Bandimere Speedway: A life in the fast lane
It wasn’t the best of Father’s Day on the drag strip for Thornton’s Billy Joe Verkler in the Top Dragster classification in last Sunday’s Thunder on the Mountain at Bandimere Speedway.
Verkler went into the final rounds in the event — which was sponsored by Grease Monkey — having achieved the top qualifying time of 6.179 seconds at 229.31 mph among the 35 drivers.
He faced Ken Wolf of Longmont, who ran 7.213 at 186.51 in qualifying, but who entered the field as an alternate in round one after having qualified in the 34th position.
But as racing fortunes have it, or misfortunes in this case for Verkler, Wolf pulled off the upset.
In getting the victory, Wolf answered the green light with a hole shot of .003 of a second to Verkler’s .017.
However, the second round didn’t go in Wolfs favor, either, as he was beaten by Branden Rhodes, who ran 6.756 seconds to Wolfs 7.223.
Winning Top Dragster on a day in which competition was delayed over two-and-a-half hours by rain was Arvada’s Mitch Mustard, 6.964, defeating Robert Ross of Pueblo, who ran 6.965 seconds.
But despite the loss, the season should still prove to be promising for Verkler, driving his 2008 Bos Dragster.
Verkler was born in Davenport, Iowa, 1980, but has lived in Colorado for the past 28 years.
He is a graduate of Horizon High School and started driving competitively three days after his 16th birthday.
His grandfather, Joe, and father, Kevin, helped get him into racing as they both drove on quarter mile drag strips.
“As a kid I worked on the cars and I didn’t play any high school athletics,” said Verkler, who will turn 33, June 27. “Racing has always been a family endeavor. It’s just a kick with my wife, Jen, my kids, Collin (13), Drake (8) and Xander (2) and it great to have them around. There just is a focus to do well and enjoy what we do.”
Verkler feels that racing is just like a hobby. He points out the difference in sports families, many liking football, basketball, hiking and myriad activities not connected with their occupations.
“There has been nothing bad about racing for the family,” said Verkler, who won his first race at Bandimere 12 years ago.
“I’ve had no serious wrecks so I’ve been very fortunate. About the only things that have happened have been engine break downs and a few bangs on the car. It’s all been good from my standpoint and that first win has been one of my best moments.”
Verkler has competed in AA Drove Pro Mod and three years ago competed in a Top Alcohol Funny Car. His best time to date was accomplished last season on the Bandimere track covering the quarter mile in 6.10-seconds at 234 mph.
Verkler, who is sponsored by DR Auto and Truck Repair in Littleton and owned by Dean Bergh, hesitates when asked how many career wins he has accounted for.
“I’ve won 15 to 20, I guess,” Verkler said.
“I’ve lost count. I just want to go out and do my best each race. My biggest win was winning the Night of Fire and Thunder, three years ago here at Bandimere. My last win was also here at Bandimere last season. I just want to keep it going and do a good job. It’s something I really enjoy and having my family around has been one of the best parts.”