TOPEKA, Kan. — Spencer Massey has gathered some special memories over the years at Heartland Park Topeka, a racetrack that he considers his home away from home.
The driver of the Schumacher Electric dragster has been to the last two finals at the popular Midwestern dragstrip, but his history there begins well before the 2011 season.
“I ran my first national event in an alcohol car there,” said Massey, a Ft. Worth, Texas native. “It has always been a track that has been special to me. I’ve won there and tuned a lot of cars there. I won my first race for DSR at that track. I am very familiar there. It’s like my second home track, behind the Texas Motorplex.”
Massey will try to make it three finals in a row and claim his second win at Heartland Park, May 17-19 at the NHRA Kansas Nationals. David Grubnic (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car) and Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) are the defending winners of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event that will be televised on ESPN2HD.
Massey says everyone in the area rolls out the red carpet when the circuit comes to town.
“The city of Topeka is really a racer-friendly town,” Massey said. “It’s fun to go there because everyone really supports the race and it’s something everyone there looks forward to each and every year. As racers, we enjoy the atmosphere of that event and we always look forward to getting back out there.”
Massey holds the Top Fuel track speed record at 329.10 mph, which he set last season. Over the years the track has become known as a high-performance showplace, and that also puts Massey in a great mood to go racing there.
“As a driver you get really pumped anytime you get to go to a track that has a reputation for producing great performance numbers,” Massey said. “We want to win races and championships, but we also like to make these cars go as quick and fast as possible. For years Topeka has been a track that’s been known as a record-breaking place.”
While the potential for records will be a part of the mix at Heartland Park, the focus for all Top Fuel drivers will be dealing with the incredible level of talent in the category at the moment. Five different winners have emerged with Wally trophies in the first seven races. Massey, who won the Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at Charlotte, N.C. in mid-April, says he expects more of the same throughout the season.
“There are just a lot of really great cars right now,” Massey said. “It’s like bracket racing at 300 miles per hour. That puts quite a bit of pressure on us as drivers, so it can be nerve-wracking when everybody has great reaction times. At the same time it is a lot of fun too, knowing that every race is going to be really close.”
Last year Massey left this event first in the points standings. He enters the race this year fourth overall and is looking to improve on that position. He feels like his team is making great progress.
“We’re just starting to get on a roll,” Massey said. “The team is jelling together with the new canopy, new tune-up and the new crew members. We didn’t come out of the gates as strong as we did last year, but we are getting better and having fun.”
In order to score a second win at Topeka, Massey knows he will have to hold off a tough contingent of challengers, including seven-time world champ and current points leader Tony Schumacher, Atlanta winner and defending world champ Antron Brown, Al-Anabi Racing’s Shawn Langdon, Mac Tools driver Doug Kalitta, GEICO driver Morgan Lucas and Atlanta runner-up Brandon Bernstein.
Defending NHRA Funny Car world champion Beckman in his Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger will once again be one of the drivers to beat in the loaded Funny Car division. Some of his toughest competition will come from teammates Ron Capps, a three-time winner at Topeka, and Charlotte winner Matt Hagan, who was the No. 1 qualifier in Atlanta. Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry veteran driver Cruz Pedregon, the current series points leader with two victories this season, has won four times at Topeka. Last season's rookie of the year, Courtney Force, who won the season-opener at Pomona in her Traxxas Ford Mustang, also will be one to watch.
In Pro Stock, defending world champion Johnson is a two-time Topeka winner in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger. His new teammate, Jeg Coughlin, is also a past winner at Topeka and will be looking for more success in his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger. Series points leader Mike Edwards, who has claimed two victories this season, and Greg Anderson, are also past Topeka winners and will be trying to claim another victory there. Others to watch in the 200 mph factory hot rod class include Erica Enders-Stevens, Vincent Nobile, Jason Line and Shane Gray, a past Topeka winner who has been to the last three final rounds.
The NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series also will thrill the crowds during the weekend with intense side-by-side competition.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers because every ticket is an exclusive pit pass, allowing them to see firsthand the highly skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds. Spectators also won’t want to miss the popular interactive NHRA Nitro Alley and the NHRA Manufacturers Midway.
To kick off the Kansas Nationals, fans will get a sneak preview of the event at the annual Speed Fest on Thursday, May 16, noon to 7 p.m. in the heart of Topeka, on 8th Avenue and Kansas Avenue. This free event provides fans the opportunity to see some amazing cars on display and meet some of the biggest NHRA stars for autographs including Robert Hight, Brandon Bernstein, Shawn Langdon, Morgan Lucas, Allen Johnson, and Erica Enders-Stevens to name a few. There will be two driver autograph sessions, one at 2 p.m. and another at 6 p.m.
• SCHEDULE: NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 5 and 7 p.m. Friday, May 17, and will continue Saturday, May 18, at 12:15 and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. Sunday, May 19.
• TICKETS: For tickets, log on to www.NHRATix.com or call the NHRA Ticket Sales Center at (800) 884-NHRA (6472).
• TELEVISION: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 5:30 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, May 18, and three hours of eliminations coverage at 8 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, May 19.
• ON THE WEB: Get instant results, access to photos, video and audio clips and the latest news updates from every NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event on the Internet at www.NHRA.com.
NHRA KANSAS NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 25th annual NHRA Kansas Nationals, the eighth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in three categories - Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock - earn points leading to 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Heartland Park Topeka. From Kansas City, take the Kansas Turnpike (I-70) to the Topeka Boulevard exit and travel south to the track. From Wichita, take the Kansas Turnpike (I-335) to the Topeka Boulevard exit and travel south to the track.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, May 17-19
FRIDAY, May 17 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 5 and 7 p.m.
SATURDAY, May 18 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 12:15 and 2:30 p.m.
SUNDAY, May 19 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, May 18, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 5:30 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, May 19, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of coverage starting at 8 p.m. (ET).
SATELLITE (Digital HD feed):
Friday, May 17, 10:30 - 11 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 05C
Saturday, May 18, 8 - 8:30 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 05C
Sunday, May 19, 7:30 - 8 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 05C
(3800 MHz, horizontal; Data Rate: 40.46147055 Mbp; Symbol Rate: 29.27 Ms; FEC: ¾; Bandwidth: 36 Mhz)
Video news release contains race action highlights each day and winners’ interviews on Sunday.
2012 EVENT WINNERS: David Grubnic, Top Fuel; Jack Beckman, Funny Car; Allen Johnson, Pro Stock
MOST VICTORIES: John Force, 9, FC; Scott Kalitta, 6, TF; Warren Johnson, 5, PS, Cruz Pedregon, 4, FC; Greg Anderson, 4, PS.
Top Fuel - 3.745 seconds by Morgan Lucas, May ’12; 329.10 mph by Spencer Massey, May ’12.
Funny Car - 4.046 seconds by Cruz Pedregon, May ’12; 315.56 mph by Pedregon, May ’12.
Pro Stock - 6.566 seconds by Jason Line, May ’12; 211.30 mph by Greg Anderson, May ’12.
Top Fuel - 3.701 sec. by Antron Brown, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’12, Charlotte, N.C.
Funny Car - 3.986 sec. by Jack Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 320.58 mph by Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
Pro Stock - 6.471 sec. by Mike Edwards, April ’13, Charlotte, N.C.; 214.35 mph by Jason Line, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also available online at www.NHRATIX.com.
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. -- Point standings (top 10) following the seventh of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:
Top Fuel: 1. Tony Schumacher, 564; 2. Antron Brown, 559; 3. Shawn Langdon, 506; 4. Spencer Massey, 467; 5. Doug Kalitta, 410; 6. Khalid alBalooshi, 385; 7. Brandon Bernstein, 379; 8. Morgan Lucas, 378; 9. Bob Vandergriff, 327; 10. David Grubnic, 284.
Funny Car: 1. Cruz Pedregon, 547; 2. Matt Hagan, 534; 3. Johnny Gray, 474; 4. Ron Capps, 440; 5. Tim Wilkerson, 423; 6. Courtney Force, 421; 7. Jack Beckman, 372; 8. Robert Hight, 343; 9. Del Worsham, 342; 10. Alexis DeJoria, 326.
Pro Stock: 1. Mike Edwards, 656; 2. Jeg Coughlin, 530; 3. Allen Johnson, 501; 4. Erica Enders-Stevens, 482; 5. Jason Line, 472; 6. Shane Gray, 421; 7. Vincent Nobile, 393; 8. Greg Anderson, 380; 9. V. Gaines, 370; 10. Greg Stanfield, 322.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Hector Arana Jr, 375; 2. Scotty Pollacheck, 256; 3. John Hall, 187; 4. (tie) Hector Arana, 174; Eddie Krawiec, 174; 6. Steve Johnson, 159; 7. Andrew Hines, 144; 8. Michael Ray, 141; 9. Jim Underdahl, 136; 10. Matt Smith, 133.