Street Car Takeover 2017 Denver: Separating the 'Go' From the 'Show'
While Street Car Takeover's Friday night car meet gave a pretty good idea of what Denver’s street car scene is all about, Saturday’s race day at local drag strip Bandimere Speedway would really separate the "go" from the "show." I expected there to be more cars at the Friday night meet, with the serious competitors showing up the following day at the drag strip... boy, was I dead wrong. This event would prove to be the largest Street Car Takeover to date — with hundreds of racers and car show entrees as well as over 3,600 spectators in attendance.
Constructed in 1958 against the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the historic Bandimere Speedway offered stunning views of the Denver metropolitan area from the stands. As soon as the gates opened, cars began pouring into the pits — I realized just how much bigger this event would be in comparison to the Indy one.
As cars rolled through the gates, the amount of imports showing up made me take notice. Last night’s meet at Twin Peaks had its share of import vehicles, but I lost count of the front-wheel-drive cars that were prepping for the drag races. But it didn’t end at imports — American muscle cars, European luxury vehicles, diesel trucks, track cars, even a Mini-Minor fitted with a Honda D15B was getting groomed for the strip.
The fun stuff began with roll racing. Two by two, class competitors rolled through the staging lanes, hitting full throttle as they passed the light tree. Roll racing has its advantages and disadvantages for all kinds of cars, but across the board it takes away the fear of botching a launch during traditional drag racing. Cleetus McFarland from 1320Video was the emcee for the day, waging bets with fans for which lane might take the win, for either a dollar or a run up and down the steep stairs of the grandstands. SCT rules are single round eliminations — meaning if you lose a race, you’re out.
Roll racing winded down as the afternoon monsoon rolled in. Once it had passed cars gathered in the staging area — eight lanes wide, and 20 cars deep — the staging lanes became a spectacle in itself.
As the sun was setting, the all-too familiar smell of burning rubber, sound of turbo spool and the feeling of hot side exhaust pipes engulfed the drag strip. Bandimere had really come alive. Getting all these cars down the track before the midnight track curfew seemed like an impossible task, but thanks to the incredible organizational effort and track crew, things moved smoothly throughout the night.
Much more than money and parts go into these cars, I love that drivers gain a significant edge over their competition with careful launching skills during drag racing. All it takes is a nanosecond of hesitation to lose a race, even if your car outperforms the one in the next lane.
Most of the night went on without incident, but there was one launch nobody there will soon forget. A drag-ready, nitrous-equipped Z28 Camaro had burned out in the water box and was pulling up to stage, it’s hood scoop looked like it belonged on the wing of an airliner. When the classic Corvette in the opposite lane was staged and ready, both cars revved up to launch. At that exact moment, there was an explosion that shot the red hood scoop from the Camaro into orbit.
Reaching about 100 feet into the air, the scoop came back down to earth, landing on the drag strip in front of the car. Fire crews quickly doused the engine bay to prevent any flames from starting. It was said to have been the nitrous igniting which caused the sudden explosion, breaking the hood scoop and shattering the polycarbonate windshield. Incredibly, nobody was seriously hurt in the blast — except of course the Camaro's engine bay, which looked like it had seen better days.
Nothing else like that happened throughout the night, but each class brought along its own style of action. There were some very worthy opponents, with huge front tires, in the front-wheel-drive class that surprised many people. In the street class, everything from an S-class AMG to a Chevy Trailblazer SS ran down the track, showing that you can never judge a car by its badge. Always a hit with the crowd, the Diesel truck class brought a good smoke show.
Like clockwork, the final rounds of each class went down the track just minutes before the midnight curfew, with the final battle of the night taking off at exactly 12:01 a.m. Winners claimed their cash prizes and headed home. “Thriving” would be an understatement for the street car scene in the Mile High City; I can’t wait to see what surprises are in store at the next city Street Car Takeover visits.
Check their website to see where they're headed to next at streetcar-takeover.com.