It was a brisk, fall afternoon. South of Denver, the sun was shining and the calm wind had blown colorful, crunchy leaves off the trees. It was the perfect weather for Bandimere Speedway to hold its final event on Oct. 22 before closing the gates and locking in all the memories made at the racetrack.
For 65 years, Bandimere Speedway served as a place to create memories for fans and racers. Bandimere Speedway, also known as ‘Thunder Mountain’, was located in Morrison. The speedway was a quarter mile drag strip where racers would drive in a straight line and not an oval track.
Tami Bandimere, the president of Bandimere Speedway, and Ryan Richart, a Colorado native, share a parallel connection through similar memories of growing up going to the racetrack. One was born into the family business, and the other was born into a family that loved spending time at the track.
To accommodate the amount of people who visit the facility, the Bandimere family determined it would be best to move to a larger facility. The family has been trying to finalize the sale of the speedway, find a new facility and deal with emotions. Family members never planned more than five years in advance for the past 30 years.
“65 years is a long time. It becomes something April through October that people are here non-stop,” Bandimere said. “In fact, when we say goodbye to people in October, they’re like very emotional.”
Richart has been visiting Bandimere Speedways for over 30 years. Many of his favorite memories are from when he attended the Mile High Nationals. He explained that some of his best childhood memories were with his father at the speedway.
“Being able to go sit on the side of a mountain and watch cars race down a track is an experience that is one of a kind. At least for me,” Richart said.
Richart continued to create more memories as an adult. He attended events with his wife and daughter at the speedway. Over a 10 year span, he attended the Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway.
For the past 35 years, the Bandimere family has had the longest-running national event sponsorship in the history of the National Hot Rod Association. Some fans were unclear about where the Mile High Nationals would be held in Colorado next year since it is the most popular event of the year. The National Hot Rod Association took Colorado off the tour for 2024 to support the Bandimere family’s decision to move.
“There’s been so many things over the years that have just provided really great memories and learning experiences and things that are just really special,” Bandimere said.
The racetrack has passed through three generations. Bandimere reminisced about what it was like growing up on a racetrack. She worked every job there was at the speedway from concession stands, the starting line, sitting in the tower, passing out timeslips, to collecting trash. Eventually, she left to go to college and spent some time away before making the decision to come back to the family business. She has been at the racetrack for the past 35 years.
“It’s the memories,” Bandimere said. “I don’t get very emotional, but I think about my grandparents. I don’t think they ever would’ve thought that this place would be here in 2023.”
Bandimere Speedway has partnered with the Colorado State Patrol since 2003, for Test-and-Tune night. During the season, the event took place every Wednesday night. The partnership helped law enforcement combat issues of street racing. It provided the community with a safe environment to race.
“My grandparents started this basically as an educational place. Originally, it was called the Safety Proving Grounds of America. My grandpa wanted it to be a testing facility, but he also wanted a safe place for kids to take their vehicle to race,” Bandimere said.
The idea of moving toward Denver International Airport was abandoned once the Bandimere family inspected the property. Discovering foundational issues, the family was no longer interested. The family hopes to find a new location that is over 400 acres to allow for a larger facility. They only utilized 120 acres of the 160 that the speedway originally sat on.
“Most everyone thought they knew exactly what we need. They don’t,” Bandimere said. “We pursued some of them. It’s not easy moving an airport. That’s pretty much what we are.”
It has been difficult for the Bandimere family to finalize the sale of the speedway with the underlying conditions most people were unaware of. The speedway never had water or sewage lines, which is an ongoing concern for prospective buyers. There is only one interested buyer, who remains anonymous under a non-disclosure agreement.
“When you hold things loosely it’s easier to let them go,” Bandimere said.