Nitromethane fuel fills the air. Funny car driver, Jack Beckman, puts on the necessities to get into his car.
A fire-resistant suit. Double pair of fire-resistant gloves and boots. A fire-resistant mask and his helmet. All set, Beckman gets strapped into his car.
Once buckled in, Beckman takes a deep breath. But this gasp hurts unlike previous ones. That is because Beckman is taking in the inhale at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison.
"It's an impressive course," Beckman said.
The Mile-High Nationals will take place Friday through Sunday. The 2017 version will mark Beckman's 11th time as a competitor.
His first time witnessing the course was as a wide-eyed 18-year-old stationed in Aurora for Air Force tech school, who attended the event wanting to get as many pictures and autographs as possible.
That experience solidified Beckman's love for the event.
"I was so blown away with this place, I was already a drag race fan, but it's a venue literally in a side of the mountain," Beckman said. "There is nothing like this in the world, except for here. That I was stationed 500 miles away for the next three years, I traveled 1,000 miles round trip to attend the race."
More than 30 years later, Beckman is a three-time winner of this course - 2007, 2012, 2015.
Although Beckman has found success at this course, it is a challenge for drivers and pit crew members.
Since this is a summer race, drivers won't be able to push their cars to the max because of unfavorable conditions.
According to Beckman, the best conditions for a drag race are 65 degrees and a little cloudy. The hotter the conditions, the more drivers have to pull back. However, Bandimere Speedway has installed a system to counteract the temperature.
"It's the only track in the United States, that I am aware of, that has artificial cooling coils underneath the race track," Beckman said. "It is an air conditioner for the asphalt."
Installing coils has allowed crews to be more aggressive with the race track. But teams still have to deal with the altitude.
"There are 24 races at 21 different venues," Beckman said about the NHRA calendar. "The other 20 venues, you can pack your tuneup data into one notebook. But Denver is a separate notebook that sits on a shelf for 111/2 months."
In spite of the conditions, Beckman loves coming to the course. He gets giddy about its uniqueness. His crew disagrees. They can't wait to leave, according to Beckman, because of the hair-pulling conditions.
Beckman first started drag racing when he was 19. However, he was a fan since he was born.
"Yes, I always wanted to drag race," Beckman said. "But I didn't know it would be my profession."
When Beckman got out of the Air Force, he went to go work for an elevator company for 10 years. But all his overtime and vacation time went into drag racing at a local track.
"It's a little pinch me moment," Beckman said of competing at Bandimere.
Even though Beckman has lived his dream, his Air Force background plays a major role in his career.
The side of Beckman's car reads "Infinite Hero Foundation," which helps out injured veterans. Whenever Beckman races, he drives with 20 challenge coins, which is the way to show what squadron you are a part of when in civilian clothing. Beckman takes those coins down the drag strip, so fans can get a unique souvenir.
If a fan donates $100, Beckman will sign and write a personal message. And that $100 will go to the foundation. Beckman has helped raise $350,000 with coin souvenirs.
"Every time our car goes down the race track, it is helping to change lives," Beckman said.
Beckman has always dreamt of becoming a drag racer. He loves this time of the year with the West Coast events coming up. However, Bandimere Speedway has a special place in his heart.
"It's like if someone asked you what your favorite song is," Beckman said. "I have favorite songs for different reasons and I have favorite tracks for different reasons. But when people email or call me and say they want to go to a race they have yet to attend, Denver is always at the top of my list. It's magnificent."