Despite legal woes, Heartland Park Topeka insists it will host May NHRA race

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Despite legal woes and uncertainty of who will be its new owner, Heartland Park Topeka has announced it still intends on hosting its biggest event of the year, the NHRA Kansas Nationals May 22-24.

The Kansas track, which opened in 1988, has hosted the NHRA for the past 26 years.

“We have a very strong schedule and it makes no sense to me, even as we continue to negotiate with the city and other entities for the operation of the facility, not to make sure that people know that we’re going to be open,” current HPT track owner Raymond Irwin told the Topeka Capital Journal (TCJ). “I didn’t spend 12 years working to just walk away. I wasn’t raised that way, I wasn’t built that way. It would be irresponsible for me to just walk out the door like it never happened.”

(Image courtesy Heartland Park Topeka)


The facility remains under the management of Irwin’s Jayhawk Racing, but that potentially could change in three weeks.

The Kansas Court of Appeals will hold a hearing Feb. 26 that will include presentations from Jayhawk Racing, the city of Topeka and city resident Chris Imming, who is challenging the city’s attempts to purchase the track and wants its sale placed on the ballot of the next election.

The hearing will come two days before CoreFirst Bank & Trust could potentially foreclose on the property in a prior agreement worked out between the bank, Irwin and the city.

City officials, according to the TCJ, hope the Court of Appeals rules in their favor, thus allowing the city to issue sales tax revenue bonds to allow it to take over ownership of the track and then find a new management company among four current candidates to run the day-to-day operations.

“I think that the facility is way too important to the community and it’s way too important to the racing community as well for the activities not to occur out here,” Irwin told the TCJ. “So we’ve gone ahead and put in the dates that people have requested — the traditional dates as well as certainly the NHRA event in May — and our other events.”

According to the TCJ, the NHRA had set a Jan. 15 deadline for the city to guarantee paying half of the shortfall if revenue does not reach $1.831 million, as well as pay for at least $340,000 in advertising for the upcoming May race.

Although that deadline has passed, the NHRA has not announced anything that would indicate it plans to cancel this year’s race, which is part of the 24-race 2015 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series national event schedule.

The tentative 2015 overall HPT schedule also includes the continuation of weekly dirt track races, road course races and bracket drag racing events.

“I do believe that the community wants to see the success of Heartland Park Topeka, regardless of who might be operating it, and that’s what drives me to continue to do the things that I can do at this juncture to get to the finish line,” Irwin said.

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IndyCar Power Rankings: Pato O’Ward moves to the top entering Texas Motor Speedway


The NBC Sports IndyCar power rankings naturally were as jumbled as the action on the streets of St. Petersburg after a chaotic opener to the 2023 season.

Pato O’Ward, who finished second because of an engine blip that cost him the lead with a few laps remaining, moves into the top spot ahead of St. Pete winner Marcus Ericsson and Alexander Rossi, who finished fourth in his Arrow McLaren debut. Scott Dixon and St. Pete pole-sitter Romain Grosjean (who led 31 laps) rounded out the top five.

St. Pete pole-sitter Romain Grosjean (who started first at St. Pete after capturing his second career pole position) Callum Ilott (a career-best fifth) and Graham Rahal entered the power rankings entering the season’s second race.

Three drivers fell out of the preseason top 10 after the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – including previously top-ranked Josef Newgarden, who finished 17th after qualifying 14th.

Heading into Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, here’s NBC Sports’ assessment of the current top 10 drivers through the first of 17 races this year (with previous preseason rankings in parenthesis):

NBC Sports’ IndyCar Power Rankings

1. Pato O’Ward (5) – If not for the dreaded “plenum event” in the No. 5 Chevrolet, the Arrow McLaren driver is opening the season with a victory capping a strong race weekend.

2. Marcus Ericsson (7) – He might be the most opportunistic driver in IndyCar, but that’s because the 2022 Indy 500 winner has become one of the series’ fastest and most consistent stars.

3. Alexander Rossi (10) – He overcame a frustrating Friday and mediocre qualifying to open his Arrow McLaren career with the sort of hard-earned top five missing in his last years at Andretti.

4. Scott Dixon (3) – Put aside his opening-lap skirmish with former teammate Felix Rosenqvist, and it was a typically stealthily good result for the six-time champion.

5. Romain Grosjean (NR) – The St. Petersburg pole-sitter consistently was fastest on the streets of St. Petersburg over the course of the race weekend, which he couldn’t say once last year.

6. Scott McLaughlin (6) – Easily the best of the Team Penske drivers before his crash with Grosjean, McLaughlin drove like a legitimate 2023 championship contender.

7. Callum Ilott (NR) – A quietly impressive top five for the confident Brit in Juncos Hollinger Racing’s first race as a two-car team. Texas will be a big oval litmus test.

8. Graham Rahal (NR) – Sixth at St. Pete, Rahal still has the goods on street courses, and Rahal Letterman Lanigan remains headed in the right direction.

9. Alex Palou (4) – He seemed a step behind Ericsson and Dixon in the race after just missing the Fast Six in qualifying, but this was a solid start for Palou.

10. Will Power (2) – An uncharacteristic mistake that crashed Colton Herta put a blemish on the type of steady weekend that helped him win the 2022 title.

Falling out (last week): Josef Newgarden (1), Colton Herta (8), Christian Lundgaard (9)