Kris Whitfield Racer Blog – The Night of Fire and Thunder on the Mountain
This past Saturday was the first premier event of the 2019 race season at Bandimere Speedway and the event brought about a couple different story lines that I couldn’t resist sharing!
If you have had the opportunity to experience Thunder Mountain first-hand, you know the unique nature of the facility. But, if you’ve never attended a premier event at Bandimere Speedway there is still plenty left to experience!
The atmosphere is buzzing, the stands are packed, and the passion for drag racing by racers and spectators is never more evident.
From a racer’s perspective, perhaps the coolest part of the event is that for one night it’s the sportsman drag racers that get the opportunity to show off their cars and their talents in front of a crowd as part of the show.
Race to Read Program
One of the coolest parts about the Night of Fire and Thunder in particular isn’t just the crowd but the reason for the crowd. In 1995 a unique program called “Race to Read” was piloted for the first time at a local elementary school. This program aimed to incentivize kids to read by offering tickets to Bandimere Speedway as a prize for reading a certain number of hours.
The Race to Read program has now carried for over 22 years and has seen over 200 schools participate. Today the program serves as the main driver for spectator turnout for the Night of Fire and Thunder.
The abundance of children and their parents attending the race to celebrate the hard work of the kids makes for a one of a kind atmosphere to race in. As a special treat, the racetrack turns the night into a production by bringing in showcase cars like jet cars and a handful of nitro-burning fuel altered’s to headline the event.
Super Class Season Opener
The Night of Fire and Thunder is also special because it serves as the kick-off event for the season in our super class racing series. That means for the first time of the year we get to turn the throttle stops on and do some index racing.
In Colorado we are lucky to have some very talented racers with top notch equipment so for those of us that enjoy index racing the higher level of competition can provide for some of the most fun racing of the year. It’s also usually the only opportunity that my dad takes to jump in the seat of his own dragster and race super comp.
As luck would have it, we actually staged up together in the round of 5 with the bye to the final on the line. There’s no better feeling of accomplishment than knowing someone in our pit area is going to the final round.
Making the Show!
As far as my own racing, my goal at premier events is always to make it to the nighttime show. To experience the national anthem, racing under the lights, the energy of the crowd— if I was to pinpoint one single feeling that keeps me coming back to the dragstrip every weekend, that might be it.
The Night of Fire and Thunder is the perfect culmination of those elements. However, making it to the show isn’t a given, as typically it takes a semi-final effort or better to make it.
Despite the odds I had the roadster into the semifinals of Super Gas and was also sitting on the bye to the final in Super Comp. Dad wouldn’t want me to share the numbers of our race so we will move past that.
After losing a close race in the roadster in the semi’s, I took my bye run to the final of the dragster where mother nature decided to end the night. A flash flood hit just as we were called back for the finals.
Regardless of the outcome, the opportunity afforded to race in front of the crowd was worth all of the effort that was put into the race day. The pictures tell the rest of the story!
About the Author: Born and raised in Colorado, Kris Whitfield began racing juniors at age 8 and currently pilots a 2004 Undercover dragster and a ’27 T Super Gas roadster. He has 16 track championships as well as 2 NHRA national event wins. With seven years experience working race-operations at Bandimere Speedway and with a life spent in the sportsman pits, Kris offers DragChamp readers a unique and relatable perspective.
For the 2019 season, Kris will represent sponsors Go Fast Energy, Phantom Racing Graphics, DJ Safety, DMP Awnings, Nationwide Productions, Armed Forces Racing, NGK, Precision Specialties, Premier Diversified Insurance, and This is Bracket Racing Elite.