Throughout the course of the 2012 Full Throttle Drag Racing season, teams will be challenged to adapt to a variety of conditions, from differing racing surfaces to myriad atmospheric changes.
However, nowhere will the assignment be more difficult than at this weekend’s Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals in Denver, CO, where the naturally aspirated Pro Stock cars will be throttled by the razor-thin air, producing elapsed times nearly half a second slower than at other tracks.
In his previous 11 races at Bandimere Speedway, site of this weekend’s event, Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro driver Greg Anderson has notched two national event victories, four #1 qualifying performances and won two-thirds of the elimination rounds he has contested. Even with his most recent triumph in 2008, Anderson and his crew have been studying hard since the last race in Norwalk, working to come up with an effective plan for reaching the top of “the mountain,” as racers refer to the scenic quarter-mile.
“To be honest, we’ve struggled with that Denver rascal for the last few years,” Anderson said. “It’s a neat place to race—a cool city and a great racetrack, with the Bandimere family and their entire staff doing a tremendous job. However, the conditions on the mountain are so different that it’s probably our toughest challenge of the entire season.
“We were unable to test there this year, so we’ve been hitting the books, poring over our notes from previous races, trying to come up with a good game plan for our Summit Racing Camaros. We’ve been fast there in the past, so we know we can do it. It’s just up to us to find a way to get back to that level of performance, and we’ll know how well we did once we get there.”
As Anderson explains, racing in the Mile-High City requires much more than a few simple adjustments. Unlike their brethren in the nitro-driven categories, the “factory hot rods” will lose almost 30 percent of the horsepower normally available to them, completely changing the tuning dynamic, and necessitating the use of parts specifically made for this one race.
“We enjoy going to Bandimere, but our race cars certainly don’t,” Anderson said. “Because of the lack of oxygen, the engines are choked down from the 1,400 we run at other tracks to about 1,000-1,100 in Denver, which goes against the grain of what we have tried to incorporate into the design of these Summit Racing Camaros.
“For example, we have gear sets we’ll use there and nowhere else. Basically, we have to make the motor and the car do something they weren’t built to do, which is a very tough assignment, and why we have been studying our notes. We’re trying to find the right answers, seeing what we need to do to perform well this weekend.”
Anderson teammate Jason Line echoed those sentiments.
“It is a very tough place to race, and we will certainly have our work cut out for us this weekend,” Line said.
He talked about the tough racing conditions.
“The tune-up required to run in Denver is way different from anything else we use the rest of the year. Although the off-brands have run well there recently, we have a few different things we’re going to try in our Summit Racing Camaros this weekend. It certainly won’t be easy, but I think we can give them a run for their money.”
As Line suggested, Mother Nature will be far from the only challenge facing the KB Racing team this weekend. Although he has mounted a solid defense of his 2011 championship with one win in four final round appearances, a showing that will allow him to lock into this year’s Countdown to the Championship simply by qualifying in Denver, heading into the second half of the season, he believes further improvement will be necessary both in their equipment and their at-track performance.
“Racing in Pro Stock is extremely tough at the moment, with any mistake, no matter how small, potentially costing you the race,” Line said. “That’s why we’re constantly working to find whatever edge we can, including maximizing the performance of our Summit Racing Camaros. It’s a great-looking piece, and even though we are not yet where we need to be with them, they have already shown themselves to be good race cars. We just need to get them in their happy spot, and we’re not going to stop trying until we do.”