A Rumble On The Mountain

A Rumble On The Mountain
Issue 7 // 2nd Quarter // 2014 Category:Family By: Jessica Burchfield

Within an industry that measures victory by the millisecond, John Bandimere, Jr. measures his success not by split-second finishes, but by his multi-generational family legacy of service to God. Bandimere Speedway not only draws thousands of racing fans each year to its cutting-edge facilities, but also introduces racers to the redemptive power of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Established in 1958, Bandimere Speedway has become a standard in drag racing venues and hosts over 125 events a year, including the Mopar Mile-High National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Nationals. NHRA Driver Antron Brown holds the track record of a 3.862-second quarter mile run with a speed reaching over 300 mph. Owner of the world famous Bandimere Speedway, John Bandimere, Jr., assumed the role of president from his father, John Bandimere, Sr., the founder and builder of the drag strip. 

Aptly nicknamed “Thunder Mountain,” the Speedway is perched atop a Colorado peak, 5800 feet above sea level, and is famous for its quarter-mile drag strip and seating capacity of 23,500 spectators.  As the only NHRA sanctioned track with a downhill staging area and an uphill shut down strip, the Speedway is unique in the world of drag racing. It is one of only three all-concrete event strips in the NHRA and is known as the best-lit track in the country. 

But according to John Bandimere, Jr., that’s not what makes Bandimere Speedway a success.

“When the world looks at us, they see our brand. They see Bandimere Speedway, Thunder Mountain, and the Mopar Mile-High Nationals,” said John. “We have always been on the cutting edge of the racing world. We were the first track to implement a computerized timing system, and we are known for many innovations in track preparation. But above all that, our success first and foremost is that we have honored the Lord in everything we have done. In our eyes, true and real success is that others would come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior. That is most important. How could success be anything else to a believer? It’s what we live by.” God has blessed the Bandimere family for their dedication to Biblical success. 

For Such a Time as This

In 1958, John Bandimere, Sr. purchased land outside of Denver and began building the Speedway. He did not set out to build one of the most famous drag strips in the United States, nor did he dream of becoming a leader in cutting edge racing technology. He simply followed the Lord each step of the way.

Initially facing community uproar over the noise of a drag strip, John Bandimere, Sr. did not give up on his dream. In 1956, he pleaded with the county commissioners to approve his proposal to develop a drag strip; he was granted his plea and began searching for the perfect location. A parcel of land was acquired, and construction began in 1958. As with many ventures, the Speedway was wrought with financial pressures, environmental hazards, and community criticism, but today, Bandimere Speedway stands as one of the most successful tracks in the country. 

In the fall of 1987, a devastating windstorm swept through, and the Speedway sustained millions of dollars in damage. “It took the grandstands and blew them right into the track,” said John. “It was a weather phenomenon. When the insurance company informed us that they would take care of the damage and haul away the scrap, I asked if I could save him the trouble by keeping the grandstands. We took every stick apart and reused them. They’re still standing today as a testament to God’s miraculous grace to our family.” 

"My dad’s dream to build a safe place for kids to get off the streets became a reality, but not without hard work and struggle.” John Bandimere, Jr.

In 2013, Bandimere Speedway celebrated 55 years of drag racing success. John Bandimere, Sr. began with the dream God placed upon his heart, taking each step in obedience to Biblical principles, and created a unique place of retreat in the Colorado Mountains. 

“The verse in Esther that states, ‘…for such a time as this…’ truly became a banner for Bandimere Speedway,” said John. “My Dad’s dream to build a safe place for kids to get off the streets became a reality, but not without hard work and struggle. It’s been a long road, but we just finished our 25th year with Mopar as our corporate sponsor. Bandimere Speedway has the longest running sponsorship in all of motor sports. Try to tell me that we don’t serve an awesome God!” 

A Well-Oiled Machine

Bandimere Speedway was named as one of the favorite tracks in the business. “Despite the numerous challenges that the track presents and the different tune-up strategies that must be applied to be successful [due to the altitude, Bandimere Speedway] remains one of the most popular stops for NHRA Mello Yellow Drag Racing Series competitors.”

Eddie Krawiec, NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Pro Stock Motorcycle racer and three-peat world champion, described the Speedway in an interview with NHRA. “Racing at Bandimere puts a premium on rider skill,” he said. “Precision always counts in NHRA Drag Racing, but it’s really key to winning in Denver.” 

Because the racing world respects the Speedway for its unique challenges and difficulties, the Bandimere’s see action on the track year-round, not only during the peak racing season of April-October. Operating under a fiscally responsible business plan, the large events only comprise 50% of the yearly budget, while other smaller events, including corporate retreats, make up the remaining revenue needed. 

"For a long time, I said that it’s my racetrack. I never say that now. It’s God’s track and He’s allowing us to play here.” John Bandimere, Jr.

“It’s been a process of grace,” said John. “We had to sit down and figure out what would happen if inclement weather rained out a three-day national race. It’s unlikely, but it could happen. All these things had to be thought of; God gave us this track, we need to be responsible with it. My dad instilled in us a solid work ethic. We understand that we do what we have to do to get the job done.” 

Not only focused on the entertainment industry, Bandimere Speedway is also involved in promoting literacy to elementary-age students at Rooney Ranch Elementary School in nearby Lakewood, Colorado. The Race to Read program is a six-week reading program, designed to encourage reading by providing an exciting race-themed incentive for students. National racers and local businesses have supported innovative ways to help inspire a love for reading for the past 17 years through the Race to Read program.

A Legacy of Success

At its etymological root, success is not defined as the amount of money a person makes; rather, success is the accomplishment of a goal or purpose. To view success in a monetary light is to cheapen the very essence of the term. Success is achievement, the completion of a task, the end of the race; success is legacy. 

The Bandimere family takes the Great Commission seriously and holds regular Bible studies at the facility, including Sunday services at the track with the Speedway chaplain, Ken Webb. John has personally had the opportunity to lead many racers to the Lord. “God has laid on my heart a desire to share His word,” he said. “It’s a unique dichotomy: when you share Christ with someone, you think you’re selling Christ, but the Holy Spirit really does all the work! The Holy Spirit just grasps hold of their hearts. It has been so exciting to see these racers come to know Christ. It’s unbelievable. The Lord has placed us here to be ministers to the racing community. We are racers for Christ.”

Following the Old Testament admonition to train the next generation, John Bandimere, Sr. spent the time necessary with his son to ensure the continuation of an upright, God-honoring business within the racing world. By setting out to glorify God in every aspect of the Speedway, the Bandimere family has created a unique venue in which spectators and racers alike are exposed to the redemptive power of God’s grace.

“Here at the Speedway, we believe in grace—God’s preeminent grace,” said John. “Grace gives us the ability to live without condemnation within this wicked world. Most people don’t realize how free we are in Christ. When we ask Jesus Christ to be our Lord and Savior, He saves us and says He puts us in his hand and no one can pluck us out. Nobody. That’s love. That’s grace. That’s what we want to tell the world. That’s what we live for. That’s what Bandimere Speedway is all about.”

Not afraid to align themselves with Christianity, the Bandimere family is a vibrant testimony of God’s grace within a culture that desperately seeks long-term fulfillment through split-second finishes. More concerned with the state of a man’s eternity than a 3-second quarter mile, John makes it his mission to proclaim the love of Christ.

“My dad wanted this facility to be a place that would honor the Lord Jesus Christ in all that we did,” said John. “I wish now that I’m the age I am that I could go back and have a conversation with him about certain things that he learned. I attempt to run the facility today in honor of his memory and with the most important thing in mind: that God would be glorified in all that we do. We never have an event that we don’t start with prayer. Whether it is Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, we pray. Maybe that day will come when we are told we cannot pray, but until they put me in jail, we’re going to pray.”

Prayer, faith, and family are the foundation stones of their success.  

“My kids are all involved in the track; it’s a family business. They run concessions and do whatever needs to be done. We have the chance to love on a whole lot of people here. Some people just don’t see it that way, but we make it our mission to shine the light of Christ into the drag racing world.”

According to John, the foundational legacy of the Bandimere Speedway is that it belongs to God. “For a long time, I said that it’s my racetrack,” said John. “I never say that now. It’s God’s track, and He’s allowing us to play here. How long will He let us play here? I don’t know, but the Lord positioned us in this property for a reason. When we understand that, we are not surprised when the business goes well. We’re also not surprised if it doesn’t do well. God is in control. We just continue to do our job.”