Mopar to Celebrate 25th Anniversary as Title Sponsor of Mile-High NHRA Nationals
· 25th Anniversary of title sponsorship of the Mopar Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway near Denver
· Mopar legends Scelzi and Schumacher will serve as Grand Marshal and Honorary Starter at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals
· 12th edition of the popular Mopar Block Party to be held once again in downtown Golden on Thursday, July 18
· Mopar Block Party to feature driver autograph session, display of classic and race vehicles, and live concert
· Fans invited to play a newly launched “Mopar Drag ‘N’ Brag” video game
Auburn Hills, Mich. (July 10, 2013) –Mopar and Bandimere Speedway will be celebrating their Silver Jubilee at the 34th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals held at the scenic Rocky Mountain drag strip on July 18-21. The brand’s 25-year relationship with the Bandimere’s family Thunder Mountain track and continuous support of the national event is the longest running title sponsorship in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, and among the longest in all of motorsports.
“We are very proud of our long-standing relationship with the Bandimere family, their wonderful facility and the passionate fans that attend the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals every year,” said Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO of Mopar, Chrysler Group LLC’s service, parts and customer-care brand. “Since 1989, this historic track has become our home-away-from-home because of a common passion for this family-oriented sport, grassroots racing and commitment to sportsmen. Through thick and thin over the past 25 years, the Bandimere Family, their track and this annual national NHRA event have become an integral and valued part of our Mopar racing tradition.”
To help celebrate the quarter-century mark as title sponsor, Mopar has invited drag racing legend Gary Scelzi to take on the role of Grand Marshal, and Hall of Fame driver and owner Don Schumacher to serve as Honorary Starter at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals.
A fan favorite, Gary Scelzi, nicknamed the “Wild Thing,” enjoyed a 12-year run as a professional NHRA racer earning enough wins, championships and milestones to cement his reputation as a legend in the sport after completing his racing career behind the wheel of a Mopar HEMI-powered Funny Car at the conclusion of the 2008 season.
“I’m humbled and excited to be asked by Mopar to serve as Grand Marshal and be part of such an amazing event once again,” said Scelzi who earned a win at Bandimere Speedway in a Don Schumacher Racing Mopar Funny Car in 2006. “There are only a few NHRA nationals that have prestige and meaning and where winning really means something extra special. I’d put the Mopar Mile High Nationals amongst the Gatornationals and Englishtown. It’s special not just because it has been around forever and is extremely difficult and challenging, but also because of the Bandimere family. They go out of their way to make everyone, from the fans to the competitors, feel at home. They think of everything and make you really feel like you are part their family and their home.”
Following a successful early start to his drag racing career in the sportsman ranks, Scelzi became a four-time NHRA world champion after winning his first title as a rookie pro racer in 1997, the first of three earned in the Top Fuel class. In 2002, Scelzi successfully transitioned to the Funny Car ranks and went on to drive his Mopar Dodge to the world championship title in 2005 with Don Schumacher Racing. He became just the second driver in NHRA history to capture overall titles in both the Top Fuel and Funny Car classes. With 37 NHRA wins and 44 No. 1 Qualifier spots, Scelzi ranks in the top-20 overall in both categories.
“My history at Bandimere was actually quite horrible,” Scelzi added. “I don’t think I made it out of the first round much but I just loved coming here regardless. It was a huge challenge on track but it was always about family and fun and was always an event, a party everyone looked forward to. When I did finally win with Mopar in 2006, it just had so much meaning and to be invited back to celebrate their 25 years with the Bandimere family is really exciting.”
A longtime ambassador for the Mopar will serve as Honorary Starter at brand’s signature event; Hall of Fame NHRA drag racer and team owner Don Schumacher’s legacy with the Mopar brand began with his first trip to the winner’s circle behind the wheel of a Plymouth ‘Cuda Funny Car at the 1970 U.S. Nationals. Nicknamed “The Shoe” when at the top of his game in the early and mid-1970s, Schumacher earned five NHRA national event wins and is remembered for an unequaled record in match races across the country.
Schumacher’s loyalty and passion for Mopar continues in his current role as team owner, where his track record is as equally impressive as that of his racing career. His racing team, one of the most successful and respected organizations in the NHRA, has won 209 NHRA national event titles and 11 world championships. Amongst those, three of his drivers — Gary Scelzi (2005), Matt Hagan (2011), and Jack Beckman (2012) — have claimed NHRA Funny Car championships for Mopar aboard HEMI-powered Dodge vehicles. For his many contributions to the NHRA and motorsports, Schumacher was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame earlier this year.
“I’ve had a relationship with Mopar and Dodge since the early 1960s when I first started to drag race so to be recognised by them and asked to be the Honorary Starter for the MOPAR Mile-High Nationals at Denver is an incredible honor,” Schumacher said. “I’ve always either been inside a car driving it or behind watching my teams. Now for the first time I’ll be right next to them as the Honorary Starter. That will be a unique experience for me.”