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.”
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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