TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The National Hot Rod Association plans to hold multi-state drag racing events at Topeka’s Heartland Park later this year, even though operation of the drag racing track remains unresolved.
Heartland Park Topeka has been a major player in drag racing since it opened in 1989, including hosting the annual Kansas Nationals over Memorial Day weekend this year. Rob Park, an NHRA director, said he’s confident the track has a future even though there’s no indication of who might be interested in taking over operations.
“I’ve been involved or at least kept abreast of everything that’s going to happen and that’s happening,” Park told the Topeka Capital-Journal. “So to me I think there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for (the racing community) if they’ll just be patient.”
The city owns the Heartland Park property, but former operator Raymond Irwin and his Jayhawk Racing LLC have more than $2 million in interest in the track. CoreFirst Bank & Trust has loaned Irwin and Jayhawk Racing millions of dollars since he began managing the track in 2003, and between $1.5 million and $2.1 is still owed to the bank.
CoreFirst reportedly has been talking with potential new track operators since the city rejected a proposal earlier this year to purchase Jayhawk Racing’s interest in the track.
Had the plan been approved, the city would have contracted with a company formed by a Missouri real estate developer to run the facility.
Heartland Park has been closed since the Kansas Nationals, but Park said events scheduled in August and September will go on as scheduled.
The NHRA will host back-to-back Division V Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series events Aug. 13-14 and 15-16, following a test-and-tune session on Aug. 12. The NHRA also plans to hold the Division V Summit Racing Series ET Finals at Heartland Park from Sept. 18-20.
Park said the NHRA never seriously considered not holding its 2015 events at the track.
“That race track is very, very important to us,” he said. “It has a huge market share within the centralized part of the United States, and we just wanted to send a positive message to those people that have just been getting negative messages all of the time.”
The NHRA will cover expenses incurred operating the events. Park said everyone involved has been cooperative in helping the organization conducting the races that draw competitors from across the U.S.
“We are working with every party that’s involved,” Park said, “and it’s kind of fun because everybody’s kind of pitching in. Everybody wants to pitch in and make this thing happen.”
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