for the win. The final round will take place on Sunday and will be featured during the FOX broadcast.
Race fans at Bandimere Speedway can enjoy the special pre-race ceremonies that introduce and celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the fan favorite SealMaster Track Walk. The final can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes, where fans are invited to congratulate the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA Mile-High Nationals event winners.
As always, fans also get an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet in Denver. This unique opportunity gives fans a unique chance to see teams in action and service their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers and more. Fans can also visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family. The new Pep Boys midway display will include tire change challenges, oil change challenges, a slot car track and much more, adding even more excitement to the midway.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 3:30 and 7:00 p.m. MT on Friday, July 15 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, July 16 at 2:30 and 6 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. MT on Sunday, July 17. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 10:00 p.m. ET on Friday, 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, and then eliminations on FOX at 4 p.m. ET Sunday.