Sprawling multipurpose Heartland Park Topeka has been a Midwest favorite since it opened in 1989, but its dragstrip has gained the majority of headlines. The event, originally in the fall, has featured numerous record performances, the most significant of which was the shattering of the four-second and 300-mph barriers in Funny Car in 1993. 





bernstein_0722-04644D.jpg Brandon Bernstein extended his recent dominance of the Top Fuel class Sunday at Heartland Park Topeka with his third win of the last four national events, surging into the POWERade points lead in the process.


Mike Ashley joined Bernstein in the winner's circle of the 19th annual O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals presented by Castrol GTX with his first Funny Car trophy, while Pro Stock kingpin Greg Anderson collected his fifth Wally of the year's first eight races.


Usually Bernstein and final-round opponent J.R. Todd are each other's biggest cheerleaders, but on this day they were rivals, if only for a few seconds, as they streaked down the quarter-mile for the race title. In the end, Bernstein's rock-steady rail was quick enough to turn on the win light as the 15-time national event winner crossed in 4.582 seconds at 320.51 mph to Todd's 4.667 at 299.86 mph attempt.


"It's tough to race J.R. because we're such great friends," Bernstein said. "Together with Eric [Medlen] we have spent a lot of time together and now with Eric being gone the bond I have with J.R. is even more special. Plus, he's a tough guy to race, so we're very happy to get the win."


Bernstein started the day 23 points in arrears to "Hot Rod" Fuller and leaves town 56 points ahead. Fuller lost to Doug Kalitta in the first round.


Ashley qualified as the happiest winner on the property as he took turns hugging everyone he could find after climbing from his Dodge Charger. The fast-talking New ashley_0722-04600D.jpgYorker has had an excellent racecar lately, reeling off three No. 1 qualifying efforts in a row coming into this event. He finally punched through for his first win Sunday by beating Jim Head with a 4.896-second run at 310.70 mph.


"I'm so emotional right now but I'll try to keep it together," Ashley said. "This has been such a journey and it all started a few years ago when [sponsor] Evan Knoll came to me and said, 'Let's do it.' We've been working towards this goal since then and Evan stuck with us through it all. This win is for all the dreamers out there. This is proof you can do anything you set your mind to."


Semifinalist Robert Hight managed to trim his deficit to points leader Ron Capps from 121 to 53 points. Capps failed to qualify for this event, his first DNQ in 56 races.


Anderson is running so strong these days that his last three opponents all took shots at the Christmas Tree in an effort to gain some sort of edge on the three-time champion. It didn't help as all three men -- Tom Hammonds, Jeg Coughlin, and Connolly -- red-lighted by a few thousandths of a second.


"Dave and Jeggy had taken the momentum at the last race and it was important for us to answer back," Anderson said. "We've all worked extremely hard since St. Louis to swing it back this way and it appears we've got our hot rod back. I can't remember the last time three people red-lighted against me in the same day. It may not have ever happened. It's good to get in everyone's head a little bit."


Anderson has now won the last eight finals he's participated in dating back to last year's Indy win. He's 5-0 on the 2007 season and 48-21 in his career.


Cagnazzi Racing pro Connolly, who won the last race in St. Louis over teammate Coughlin, falls to 10-12 in his career but maintained second place in the standings.


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POWERade points leader Ron Capps failed to qualify for the 19th annual O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals presented by Castrol GTX, snapping the longest active qualifying streak in the Funny Car class at 55 races.

0722-01984.jpg Capps' shocking result overshadowed the low qualifying efforts of Joe Hartley, Robert Hight, and Greg Anderson, who were all able to maintain the top rankings they attained Friday.

Entering the race with a 121-point lead in the standings, Capps could leave Heartland Park Topeka with the No. 1, but he knows his lead will probably be substantially trimmed.

"It’s just like NASCAR when the points leader wrecks out early," Capps said. "We'll just have to deal with it like [John] Force's guys did earlier this year when they missed Vegas. It happens."

The man closest to him in the points, Hight, grabbed his third consecutive No. 1 qualifying position at Heartland Park Topeka. Hight, who has gone out in the semi-finals the previous two years at Topeka, will try to cash in for his first Topeka win, while gaining as much ground as possible on the sidelined Capps.  Hight could surpass Capps by winning the event and setting the E.T. record.

"We've got a great chance to make up a lot of points on Capps," Hight said. "I hate to see them DNQ; I really do. No one wants to make gains at someone else's expense like that, but we still need to do what we can to close the gap on him. I say that because I know they'll be back stronger than ever next weekend."

Mike Ashley's Torco Race Fuels Dodge Charger carried him to the No. 2 position with a 4.794 at 327.11 mph. John Force was next at 4.796 in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang to round out the 4.7-second cars.

0722-02076.jpg No one was happier to see Saturday's sunny skies and hot conditions than Day 1 Top Fuel leader Hartley who managed to hold onto the No. 1 position through Saturday's two sessions. Hartley's career-best pass of 4.518 at 323.12 mph in his unsponsored car was more than enough to earn him his first low qualifier award.

"This is something I've always dreamt of but really didn't expect to ever happen," Hartley said. "This is special. Hopefully we can keep up the performance tomorrow and realize our other dream of winning one of these things."

The rest of the top five remained the same as it was at the close of Friday's action. Four-time NHRA POWERade Series champion Tony Schumacher was second in the U.S. Army dragster with a 4.529 at 303.09 mph. Teammates Whit Bazemore and "Hot Rod" Fuller followed with Bazemore running a 4.534 in the Matco rail and Fuller a 4.566 in his refrigerator-white car. They were followed by surging UPS pro Bob Vandergriff Jr., who had a 4.576.

Anderson's quick 6.703 at 205.91 mph in the final session earned him low qualifier honors for the third consecutive race and fifth time this season. The elapsed time, along with Friday night's 206.48 mph top speed, earned the Summit Racing Pontiac GTO driver both ends of the HPT track record.

"I have to commend NHRA and the people from Heartland Park for getting the starting line in better shape for today's run," Anderson said. "It was so slick in the burnout box that the tires were just spinning with no friction at all. There wasn't even smoke coming off of them and consequently they weren't getting hot enough. They scuffed it up and I think we're all catching up with it now. It was just something none of us had seen before."

St. Louis winner Dave Connolly is second on the grid with his Torco Race Fuels Cobalt posting a best of 6.719, while Allen Johnson has the quickest Dodge Stratus on the property after a third-best 6.724 at 204.82 mph.


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First-round pairings for professional eliminations Sunday for the 19th annual O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals presented by Castrol GTX at Heartland Park Topeka, the eighth of 23 events in the  NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.  Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday.

Top Fuel --
1. Joe Hartley, 4.518 seconds, 323.12 mph  vs. 16. Cory McClenathan, 4.712, 286.13; 2. Tony Schumacher, 4.529, 303.09  vs. 15. Scott Palmer, 4.687, 304.94; 3. Whit Bazemore, 4.534, 324.75  vs. 14. Melanie Troxel, 4.671, 317.79; 4. Rod Fuller, 4.566, 324.51  vs. 13. Doug Kalitta, 4.657, 301.27; 5. Bob Vandergriff, 4.576, 316.75  vs. 12. J.R. Todd, 4.645, 307.79; 6. Brandon Bernstein, 4.591, 319.29  vs. 11. Hillary Will, 4.644, 313.22; 7. Clay Millican, 4.597, 318.54  vs. 10. Larry Dixon, 4.640, 313.51; 8. Morgan Lucas, 4.619, 323.04  vs. 9. David Grubnic, 4.636, 315.19.

Funny Car --
1. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.754, 320.66  vs. 16. Cruz Pedregon, Chevy Impala, 4.946, 303.71; 2. Mike Ashley, Dodge Charger, 4.794, 327.11  vs. 15. Del Worsham, Impala, 4.943, 305.84; 3. John Force, Mustang, 4.796, 302.28  vs. 14. Gary Scelzi, Charger, 4.921, 309.98; 4. Gary Densham, Impala, 4.820, 314.97  vs. 13. Jim Head, Toyota Solara, 4.919, 310.27; 5. Tim Wilkerson, Impala, 4.832, 325.85  vs. 12. Jerry Toliver, Solara, 4.903, 317.05; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., Impala, 4.843, 310.55  vs. 11.Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.891, 313.88; 7. Ashley Force, Mustang, 4.857, 293.73  vs. 10. Kenny Bernstein, Charger, 4.877, 313.15; 8. Jeff Arend, Impala, 4.873, 316.90  vs. 9. Scott Kalitta, Solara, 4.874, 316.45.

Pro Stock --
1. Greg Anderson, Pontiac GTO, 6.703, 206.48  vs. 16. Max Naylor, Dodge Stratus, 6.773, 204.14; 2. Dave Connolly, Chevy Cobalt, 6.719, 204.66  vs. 15. Greg Stanfield, GTO, 6.768, 204.01; 3. Allen Johnson, Stratus, 6.724, 204.88  vs. 14. Justin Humphreys, GTO, 6.768, 203.95; 4. Jeg Coughlin, Cobalt, 6.726, 205.01  vs. 13. Warren Johnson, GTO, 6.763, 204.76; 5. V. Gaines, Stratus, 6.726, 205.13  vs. 12. Kenny Koretsky, Cobalt, 6.759, 204.23; 6. Jason Line, GTO, 6.728, 205.98  vs. 11. Larry Morgan, Stratus, 6.749, 204.94; 7. Kurt Johnson, Cobalt, 6.740, 204.91  vs. 10. Mike Edwards, GTO, 6.748, 204.70; 8. Richie Stevens, Stratus, 6.741, 204.51  vs. 9. Tom Hammonds, Cobalt, 6.742, 205.01.

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Little known part-time racer Joe Hartley is the surprise Top Fuel leader at Heartland Park Topeka Friday after one round of qualifying with a stunning 4.518 seconds at 323.12 mph.


0722-00824.jpgIn his first time as the No.1 qualifier in the Top Fuel category, Hartley is joined by Funny Car heavyweight Robert Hight and Pro Stock points leader Greg Anderson on the leader board..


Friday's action of the 19th annual O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals presented by Castrol GTX was trimmed by on-and-off rain showers. Only one round of nitro and about a round and a half of Pro Stock made it into the books.


Blowing past the likes of four-time champion Tony Schumacher, current points leader "Hot Rod" Fuller, and the rest of a stout Top Fuel field, Hartley was the talk of the pits after what was easily the best run of his career. Even Hartley was surprised when he climbed from his rail at the top end of the racetrack.


"I can't believe it," the 30-year-old Hartley said. "We were hoping for a low 4.60 so to go almost a tenth of a second quicker is really exciting. It snapped the front end up right away and just went straight down the track nice and easy. The smooth ones are definitely the quickest ones and that one was very smooth."


After four first-round losses in a row, Schumacher hopes a quick start here will help him shake off his current clump. His 4.529 at 303.09 mph in the U.S. Army dragster placed him second overall.


David Powers Motorsports teammates Whit Bazemore (4.534) and Fuller (4.566) followed in third and fourth place, respectively.


Hight hasn't qualified lower than second on the elimination ladder all year and he looks strong again here, racing his Auto Club Ford Mustang to the top spot in Funny Car with a 4.754 at 320.66 mph.


0722-00906D.jpg"It felt great to get back in the car after that long break," Hight said. "I'm happy to be here and happy to be driving this car. Evidentially, [crew chief] Jimmy Prock didn't take a vacation because the car was perfect."


Hight's boss John Force also ran a 4.7-second pass, ending up third with a 4.796 at 302.28 mph in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford. Ashley Force is ninth with a 4.902.


As the first professional-level cars on the track, many Pro Stock drivers complained of the lack of rubber on the starting line, but Anderson managed to get the job done, running a double-track-record 6.709 at 206.48 mph in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO to earn top billing after Day 1. Anderson was one of the lucky few who got to make two passes Friday.


As the first professional-level cars on the track, many Pro Stock drivers complained of the lack of rubber on the starting line, but Anderson managed to get the job done, running a 6.744 at 204.85 mph in his ACDelco Chevrolet Cobalt to earn top billing after Round 1.


Round 1 leader Kurt Johnson slipped to second with a best of 6.744 at 204.85 mph in the ACDelco Chevrolet Cobalt. He didn't make a second run. Dave Connolly, the most recent winner on tour, is third with a best of 6.749 at 204.45 mph in his Torco Chevy.

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Results Friday after qualifying for the 19th annual O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals presented by Castrol GTX at Heartland Park Topeka, ninth of 23 events in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday's final eliminations.

Top Fuel --
1. Joe Hartley, 4.518 seconds, 323.12 mph; 2. Tony Schumacher, 4.529, 303.09; 3. Whit Bazemore, 4.534, 324.75; 4. Rod Fuller, 4.566, 321.42; 5. Bob Vandergriff, 4.576, 316.75; 6. Morgan Lucas, 4.619, 323.04; 7. Melanie Troxel, 4.673, 317.79; 8. Clay Millican, 4.699, 306.26; 9. Mike Strasburg, 4.775, 294.18; 10. Larry Dixon, 4.814, 300.60; 11. Alan Bradshaw, 4.815, 274.33; 12. Hillary Will, 4.889, 300.40; 13. Bobby Lagana Jr., 5.236, 215.48; 14. Brandon Bernstein, 5.319, 184.75; 15. Doug Kalitta, 5.520, 234.33; 16. Scott Palmer, 5.937, 153.81.

Funny Car --
1. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.754, 320.66; 2. Mike Ashley, Dodge Charger, 4.794, 327.11; 3. John Force, Mustang, 4.796, 302.28; 4. Gary Densham, Chevy Impala, 4.820, 314.97; 5. Tim Wilkerson, Impala, 4.832, 325.85; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., Impala, 4.843, 310.55; 7. Jeff Arend, Impala, 4.873, 316.90; 8. Scott Kalitta, Toyota Solara, 4.874, 316.45; 9. Ashley Force, Mustang, 4.902, 293.73; 10. Jerry Toliver, Solara, 4.903, 317.05; 11. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.914, 313.88; 12. Jim Head, Solara, 4.919, 310.27; 13. Gary Scelzi, Charger, 5.073, 309.98; 14. Del Worsham, Impala, 5.176, 285.23; 15. Cruz Pedregon, Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.354, 209.30; 16. Tony Pedregon, Impala, 5.839, 177.16.

Pro Stock --
1. Greg Anderson, Pontiac GTO, 6.709, 206.48; 2. Kurt Johnson, Chevy Cobalt, 6.744, 204.85; 3. Dave Connolly, Cobalt, 6.749, 204.45; 4. Allen Johnson, Dodge Stratus, 6.760, 204.29; 5. Richie Stevens, Stratus, 6.761, 204.51; 6. Mike Edwards, GTO, 6.766, 204.26; 7. Kenny Koretsky, Cobalt, 6.773, 203.80; 8. Jim Yates, GTO, 6.777, 204.51; 9. Tom Hammonds, Cobalt, 6.778, 204.23; 10. Jeg Coughlin, Cobalt, 6.779, 204.63; 11. Larry Morgan, Stratus, 6.780, 203.31; 12. Jason Line, GTO, 6.793, 204.66; 13. Bill Windham, Cobalt, 6.803, 200.83; 14. Justin Humphreys, GTO, 6.805, 203.52; 15. V. Gaines, Stratus, 6.810, 203.77; 16. Erica Enders, Stratus, 6.812, 203.65.

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Success is a word that NHRA Top Fuel driver Larry Dixon has heard a lot at Topeka. The driver of the SkyTel dragster has not only won the event at Heartland Park (2003), he’s also been to the final round four times and holds the current track record for speed at 331.61 mph.

skytel_03.jpgDixon is also heading into the 19th annual O’Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals presented by Castrol GTX fourth in the NHRA POWERade series point standings. With the addition of the new Countdown to the Championship playoff format, Dixon says that fourth is exactly where he wants to be at this point in the season.

“Our goal is to be in the top eight and the better our car runs, the higher up we can get in the top eight,” said Dixon, a two-time POWERade series champ in Top Fuel (’02-’03). “There’s more of a comfort zone if you can stay within those top eight and that gives you a chance to try new things and make new adjustments that can really give you that advantage as you gear up for the Countdown to Four.”

With the addition of the Countdown to the Championship this season, at the end of the first 17 races the top eight in points in each category will have their points reset, with increments of 10 points separating each driver; a total of only 70 points separating eighth-place from first place. Topeka is the half-way point between those first 17 races, and Dixon feels that Topeka is the spot where many good teams will have to turn it up if they want to move on.

“There’s going to be a fight to make the top eight and then to make the top four and top two after that,” Dixon said. “Once they reset the points it will be like you’re starting all over, but I think there will still be stronger teams in those top eight. It will definitely make it exciting down there stretch. It will give people something to talk about.”

Dixon feels that Heartland Park Topeka is the perfect spot to make a run at the championship, because of all the improvements that have been made at the track over the past few years.

“I really like the track,” Dixon said. “Ever since (Raymond Irwin) purchased the race track, things have just been really good. He’s just put a lot of money into it and has turned it into one of the finest race tracks we go to. Every year we go back there you see more and more improvements to the facility. It makes you proud to go to a place that’s so happy to have the NHRA in town.”

Dixon will have plenty of competition when the Top Fuel class heads to Heartland Park Topeka. Drivers to watch include current points leader Rod Fuller, former event winner Brandon Bernstein, who has a win in Las Vegas and Atlanta this season, as well as J.R. Todd, who won the season-opener in Pomona, as well as the Houston event.

The competitive Funny Car field will feature several drivers to keep on the radar including eight-time Topeka winner and NHRA legend John Force. Force’s teammate and son-in-law Robert Hight, who is coming off back-to-back wins at Las Vegas and Atlanta, and current POWERade points leader and defending event champion Ron Capps, who has collected wins in Gainesville, Houston, and St. Louis this season, have earned multiple wins this season.

In Pro Stock, drivers to keep on eye on are defending event-winner Dave Connolly, who is coming off a win in St. Louis this year, current points leader and ’05 winner in Topeka Greg Anderson, and five-time Topeka winner and 2007 International Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee, Warren Johnson.

Professional qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. on June 1, and 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on June 2. Pre-race ceremonies will begin at 10 a.m. on June 3, followed by the first round of professional eliminations at 11 a.m.

TICKETS: For tickets, call Heartland Park Topeka at (800) 43-RACES. Tickets also are available at Ticketmaster or online at hpt.com.

ON TV: On June 2, ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise two hours of qualifying at 5:30 p.m. (ET). On June 3, ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will broadcast NHRA Race Day, a 30-minute pre-race show, at 11 a.m. (ET) and televise three hours of eliminations at 4 p.m. (ET).

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2006 EVENT

WINNERS: Doug Kalitta, Top Fuel; Ron Capps, Funny Car; Dave Connolly, Pro Stock.


Top Fuel — 4.487 seconds by Doug Kalitta, May 2004; 331.61 mph by Larry Dixon, May 2005

Funny Car — 4.729 seconds by Robert Hight, May 2005; 326.48 mph by Whit Bazemore, May 2003

Pro Stock — 6.716 seconds by Greg Anderson, May 2005; 205.10 mph by Kurt Johnson, May 2005


Top Fuel — 4.428 sec. by Tony Schumacher, Nov. ‘06, Pomona, Calif.; 336.15 mph by Schumacher, May ’05, Columbus, Ohio

Funny Car —
4.659 sec. by Tony Pedregon, Feb. ’07, Chandler, Ariz.; 333.66 mph by Jack Beckman, Nov. ‘06, Pomona, Calif.

Pro Stock — 6.536 sec. by Greg Anderson, March ’07, Gainesville, Fla.; 211.69 mph by Jason Line, March ‘07, Gainesville, Fla.