A good showing would continue to bolster Johnson and his teammate Coughlin in their pursuit of Pro Stock points leader Mike Edwards, who won his fourth race of the season last weekend in Norwalk.
But Johnson and Coughlin have built momentum in recent events, with Johnson winning in Epping, N.H., and Coughlin taking the victory the following week in Chicago. In all, Johnson has three wins and six final round appearances, which includes a runner-up finish to Edwards in Norwalk.
Johnson remains second in points to Edwards, who has 38 career wins but none in Denver, and he hopes a fifth victory at Bandimere, which would tie him with Warren Johnson for the second most in NHRA Pro Stock history, would give him the same boost it did a year ago.
Plus, performing well in front of the large Mopar contingent is always a good thing for the Greeneville, Tenn. native.
“It’s very gratifying to do well in Denver, especially since that is your sponsor’s race,” Johnson said. “Hopefully we can go out there and do the same thing, but this is an event that the team really looks forward to each and every year.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence there. Our team is a very mature one that works well together, so we’re expecting more good things this year.”
The high altitude presents numerous challenges for all of the NHRA’s stars, who will all be looking to have a memorable weekend in the mountains to kick off the NHRA’s traditional three-race Western Swing.
In Top Fuel that includes points leader Shawn Langdon, who has three event wins in 2013 and has been battling neck-and-neck with seven-time world champion Tony Schumacher. The star-driven class also includes the likes of Spencer Massey, defending world champion Brown, and 2013 event winners Bob Vandergriff, Khalid alBalooshi and Steve Torrence. Other top contenders include Doug Kalitta, Morgan Lucas, Brandon Bernstein and Clay Millican.
Mat Hagan, the 2011 Funny Car world champion, currently holds the Funny Car points lead, but the class remains as competitive as ever and Johnny Gray, Ron Capps and Cruz Pedregon have all spent time in the top spot in 2013. Gray has four wins and is the most recent event winner in the class, while John Force is riding a hot streak that includes a victory and has bumped him into championship contention. Daughter Courtney has already posted two wins this season, while other standouts in the tightly-competitive class include defending world champion Jack Beckman, Del Worsham, Alexis DeJoria, Tim Wilkerson and former world champion Robert Hight.
The Pro Stock Motorcycle category has featured outstanding racing all season with a field that is separated by thousandths of a second. Hector Arana Jr. has three wins and the points lead, but two-time event winner Michael Ray has moved into second. Other talented riders like recent Norwalk winner Matt Smith, John Hall, Scotty Pollacheck and Hector Arana Sr. are poised for success in Denver as well. Defending world champion Eddie Krawiec and teammate Andrew Hines have also combined for four wins at Bandimere.