Speedway creates good memories for racers

Scott Stocker
Posted

Johnny Gray, who competes in Funny Car, recently experienced a moment at Bandimere Speedway that he said will be a lasting memory. It involves Larry Crisp, John Bandimere’s son-in-law, who was injured last month in a track-cleaning incident on the drag strip.

“What stands out for me is being here at 9:50 p.m. and seeing Larry out there working,” said Gray, who drives a 2013 Charger and hails from Artesia, N.M.  “All this after his accident this summer here at the track. You can race all over the country and never see a family member working this late to get things done and to have the facility in such top shape.”

Gray qualified in the No. 10 position, with a speed of 304.74 mph and a :04.1-second pass up the track. As it turned out, it was not the best of days for Gray in the elimination rounds.

He was defeated by Robert Hight, of Yorba Linda, Calif., in the first round, with Hight making his winning pass at 4.213 seconds; 299 mph.  

“The Mile Highs are a special race for me and a special track,” Gray said. “It’s just one of the favorite tracks for all of us. I once held the track records here in both alcohol dragster and alcohol funny car, fine memories. This will be my last full year, but I’m not getting out of racing. I’ve driven five different classes here at Bandimere in my career. It’s humbling to race here, and I will always have fond memories.”

Top Fuel Dragster driver Brandon Bernstein has yet to win at Bandimere, but his father, Kenny, had some pretty good days on the side of the mountain.

Dad came through to win Mile High titles in 1981, 1985 and 1987. Brandon has two finals at Bandimere and has garnered 20 wins during his youthful career.

“When I was younger I went with dad to the races as soon as school was out,” said Bernstein, from Brownsburg, Ind. “Being at Bandimere was always big for us, and we always like to be ready for the Sunday final runs. This is such a great track and the Bandimere family has always been special to us.”

Bernstein certainly had hopes to come on strong and was feeling better after coming off an injury. He struggled a bit and eventually qualified in 13th (:04.108 seconds, 251.49 mph).

“I’ve been feeling great,” Bernstein said prior to the Bandimere competition. “But there has been some numbness in my foot. I think I can get back into the points race, and we’re ready to meet the challenge.”

Bernstein opened his competition with a 3.949-second pass at 307.16 mph, upsetting No. 4 qualifier Khalid alBalooshi from Brownsburg.

However, his day ended in the quarterfinals when he was defeated by Shawn Langdon, who also lives in Brownsburg (4.090/270.81 to 4.895/157.88).