Top Colorado Drag Strip Shuts Down as Suburbs Close In

Bandimere Speedway outside Denver shut down for good this weekend after its owners sold the land to developers.

byJames Gilboy|
Bandimere Speedway from the air
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Bandimere Speedway, Colorado's premiere drag racing venue, has seen its last quarter-mile showdown after 65 years in operation. "Thunder Mountain," as it's popuarly known, closed for good on Monday following a final weekend of racing as Denver's ever-expanding suburban sprawl finally reaches its doorstep at the edge of the Rocky Mountains. But it's not because of noise complaints or angry new transplants; instead, the Bandimere family has decided to sell the land to developers.

Opened in 1958, Bandimere is situated to the southwest of the Denver metropolitan area near Red Rocks Ampitheatre. For decades, the track was a hub of regional motorsport, hosting everything from public test-and-tune sessions to NHRA Top Fuel drag racing. It also happened to be one of the most scenic drag strips around, situated in a natural valley surrounded by rolling hills dotted with pine trees. Its closure after this season was announced back in April, but now that the 2023 season is officially over, the bell has tolled for Bandimere.

Locally and nationally, racers and fans alike have speculated the track is closing as a consequence of noise complaints from residents of the newly-built suburb across the highway from the track. However, my report in April found that Bandimere Speedway is exempt from county noise ordnances, and that local homebuyers are briefed on the track's noise and must waive their right to complain about it. The reports would've fallen on the deaf ears of local governance, who have collected tax revenue from the successful racetrack for decades.

Instead, it's apparent the Bandimere family has been interested in selling the land the track is on for as long as 25 years, as documented by local news. With the Denver metro population ballooning over the last decade, and suburbs sprawling outward, land prices along Colorado's "Front Range" at the foot of the Rockies have skyrocketed. Formerly undesirable land is being turned into McMansions, and developers have even built subdivisions over former superfund site Rocky Flats, polluted by nuclear bomb core production.

It's said everyone has their price, and the Bandimeres seemingly got theirs. But that doesn't mean they're leaving Colorado drag racers without as accessible a place to gather for good. Owner John Bandimere Jr. told The Denver Post that the family plans to take a year off before breaking ground on a new, much larger dragstrip somewhere else in the region. Fox 21 reporting the site could be out east on cheap land near Denver International Airport, far enough away from the tendrils of suburbia.

Should the airport-area track come to pass though, it'll establish a motorsport artery east of Denver to the isolated but excellent High Plains Raceway. And only good can come from Colorado's motorsport scene congregating along a single highway.

Got a tip or question for the author? You can reach them here: james@thedrive.com

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