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'It hits the heartstrings a little bit': Bandimere Speedway racers reflect on memories, track's final season

"All you fans, get out there and see this race before you can never see it again," said racer Greg Carrillo.
Bandimere Speedway_Denver Public Library
Posted at 5:08 PM, Apr 21, 2023

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — Racers across Colorado and beyond are fondly remembering the joys and challenges of competitions at the Bandimere Speedway as the Morrison raceway kicks off its final season.

After 65 years of drag racing along the hogback, the Bandimere family announced on Friday morning that Bandimere Speedway will close at the end of the 2023 season as the owners look for a new location.

John C. Bandimere Jr., chief spiritual officer and second-generation owner at the speedway, said his family knows the continued growth around that area could impact the speedway and they decided to be proactive by trying to locate another possible location.

No possible future locations have been announced, but the National Hot Rod Association said the family has worked with investors on a possible new track and facility in the Denver area.

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Bandimere Speedway in Morrison closing at end of 2023 season

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Weekends in the summer were almost always spent at Bandimere for Wayde Samuel, who grew up in Morrison and now calls Littleton home. He has raced there since 2001 and calls it his second home.

"I had my wedding reception there and that was a truly great day," he said. "Bandimere Speedway is such a special place with such special people."

He said the Bandimere family has had a huge impact on the community of racers. The track's absence will be heavy for him.

"It is a sad time, for sure, because most of my greatest memories were made up there," Samuel said. "I'll miss Bandimere Speedway. We were all so lucky to have such a great facility right in our backyard."

End of the road for Bandimere Speedway

Edward Renck, race car driver in the 1970s and 1980s, said the Bandimere family was great to alongside.

“Living in this area, we made adjustments to the engine to deal with the altitude," he said. "We won two or three times there, and it was memorable. It’s a shame to see it go.”

The National Hot Rod Association (NHRA), along with the Bandimere family, said the 2023 Dodge Power Brokers NHRA Mile-High Nationals on July 14-16 will be the last NHRA national event at the track. Bandimere has been a longtime stop for the NHRA circuit.

This year's competitors are more eager than ever to secure the last win possible at the track.

As Bandimere announces closure, drivers share memories of the track

Racers like Funny Car World Championship driver Matt Hagan have thought perhaps something would happen and the Bandimere family would figure out how to keep the speedway running.

"So many memories, so many experiences, and so many races up there," he said. "It's just been — it's incredible, you know, and I think that this is going to be the last one. It's tough. It hits the heartstrings a little bit."

He said he fought his entire career for a win at the Mile-High NHRA Nationals, finally securing it in 2021 with a 4.105-second pass at 305.70 mph in a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye, according to the Associated Press.

"Our tuneups, the way we run things out there, they just don't relate to how we do things at sea level and most of the racetracks," Hagan said. "So, when you go up there and you do win and you find a combination, it's like, alright, we finally got this. So, it's tough because it's a tough place to win at, and I'm glad that in my career, I've been able to pull that down and get that done. But it's going to be a hole in our schedule, but a hole in my heart."

It's like losing a part of the family, he said. They always knew how to keep people coming back, seeking the next new thrill.

"So, it's very surprising that, you know, as packed as that place is, that they will be getting rid of it," Hagan said. "But at the end of the day, you know, things evolve and things change and you have to move forward."

Fort Morgan Top Fuel Drag Racer Greg Carrillo said he, along with many others, have heard rumors over the years about the possibility of Bandimere Speedway closing. Now that it has been confirmed, he said he's "incredibly saddened."

"It's obviously our home track because we're a Colorado Top Fuel team," he said. "But at the same time, I'm very grateful for all the memories."

He has won the Division 5 race, the Knights of Fire & Thunder, and the Mile High Nationals. He also selected Bandimere as his Top Fuel debut in 2017.

"In my opinion, the greatest racetrack in the world is Bandimere Speedway," Carrillo said. "The view and everything. So, all you fans, get out there and see this race before you can never see it again."

He said it would mean the world to win this year.

Hagan is also hoping for the title.

"I think every single racer wants to win there," Hagan said. "And, you know, there's only going to be one of us in each division to do that. So, it's going to be special for whoever gets that done. We really hope that's us."

Bandimere Speedway to close, search for new location

Top Fuel's three-time Funny Car World Champion Ron Capps remembers thinking the closure of Bandimere Speedway was a possibility after seeing more and more new builds in the area. But he said he's hopeful they can find a new location.

"I have all the confidence in the world they can find a place, but if they don’t, it won’t be for a lack of trying," he said.

A win at the Bandimere Speedway is a special one since it's a mile high, Capps said.

"The fans know it when they walk up to the grandstands," he continued. "And you know the challenge of crew chief... It’s an amazing place to win at. Such a feather in the cap. You get that trophy and it goes right to the front of the mantel."

In a statement, NHRA President Glen Cromwell thanked the Bandimere family for their commitment to drag racing.

“NHRA Drag Racing at Bandimere Speedway has provided so many incredible moments for our drivers, race teams, fans, and partners," Cromwell said. "We look forward to celebrating the 65th anniversary this year to close out this chapter at Bandimere Speedway and remain optimistic about future opportunities to have NHRA Drag Racing stay in the Denver area and to continue to work with the Bandimere family in the future.”

Click here for a list of 2023 events at Bandimere Speedway.

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