This weekend is one that Jack Beckman looks forward to from the beginning of racing season.
The NHRA driver is spending his summer the way he typically does, in the midst of the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Starting Friday, the 14th of 24 series events that span from early February to mid-November gets underway at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison.
Returning to the Denver area for the Mile-High Nationals is always something special for Beckman, who made his first track appearance in 1984. According to him, there's something new to look forward to with every trip.
"When I first raced up here 30 years ago, I knew it was something special. Back then it was almost like a little track out there in pretty much nowhere by the mountains," Beckman said. "I stopped racing it for a while and made a return in 2007 and won. By then I was blown away at how it had progressed when I looked up into the stands, taking it all in."
Now past halfway over, the series is entering the "Western Swing" that spends three days at Bandimere before moving to Sonoma, Calif., and Seattle., in three consecutive weekends.
Beckman is racing funny cars, a classification of drag racing named for cars modified to vaguely resemble showroom models of manufacturers. Following the finals in Norwalk, Ohio, on July?9, Beckman is in 10th place with 655 points. Robert Hight leads with 1,067 points and four race wins.
Beckman is the only driver in the top 10 yet to claim a win in 2014.
"It's starting to get a little scary because we're getting into the later part of the season. Now is the time to get things going," Beckman, 48, said. "The field is competitive and the sport is constantly progressing and we need to move along with it."
Bandimere Speedway has progressed as well and is a venue considered one of the best of its kind by those who race it.
Beckman stated that he and other drivers typically hope for 90-degree track weather, which entails temperatures in the 70s with overcast skies, for ideal conditions that provide peak car performances. Bandimere can contribute some to that effort using temperature coils installed under the course near the starting line.
"The fact they can do that shows it's one of a kind. This is one of those races that sticks out because the drivers love it, but the crew chiefs hate it," Beckman said of adjusting to altitude.
"To me, it's really something special because you're in a beautiful place. It's always cool to take a moment when you're on the side of Red Rocks there and look out on one of the most scenic places."
Friday's and Saturday's preliminary rounds will present drag racers with two qualifying runs daily. Sunday's finals begin at 11 a.m. in tournament-style head-to-head elimination rounds, matching each seed based on where their best time ranks. Events will be broadcast on ESPN2.