Article and Photography by Corey Davis
We all have those favorite memories—the ones that make us feel like a kid again. For me, one of those experiences was NAPA Auto Parts’ "Night of Fire and Thunder.” Back when I was nine, I participated in "Race to Read,” a six-week program at my elementary school that was designed to encourage literacy by providing a race-themed incentive for students. A paper racecar for each class marked the progress on a large, oval track in the main hallway. Individuals who achieved their goals were given a Hot Wheels car as well as the biggest prize of all—a ticket for the student and their parents to ride a chartered bus to Bandimere Speedway to watch the cars drag race and light up the night.
I am happy to report that the event is still going strong, and it seems to have picked up quite a bit of steam from what I remember as a child.
This year I had the opportunity to return to Morrison, Colorado, and experience this unique event once more. What better way to kick off Bandimere’s season than putting on a show for hundreds of starry-eyed kids?
At 7 p.m., the races began just as the sun started to dip behind the ridge that surrounds the speedway and continued long into the night. The night’s event was divided into eight classes: Purifoy Chevrolet Fast 16/NHRA Top Dragster, Madcap Racing Engines Quick 16/NHRA Top Sportsman, Fineline 16, MagnaFuel Super Series, Team GFYC Jr. Comp Series, Titan 16 Jr. Shootout, NAPA Auto Parts Stick Shift Showdown, and the ET Class.
There’s something special about going to drag races and seeing classic muscle cars lay it all out on the strip. Doing what they are made to do and sounding how they are supposed to sound completes the drag racing experience.
Most of the day and not surprisingly much of the night was dominated by the roaring sounds of the iconic V8. At least that was the case until the Nitro dragsters entered the lineup! Earplugs are a must for such an event. These cars shake your body to its core. It’s like being stuck in a bass drum and having someone furiously pound on it—you can feel the engine hammering on your chest. It’s an epic experience.
The sensory overload continues as the Jet Cars roll out with huge plumes of white smoke and bright orange flashes of fire blasting from the turbines and clouding the evacuated starting line. These cars rumble the ground around you. It’s no wonder they run 1/4 mile in 6 seconds and hit speeds of 290 mph. You would think they’re preparing for takeoff. The sensation is awesome and brings out a huge grin for the kid in all of us.
But there’s more. This event isn’t just about the car and the driver. It’s also about family. These families have invested their lives in the sport, and just walking around the pits and staging area I could see that many of the drivers’ kin were there to help wrench, tune, add fuel, pack the chute, and push the car back and forth from the staging area and then cheer them on at the Christmas Tree. As we stood by taking it all in, watching the kids get involved, we realized that this was what it’s all about—the elders handing down the torch, the heritage of American drag racing. After all, the kids are the next generation who’ll make sure that one of America’s great traditions continues.
A "Night of Fire and Thunder” is certainly a fitting title for this event. There’s no shortage of entertainment, and it’s a great way to kick off a summer of drag racing at Bandimere. Plus, it’s for a great cause. You can be well assured that we will be covering more drag events in the future!