About 40,000 people in the world are licensed to compete in drag racing, and for many of them, racing is a family tradition.
The modern sport was established in 1951 and was designed for adult drivers. But the National Hot Rod Association looked into the future for drivers and expanded its reach to the younger generation by establishing junior dragster racing in 1991. About 3,000 young people, ages 6 to 20, are licensed junior dragster competitors.
Some metro-area families have two or three generations involved in the sport.
In the Denver area, the family drag racing tradition extends beyond the pits and the stands as Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, nicknamed Thunder Mountain, has been owned and operated by the family of the same name for 59 years.
John Bandimere Sr. established the track and his son John Bandimere Jr. ran it for many years. Now the track website lists track management as Tami Bandimere Shrader, president, her dad John Bandimere Jr. as chief spiritual officer and her brother John Bandimere III as general manager and vice president of marketing.
“I grew up at the track and did a lot of different jobs here with no real plans to make this a career,” Schrader said. “I graduated from high school, went to college for a year and then took secretarial courses at Barnes Business College.”
She said she did secretarial work for a couple different companies for about six years.
“I working for a company that was making cuts in 1987 when Dad called me,” the Littleton resident said. “He said his secretary had just left the company and asked if I wanted the job. I took it and I have been here ever since.”
Shrader said her dad stressed family involvement and treating everyone through the gate as family members.
Her brother also didn’t plan to make a career of working in the family business.
“I went to college to study to be an accountant, then switched my major and completed my degree in management,” said John III, nicknamed Sporty. “Dad called and said he needed some help with our auto parts business so I joined the company in 1987 and I have been here ever since.”
He runs a lot of the operations but he also competes in the sport as he drives a jet dragster.
“I love being a part of the family business here at the track and I love the sport of drag racing,” the Lakewood resident said. “I went to college but Dad taught me a lot about how we should learn from our mistakes, try a different path and maybe hit a home run.”
Drag racing is a family tradition for the Kaisers, with granddad, dad and sons all competing in the sport.
Troy Kaiser, a Littleton resident, followed in the footsteps of his dad, Junior, who drove in the 1960s and is still driving. Now, his sons are drivers.
He said the boys have sort of taken over all his spare time as both 13-year-old Landon and 11-year-old Branson are involved in football, basketball and drag racing.
“My most fun at this time in my life is being with my kids and supporting them in all they do,” he said when he joined his boys at the June 24-26 junior drag racing competition at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison.
Landon said he loves all sports and while drag racing is No. 1, football is like a No. 1A on his list of favorites.
“Drag racing is No. 1 because it is impossible to describe how much fun it is to be part of the sport, to get behind the wheel and go fast,” he said. “It is also special because I am able to be with my family as we all take part and share in the love of drag racing.”
The Johnson family of Arvada also is building a drag racing family tradition.
Vicky Johnson said she was watching her dad and her brothers compete in drag racing before she started driving.
“I just grew up with the sport as a spectator. But then I met my husband Steve, who is a drag racer. One weekend he asked me if I wanted to try driving. I said yes. I loved it and I’ve been behind the wheel ever since,” she said. “Our kids grew up around drag racing and they are now involved too.”
Vicky is now sharing her car with her 20-year-old daughter Bri. Vicki runs in the Fast 16 class and then, with a few changes, her daughter drives the car in the super comp class. The couple’s son Blake is 17 and racing for the final year in the junior dragsters, and his mother said he plans to complete the required classes and earn his license so he can begin competing along with his dad, mom and sister.
Drag racing is part of family life for the Steirs. The Lakewood family spent the June 24-26 weekend at Bandimere Speedway so that Owen, 8, and Austin, 6, could take part in the Junior Dragster races.
Christy Steirs, the young drivers’ mother, said the boys spent a lot of weekends at the track because her husband and their uncle Roy Anderson are racing competitors.
“Now they are in junior dragsters,” she said.