MORRISON, Colo. – After the kind of slump V Gaines has been in lately on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series circuit, heading home might be the best solution.
That is what Gaines, a prominent businessman in the Denver area, is banking on as the Pro Stock standout starts the three-week NHRA Western Swing with the 35th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway, July 18-20. He has finished as the runner-up the past two years at his home track, losing both times to Allen Johnson.
But that kind of success would serve as a major boost for Gaines and his Kendall Oil Dodge Avenger after a particularly rough five-race stretch. Gaines lost four straight first-round matchups and then didn’t qualify for the most recent race in Norwalk, adding even more salt to the wound. Some important testing at his home track and some valuable down time to find the solution has Gaines confident those problems are behind him.
“We’ve known for the past month what the problem is but we’ve just been unable to find the right solution,” Gaines said. “We’ve been kind of chasing it until we were able to round up the right parts. We’ve been doing quite a bit of testing and I think we’ve got it working. So after testing we know it works up here in Denver. The question is if it will work the next week in Sonoma.”
Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Shawn Gann (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were winners of the 2013 event. The race will once again be televised on ESPN2. It is the 14th of 24 races during the 2014 season and Gaines says a swift turnaround is needed if he wants to stay in the top 10 and qualify for the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship.
Falling out of the top 10 didn’t even seem to be a consideration for Gaines, who is currently ninth in points, after a strong start to his 2014 season. He went to back-to-back finals at the first two races of the season, briefly taking the points lead, and was in second after a semifinal finish in Gainesville.
But things quickly spiraled out of control on the recent stretch that featured seven races in eight weeks. Gaines won just one round in that span as the busy race schedule left him and his team unable to find the solution to his Avenger’s sudden woes.
“You need to test and you need parts,” Gaines said. “We make all the parts ourselves, so it’s tough if you get behind the eight-ball during that kind of stretch. We were trying to band-aid and mask the problems, and we were unable to get something effective. Now hopefully we can emerge again.”
Racing at an elevation of more than 5,800 feet at Bandimere Speedway is always a challenge, but Gaines has seen plenty of positive results from his latest round of testing. A four-time winner in Pro Stock, Gaines has also been impressed with the enthusiasm and work ethic his team has continued to show during this particularly rough stretch.
“Doing what we do, it’s always exciting to get out there,” Gaines said. “Our team is so involved with this that we’re eternally optimistic. We can run well, we have some of the best parts in the class and we make some of the best horsepower in the class. Now we just have to get the car sorted out.”
Gaines is confident that has happened, but he still has to deal with a talented Pro Stock field that starts with Johnson, at least when it comes to Bandimere Speedway. The Tennessee driver has five career victories in Denver and has been especially dominant in recent seasons, while other threats include reigning series champion Jeg Coughlin, points leader Erica Enders-Stevens, who has four wins this season and is after her first win in Denver, Vincent Nobile, Greg Anderson, Jason Line, Dave Connolly, Shane Gray and Chris McGaha.
Still, Gaines is ready to get back to his early-season form when he was a threat to win any race, and he has high expectations next week in Denver.
“By all means I think we can be in the top three or four in qualifying,” Gaines said. “We have a great car and I know we’ll be competitive. Right now we have our problem corralled and we’ll really be ready to hone in on it. We want to do well and we know we have to get our vehicle back on track. We want to win and be competitive. That’s the end goal for us.”
In Top Fuel, Massey is after a second straight win at Bandimere Speedway and currently has two wins in 2014. He will be challenged by Antron Brown, who has two wins at the Denver event and won the most recent event in Norwalk, and seven-time world champion Tony Schumacher. Other top contenders include points leader Doug Kalitta, reigning world champ Shawn Langdon, rising star J.R. Todd, sophomore-sensation Brittany Force, Steve Torrence, Khalid alBalooshi and rookie Richie Crampton.
Pedregon will look to repeat in Funny Car, but will face multiple challenges from a star-studded field that includes current points leader Robert Hight, six-time Denver winner John Force, who won the most recent event in Norwalk, Courtney Force, two-time season winner Alexis DeJoria, Matt Hagan, Ron Capps, Del Worsham, Jack Beckman, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Tim Wilkerson.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, the Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson team of Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec sit first and second, respectively, in the points standings and will face strong competition from the likes of reigning world champion Matt Smith, John Hall, Hector Arana Jr., who won the most recent event in Chicago, Michael Ray and Scotty Pollacheck.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to 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 in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans will also 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 race also will showcase the thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.
To purchase tickets for the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, please call Bandimere Speedway Box Office at (800) 664-8946 or visit www.bandimere.com. For more information about NHRA, please visit www.NHRA.com.
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MOPAR MILE-HIGH NHRA NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 35th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, the 14th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – earn points leading to 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Bandimere Speedway, Morrison, Colo. The track is 10 miles west of Denver, just north of the historic town of Morrison. From Denver, take Interstate 70 west to C-470 and travel south to the Morrison Road exit. Take Morrison Road west to Rooney Road and go north to the track.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, July 18-20.
FRIDAY, July 18 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 4:45 and 7:15 p.m.
SATURDAY, July 19 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 3:15 and 5:45 p.m.
SUNDAY, July 20 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, July 19, ESPN2 will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 11 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, July 20, ESPN will televise three hours and 30 minutes of elimination coverage starting at 2:30 p.m. (ET).
SATELLITE (Digital HD feed):
Saturday, July 19, Midnight - 12:30 a.m. (ET), AMC 2 / Transponder 18C
Saturday, July 19, 10:30 - 11 p.m. (ET), AMC 2 / Transponder 18C
Sunday, July 20, 7 - 7:30 p.m. (ET), AMC 2 / Transponder 18C
(4060 MHz, vertical; Data Rate: 40.46147055 Mbp; Symbol Rate: 29.27 Ms; FEC: ¾; Bandwidth: 36 Mhz)
Video news release contains race action highlights each day and winners’ interviews on Sunday.
2013 EVENT WINNERS: Spencer Massey, Top Fuel; Cruz Pedregon, Funny Car; Allen Johnson, Pro Stock; Shawn Gann, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: Bob Glidden, 7, PS; Joe Amato, 6, TF; John Force, 6, FC; Allen Johnson, 5, PS; Warren Johnson, 5, PS; Matt Hines, 4, PSM
Top Fuel - 3.862 seconds by Antron Brown, July ’09; 319.60 mph by Steve Torrence, July ’13.
Funny Car - 4.073 seconds by Cruz Pedregon, July ’13; 309.91 mph by Jack Beckman, July ’13.
Pro Stock - 6.916 seconds by Allen Johnson, July ’12; 198.70 mph by Johnson, July ’12.
PS Motorcycle - 7.237 seconds by Hector Arana Jr., July ’12; 186.54 mph by Ryan Schnitz, July ’05.
Top Fuel - 3.701 sec. by Antron Brown, Oct. ‘12, Reading, Pa.; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’12, Charlotte, N.C.
Funny Car - 3.965 sec. and 324.12 mph by John Force, Feb. ’14, Pomona, Calif.
Pro Stock - 6.464 sec. and 215.55 mph by Erica Enders-Stevens, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.
PS Motorcycle - 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.26 mph by Eddie Krawiec, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.
TICKETS: Order tickets by phone at (800) 664-UWIN (8946). Tickets also are available online at www.bandimere.com.
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NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. -- Point standings (top 10) following the 13th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:
Top Fuel: 1. Doug Kalitta, 1,130; 2. Antron Brown, 1,082; 3. Shawn Langdon, 938; 4. Tony Schumacher, 785; 5. Spencer Massey, 780; 6. Steve Torrence, 747; 7. Brittany Force, 690; 8. Khalid alBalooshi, 652; 9. Richie Crampton, 626; 10. J.R. Todd, 593.
Funny Car: 1. Robert Hight, 1,067; 2. John Force, 889; 3. Ron Capps, 846; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., 845; 5. Alexis DeJoria, 779; 6. Courtney Force, 764; 7. Del Worsham, 748; 8. Matt Hagan, 739; 9. Cruz Pedregon, 726; 10. Jack Beckman, 655.
Pro Stock: 1. Erica Enders-Stevens, 1,166; 2. Allen Johnson, 925; 3. Jeg Coughlin, 900; 4. Dave Connolly, 875; 5. Jason Line, 863; 6. Vincent Nobile, 840; 7. Shane Gray, 833; 8. Chris McGaha, 600; 9. V. Gaines, 562; 10. Jonathan Gray, 484.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Andrew Hines, 650; 2. Eddie Krawiec, 581; 3. Hector Arana Jr, 515; 4. Hector Arana, 416; 5. John Hall, 407; 6. Matt Smith, 394; 7. Scotty Pollacheck, 375; 8. Angie Smith, 352; 9. Michael Ray, 333; 10. Steve Johnson, 320.