Memorial Day weekend is prime time for auto racing, as the Indy 500 and NASCAR’s Coca Cola 600 both bring fans to the track for many miles of action. This year the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series returns to Memorial Day action at Heartland Park Topeka in Kansas, home of the NHRA Kansas Nationals Friday through Sunday, May 23 through 25.
“We used to race in Topeka on Memorial Day and I am very excited to be going back on that date,” said Funny Car driver Robert Hight. “We will get a lot of fans that camp out for the event, so it will have an atmosphere like Brainerd. This race facility and racing surface are top notch and the fans are great.”
Up until this point, many of the NHRA events have run with weeks off in between. Beginning with last weekend’s Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway, however, the series is in a stretch of seven events in eight weeks. The Kansas Nationals fall in the middle of a three-week stretch, followed by the Toyota NHRA Summernationals in Englishtown, New Jersey; after a week off, the series heads to Bristol, Tennessee, Epping, New Hampshire, Chicago and Norwalk, Ohio for four more races.
In 2013, Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Johnny Gray (Funny Car) and Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) took home Wallys from HPT. Langdon and Coughlin Jr. return to defend their titles, while Gray’s Funny Car returns with Tommy Johnson Jr. behind the wheel. 16-time Funny Car champ John Force has an all-time best nine wins at Topeka, while his John Force Racing teammate Hight is currently leading the points in the category.
“Topeka has a lot of history for funny cars, including the first 4-second run, the first 300 mph run, and the first run in the 4.8 second range,” said Hight. “That proves that this facility is great. I have won here before and want to add another.”
2012 Top Fuel champ Antron Brown, who has wins at Phoenix, Charlotte and Houston this season, has been good in qualifying but has yet to put the whole package together at Topeka.
“I love going to Topeka but I want to see if it looks any greener from the winner’s circle,” said Brown. “I’ve won three poles there (2009-10, 2012) but never gotten to the final round. It’s been different things that have come up to bite us and this could be the year we get four win lights. So far this year, everything’s been good to our Matco Tools team and this could our year in Topeka.”
2013 Pro Stock champ Coughlin Jr. would like to bring home a third Wally from HPT, but knows the competition, including his teammate Allen Johnson and points leader Erica Enders-Stevens, will not only be tough but ready to put on a show for the fans.
“This NHRA race is going to be fun for every fan and we’re going to put on one hell of a show,” said Coughlin Jr.
Qualifying for the NHRA Kansas Nationals begins Friday, May 23 at 4:30 and 7 p.m. CT, concluding on Saturday, May 24 at 1:30 and 4 p.m. CT. Eliminations begin Sunday, May 25 at 11 a.m. CT.
Source: “Racing on Memorial Day Weekend Adds Extra Boost of Excitement for NHRA Stars at Kansas Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka,” NHRA Media, May 8, 2014