From the NHRA
TOPEKA, Kan. (April 19, 2016) — The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series returns to Kansas’ capital city in America’s Heartland, May 20-22, for the 28th annual NHRA Kansas Nationals, the eighth event of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
The best in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock will compete side-by-side for a chance to hold up Wally trophies at storied Heartland Park Topeka, which features one of the fastest dragstrips in the country. Richie Crampton (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car) and Erica Enders (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners. The race will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live finals on Sunday.
Heartland Park Topeka is the fabled site of many record-breaking performances throughout NHRA history, including the first four-second and 300-mph passes in Funny Car, set by Chuck Etchells and Jim Epler respectively in 1993. At the 2014 Kansas Nationals, Brittany Force and her sister Courtney Force were No. 1 qualifiers in Top Fuel and Funny Car, becoming the first sisters to share that stage at the same event. Courtney then won the event that year, claiming the milestone 100th professional victory by a female driver in NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series history. The 2015 Kansas Nationals made its mark in the history books with a parade of track records set in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock, and this year should be no different.
Last year’s race will be most remembered for providing an early sneak preview of what ultimately became one of the most exciting Funny Car seasons in NHRA history. Fans attending Heartland Park that weekend witnessed what was at the time a record 15 three-second runs in the Funny Car class. Race winner Beckman made five of those three-second runs, including a 3.984 second sprint in the finals to defeat 16-time world champion John Force.
Funny Car teams took the momentum from that race weekend and finished the season with more amazing three-second performances. Beckman set the national elapsed time record four times en route to finishing second in the points standings to eventual champ Del Worsham.
The 2016 season is shaping up to be another record breaking year for the Funny Car class. Beckman has already reset the national record elapsed time at the controls of his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T at the NHRA Gatornationals in Florida with a 3.879 second performance and has claimed three No. 1 qualifying positions. He is currently fifth in the points standings and looking for his first win of the season and third career victory in Topeka.
Funny Car points leader Robert Hight has also started the season off strongly, qualifying inside the top four at the first four events. Hight piloted his Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS to a victory in Gainesville to push him to the points lead. He is a two-time winner of the Kansas Nationals with victories in 2010 and 2011.
John Force, a nine-time Topeka winner, is second in points with a runner-up finish in Phoenix and two semifinal appearances. Force hasn’t won a race at the Kansas Nationals since 2008, and is eager to get back to that winner’s circle.
Three-time Topeka winner Ron Capps, four-time Topeka winner Cruz Pedregon, Chad Head, Alexis DeJoria, who just earned her first win after a 33-race drought, Tim Wilkerson, two-time world champ Matt Hagan and Courtney Force will all be major contenders for a Topeka victory.
In Top Fuel, Crampton drove his Lucas Oil dragster to his second victory of the 2015 season to hold off three-time world champion Larry Dixon. It was Crampton’s fourth victory of 2015 and first in Topeka. Crampton is hoping to turn around a bit of a shaky start to the 2016 season where he has one semifinal appearance and three first round exits.
Two-time defending world champion Antron Brown had his first win of the 2016 season at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to make a seven-spot jump to second behind Brittany Force in the points standings. Brown, in his Matco Tools dragster, defeated Troy Buff in the finals. It was Buff’s first finals appearance of his Top Fuel career. Brown will be in the hunt for his first Kansas Nationals Wally after losing to Dixon in the second round in 2015.
Series points leader Force claimed the first Top Fuel victory of her career at the Gatornationals and finished runner-up to Leah Pritchett at the Phoenix race. Force has two consecutive semifinal finishes at Heartland Park in 2014 and 2015.
Other top contenders for the victory include Doug Kalitta, who won the Kansas Nationals in 2006, Winternationals winner Steve Torrence, Clay Millican, J.R. Todd, Terry McMillen, who is looking for his first Top Fuel victory after finishing runner-up at the Gatornationals, and eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher.
In Pro Stock, Enders claimed her third victory of the 2015 season and 15th of her career by racing past Greg Anderson one year ago. The two-time defending world champ will be looking for her second win in Topeka, and after a rough start to the season, a victory at Heartland Park could be just what she needs to kick start a third championship run.
Two-time world champion and current points leader Jason Line and Ken Black Racing teammate Anderson have dominated the new era of Pro Stock, which includes fuel-injected engines, shorter wheelie bars, flat hoods and a 10,500 RPM rev-limiter. Line has been setting the pace for the category and has appeared in the first four final rounds. He hasn’t qualified outside of second this season with victories in Phoenix and Las Vegas. Line will be racing for his first Topeka victory.
Anderson, a four-time Pro Stock champion, is right behind Line, opening the season with a win at the Winternationals, semifinal finishes in Phoenix and Vegas, and a second win at the Gatornationals. Anderson also won the K&N Horsepower Challenge over Line at the Las Vegas event. He will be looking for his fifth win in Topeka.
Line and Anderson’s teammate, Bo Butner, made his first finals appearance of the season and second of his career at the Las Vegas event. Butner is currently third in points behind Anderson and in pursuit of his first Pro Stock victory.
Others to watch in the 200 mph factory hot rod category are Texan Chris McGaha, who was runner-up in Phoenix, 2014 top rookie Drew Skillman, 2012 world champ Allen Johnson, five-time world champion Jeg Coughlin, Vincent Nobile, Shane Gray and Gas Monkey Garage Chevy Camaro driver Alex Laughlin.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand how the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
As part of NHRA’s ongoing celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Funny Car class, one legendary Funny Car driver will be honored during pre-race ceremonies.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
The event also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:30 and 7 p.m. on Friday, May 20 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, May 21, at 1:30 and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 22.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
Before heading to Topeka, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will make stops at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, N.C., for the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals presented by Lowes Foods, April 22-24, Houston’s Royal Purple Raceway for the NHRA SpringNationals, April 29 – May 1, and Atlanta Dragway in Georgia for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, May 13-15. Keep up with all the NHRA action on FOX Sports 1.
NHRA KANSAS NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 28th 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 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. The race also will feature competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series.
WHERE: Heartland Park Topeka, Topeka, Kansas. 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 20-22
FRIDAY, May 20 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 4:30 and 7 p.m.
SATURDAY, May 21 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:30 and 4 p.m.
SUNDAY, May 22 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, May 21, FS1 will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at midnight (ET).
Sunday, May 22, FS1 will televise three hours of live finals coverage at 2 p.m. (ET).
2015 EVENT WINNERS: Richie Crampton, Top Fuel; Jack Beckman, Funny Car; Erica Enders, Pro Stock.
MOST VICTORIES: John Force, 9, FC; Scott Kalitta, 6, TF; Warren Johnson, 5, PS, Cruz Pedregon, 4, FC; Greg Anderson, 4, PS.
HEARTLAND PARK TOPEKA
NHRA TRACK RECORDS:
Top Fuel – 3.710 seconds by Crampton, May ‘15; 329.91 mph by Larry Dixon, May 2015
Funny Car – 3.967 seconds by Chad Head, May ‘15; 325.06 mph by Courtney Force, May ’15.
Pro Stock – 6.515 seconds by Erica Enders, May ’15; 211.43 mph by Enders, May ’15.
NHRA NATIONAL RECORDS:
Top Fuel – 3.680 sec. by Antron Brown, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.879 sec. by Jack Beckman, March ’16, Gainesville, Fla.; 331.45 mph by Matt Hagan, Nov. ’15, Pomona, Calif.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.
TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also available online at www.NHRA.com/tickets.