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Littleton’s Berry right at home at Bandimere

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By Michael Hicks

MORRISON — Mike Berry didn’t have high expectations coming into the weekend. The 47-year-old Littleton resident has struggled in 2013. But Berry had reason to be optimistic with his 2010 Buell XB9R Pro Stock motorcycle.
“(It was) better than we almost expected,” Berry said between qualifying sessions at the NHRA Mopar Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway on July 20. Berry qualified third for the elimination round in 7.281 seconds.
Berry’s struggles haven’t been anything out of the norm. The division has been ultra-competitive, but motor issues haven’t helped, either.
“We actually had a motor problem last week. We kind of had to band-aid the motor together,” said Berry, the CEO of MB Precision Machine Inc. “We were happy to see that run (Friday). We made some changes, and we think we might be on to what’s been plaguing us the last year.”
Berry finished eighth in the Pro Stock Motorcycle division in 2012, but the runner-up at Bandimere in 2003 has been struggling this year. He was 15th in points entering the weekend, 90 points back of the 10th and final qualifying spot for the Countdown to the Championship.
“We definitely need to step it up if we’re going to make the top 10,” Berry said.
Berry reached the semifinals on July 21 at Bandimere Speedway before losing to runner-up Hector Arana Jr. He moved up to 13th but fell to 93 points back.
KING OF THE MOUNTAIN: Allen Johnson knows Bandimere Speedway pretty well. After all, the veteran Pro Stock racer has won on the mountain five times, including the past two years. He qualified first after the preliminaries this year, topping Lakewood’s Vieri Gaines for the No. 1 spot.
So why has the Greeneville, Tenn., resident been so good here?
“We test here a lot, and it’s a very important race to us because of our sponsor’s commitment to the race, our commitment to the fans,” Johnson said. “We come up here and really work hard to develop a combination that is superior, and we hope to be able to maintain that.”
Entering the final round, Johnson owned nine of the top 10 fastest times at Bandimere.
Gaines, who lost to Johnson in the Bandimere finals last year, meanwhile, is doing all he can to climb that mountain. The 66-year-old, who scored his first win in four years last October in Reading, Pa., finished a career-best seventh in points in 2012. He made three finals last year. But he couldn’t overtake Johnson on July 21 in a rematch of last year’s Bandimere finals.
NUTS & BOLTS: Besides Johnson, other winners from the weekend were Shawn Gann (Pro Stock Motorcycle), Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Todd Patterson (Competition Eliminator), Dan Fletcher (Super Stock), Justin Lamb (Stock), Chris Bombard (Super Comp), Trevor Larson (Super Gas), Jeff White (Top Sportsman) and Jeff Koron (Top Dragster). … Mopar, the title sponsor for the Mile-High Nationals, and Bandimere Speedway celebrated the 25th anniversary of their partnership with a ceremony on the track July 19. … Bandimere Speedway is celebrating its 55th year in 2013. The quarter-mile drag strip was established by John Bandimere Sr. in 1958. … Bandimere has hosted the Mile-High Nationals every year since 1979 with exception of 1988, when the track underwent a $4.2 million renovation.

Contact Michael Hicks at sports@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 15.