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This weekend the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) brings its Mile High Nationals drag racing to Colorado’s Bandimere Raceway. While normally a much-anticipated stop on NHRA’s 2023 schedule, it comes with a certain dread for a couple of reasons. First, this is the last Nationals for Bandimere Raceway, which will close in October. And also because this ends the Dodge NHRA sponsorship with the organization. 

We keep sitting back, watching in amazement as another storied racetrack closes down for good. From Phoenix to Atlanta and Palm Beach to Houston, drag strips are closing at an accelerated pace. Adding to those Arizona’s Wild Horse Raceway and Auto Club Dragway in Southern California, closing drag strips continue to erode the fabric of drag racing entrusted to NHRA. It is looking into adding tracks sanctioned by the organization that is not part of the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series. 

What does Dodge say about NHRA and Bandimere closing?

NHRA Funny Cars launch at Bandimere Raceway
NHRA Funny Cars racing at Bandimere Raceway | Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty

The Mile High Nationals will run this week at “Thunder Mountain” through July 16 in Morrison. It has been a fixture of NHRA’s calendar since 1978. And Dodge has sponsored the event since 1993, a long association that ends Sunday. The Bandimere family have been shepherds of the drag strip for 65 years, according to CompetitionPlus.

“For decades, the Dodge brand has made magic at Thunder Mountain, racking up race wins and revealing new Dodge muscle cars. And while it’s bittersweet to see it end, we’re sending out the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA Mile-High Nationals with as much horsepower as is humanly possible,” said Tim Kuniskis, Dodge CEO. “With the 1,025-horsepower Dodge Challenger SRT Demon 170 on display, the seventh and final Dodge “Last Call” special-edition model, and with Leah and Matt battling to bring home the final event trophies, we’re hoping to make a few more memories at Bandimere Speedway as we celebrate the end of an era.”

How many years has the NHRA Mile High Nationals been held?

Mile High Nationals crowds at Bandimere Raceway in Denver
Mile High Nationals at Bandimere Raceway in Denver | John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty

And while NHRA President Glen Cromwell lamented the track’s closure, nothing was mentioned about what the organization is doing to shore up its dwindling track sponsors. “We’re looking forward to celebrating this historic facility and event together as we close out this chapter of racing at Bandimere Speedway, said Cromwell. “And we also remain optimistic about future opportunities to work with the Bandimere family and continue NHRA Drag Racing in the Denver area.”

Will there be a major NHRA event in Denver after this?

Top Fuel at Mile High Nationals at Bandimere Raceway
Top Fuel at Mile High Nationals at Bandimere Raceway | Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty

This last bit comes from statements by the Bandimere family. They say they’ll look for another site in the Denver area to build a new strip. It is selling the current facility as surrounding business properties encroach, thus driving up land values. It’s a common thread to all the closures we’ve seen and continue to see. 

On the bright side, new tracks are coming under the NHRA umbrella. Flying H Dragstrip in Kansas City, Missouri, and Pine Valley Raceway in Lufkin, Texas, are two new tracks. NHRA just made the announcement in May 2023. Though Pine Valley was originally built in 2004, the track saw upgrades this year. It will feature Division 4 Sportsman and local racing. Flying H just broke ground and is potentially a future NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series.

Funny Cars at Mile High Nationals at Bandimere Raceway with tower in background
Funny Cars at Mile High Nationals at Bandimere Raceway | Michael Reaves/The Denver Post via Getty

Drag Strips Closing Across U.S. Phoenix, Houston, Arizona Wild Horse, Atlanta, Palm Beach, Memphis