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Sellout Crowd Sees Hagan, Brown, Enders & Arana Jr. Grab Provisional No. 1 Spots At Dodge Power Brokers NHRA Mile-High Nationals

Funny Car points leader Matt Hagan just missed out on a track record, powering to the provisional No. 1 qualifier position in front of a sold-out crowd on Friday at the 43rd annual and final Dodge Power Brokers NHRA Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway.

Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also the provisional No. 1 qualifiers at the 10th of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season. The sellout crowd on Friday in Denver gave NHRA its fourth sellout crowd during the 2023 campaign as well.

Hagan put together a run of 3.895-seconds at 324.59 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Dodge Direct Connections Charger SRT Hellcat, putting the three-time world champ in line for his first No. 1 spot this season and milestone 50th in his career. That would be a memorable moment at his sponsor’s race and Hagan, who broke through for his first win on Thunder Mountain in 2021, is aiming for a big weekend in front of an expected huge crowd.

“It’s a lot going on in there, but Dickie Venables is a hell of a crew chief,” Hagan said. “That’s what we’re supposed to do. It’s a Dodge race and we’ve got the car in the No. 1 spot. We want to keep that up and see what we can do tomorrow. A big thank you to all the fans that came out here today and this weekend. It’s such an emotional weekend, but we’re going to put on a heck of a show for these fans.

“It was pretty incredible to be that close to resetting the track record (3.889) up here. We’re making some real power with these Dodge cars. At the end of the day, I’m just excited to be here. I’m trying to take in every lap and every moment. You want to make it count this weekend. That’s what we’re out there trying to do.”

Legendary 16-time champ John Force is second after he went 3.920 at 323.74 and Bob Tasca III is currently third on the strength of his 3.943 at 315.12.

In Top Fuel, Brown raced to the No. 1 position on Friday with a run of 3.783 at 327.90 in his 11,000-horsepower Matco Tools/Toyota dragster. If it holds, it would be Brown’s second top qualifier of the year and the 51st in his career. A multi-time champ, Brown made a big move in the second qualifying session under the lights at Bandimere Speedway, putting on a stellar performance in front of the capacity crowd. Legendary driver Kenny Bernstein warmed up Brown’s car on Friday and the three-time Denver winner followed it up with a strong showing to close out the first day of qualifying.

“Everything is different on the mountain,” Brown said. “When you leave the starting line, you know don’t have the power you do at all the other tracks we go to. But that run there, it felt real good. We got to half-track and I felt that thing was lit on all eight (cylinders), and I felt it arch up and I was like, oh we’re on a run. I looked at the scoreboard and saw that 3.78 and I said oh there we go. That’s the run we’ve been looking for. After testing at Indy, this was a true testament. Coming to Bandimere on the mountain, it’ll show you if you have power or not. That run showed we have some power and we’re looking forward to tomorrow and getting some more runs down the track.”

Doug Kalitta jumped to the second position with his 3.796 at 324.44 and Steve Torrence locked up the third spot on Friday thanks to his 3.800 at 324.59.

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Enders made a standout run under the lights in Pro Stock qualifying on Thunder Mountain, moving to the top with her run of 6.919 at 195.70 in her Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage/Melling Performance Chevrolet Camaro. It puts the defending world champion in line for her second No. 1 qualifier of 2023 and also gives her momentum for the rest of the weekend. That’s big for the five-time world champ, who has yet to win at Bandimere Speedway in her incredible career. She has one last chance to change that, and Enders was thrilled with her start, especially considering some of her early-season struggles.

“It’s definitely better off than where we started the season,” Enders said. “We knew if we put our heads down and went to work, nobody could hold us down for too long. This mountain has been a true challenge and continues to be. We have never won here and that obviously is our goal this weekend. There’s a lot of tough competition, but we’re off to a good start and tonight we’re on the pole. It’s super challenging up here on the mountain but I’m really excited for our performance so far.”

Matt Hartford, who is the defending event winner and the most recent race winner, is close behind, taking second with a 6.919 at 195.34 and points leader Dallas Glenn is third after his 6.921 at 195.19.

Coming off his Pro Stock Motorcycle victory in Norwalk, Arana Jr. kept on rolling on Friday, shattering the track E.T. record on his GETTRX Suzuki with an impressive run of 7.047 at 189.36. Arana Jr. left the track record in the dust, too, putting together a massive pass that puts him on track for his first No. 1 spot this season and the 23rd in his career. He jumped to second in points with his Norwalk triumph and Arana Jr. seems to only be picking up steam as Pro Stock Motorcycle races the full Western Swing for the first time in class history.

“The second I popped the clutch, it smacked me in the butt and I knew we were going to make a killer run,” Arana Jr. said. “I thought we could go in the 7.00s and we went deep in the 7.00s. That was just an awesome, awesome run and I’m just so excited to be able to run that number. To get that (timing) ticket, I was in shock seeing the 7.04. It was just a great run. I feel like there’s a little more left in it, so we’ll see what we can do.”

Rookie Chase Van Sant is currently qualified second with a 7.121 at 188.52, and Angie Smith is third after going 7.133 at 189.42.

Qualifying continues at 2:30 p.m. MT on Saturday at the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway.

This story was originally published on July 14, 2023. Drag Illustrated

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