DENVER (KDVR) — The Bandimere Speedway was once a drag strip meant for people to use to appreciate the speed and performance of their cars. Now, 65 years later, the family is relocating to create an upgraded racetrack.
It currently seats 28,500 spectators and has some of the best drag-race views around the quarter-mile track, which has a cooling system that circulates 12,000 gallons of chilled water through 15,000 feet of lines.
Despite its features, current owner John Bandimere Jr. said, “We feel comfortable with leaving, we need more space.”
The final national event at the speedway is the Mile High Nationals this weekend.
Why is it moving?
Over 125 events are hosted each year at Bandimere Speedway, perched at some 5,800 feet above sea level against Hogback Mountain in Morrison.
Rooney Valley has developed and grown, especially over the last few years. Because of this, Bandimere Jr. said, “Once again our family is prepared to surrender our location we have called home for six decades.”
He said they have been preparing for the possible move for several years. They had already relocated the track decades ago, and they could see it coming.
The “Safety Proving Grounds of America,” which the Bandimere family said was intended to be a performance park and education center, initially was planned in 1956 to be built in West Denver, which is now the Arvada area.
But according to Bandimere Jr., after the family got the permits and were about to break ground, the neighbors decided they didn’t want the speedway in their quiet neighborhood. So rather than fighting over it, the family relocated.
Where will the new speedway be?
The family has been exploring options for some time, and now they have given some insight into where the new speedway might end up.
Bandimere Jr. said they plan to take a year off of racing, but they have a couple of plots of land in mind.
One of which is 1,100 acres and is located near the airport.
The plan is similar to the vision in 1956. The family wants to focus on drag racing but plans for the space to be a multi-use facility of possibilities, including “the potential to make a meaningful contribution to the community, wherever it may be.”
According to the website, Bandimere, Sr.’s vision of the original property “included an oval track, drag strip, garages to teach youth about automotive repair and performance, and high-altitude testing facility for Detroit manufacturers.”
Wherever the raceway goes, the family said the memories and pieces that have added to the fabric that is Bandimere Speedway are irreplaceable.
Ray Schoneman has been in the stands and on the track at Bandimere for decades.
“I’ve been to a lot of racetracks around the country, and there’s, none of them are like Bandimere,” Schoneman said. “Back in the 70s is when I started coming here as a spectator.”
Bandimere Speedway is a family affair for Schoneman, starting with a major win the year his daughter was born in 1993.
“My first Father’s Day,” Schoneman said, “I won that event and got my first ‘wally’ so yeah, that’s probably my special memory of this place.”
Schoneman and his 66′ Nova, affectionately called “The Flying Dutchman,” have burned plenty of rubber there and he plans to keep racing.
“If they build another racetrack, it’s gonna be awesome, but you just can’t replace this,” Schoneman said.
Bandimere’s rich history
According to the speedway’s website, some notable achievements in the history of the track include:
- 1968: Bandimere Speedway receives sanctioning from the National Hot Rod Association
- 1977: Bandimere Speedway hosted the NHRA Sports Nationals, which was the first NHRA national event in Colorado
- 1978: The NHRA Mile-High Nationals is the first time professional categories compete for points at Bandimere Speedway
- 1988: Bandimere Speedway undergoes a $4.2 million renovation and does not host an NHRA national event
- 1991: Lori Johns runs a 4.991 during Friday-night qualifying at the Mopar Mile-High Nationals to become the first “4-second” driver on the “mountain”
- 1998: John Force runs 301.70 mph during Friday night qualifying to become the first 300 mph driver on the “mountain”
- 2016: The Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals becomes the first NHRA event telecast live to a national audience on Fox Network television
- 2019: Bandimere Jr. is inducted into the Colorado Motorsports Hall of Fame, 39 years after his father was inducted
The drag racing season ends in October and that will be the last use of the speedway.