Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – TOPEKA, KS – With a full slate of can’t-miss excitement, including Top Fuel and Funny Car Primetime qualifying under the lights, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series returns to the House of Speed, Heartland Motorsports Park, with its 10,000-horsepower, 300-mph nitro-burning machines for the 31st annual Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties, June 7-9.
It is the 10th of 24 races during the 2019 NHRA season, and Heartland Motorsports Park in Topeka will again provide the backdrop for the massive sensory overload of the Top Fuel and Funny Car machines. With a special Primetime session starting at 8 p.m. on Friday night during the second qualifying round, fans will enjoy a spectacular nitro session under the lights, taking in the pulse-pounding, nitro-fueled flames at night. After Nitro qualifying, stick around to see the spectacular jet dragsters. Known for their exciting pre-run flame shows and after burner pops, jet cars are thrust driven vehicles propelled by jet engines.
The best in Top Fuel and Funny Car will compete for a chance hold up Wally trophies at the storied facility as the 2019 NHRA season approaches the halfway mark. Clay Millican (Top Fuel) and Courtney Force (Funny Car) were last year’s winners. The race will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including a broadcast of the finals on Sunday, June 9 at 5:30 p.m. (ET). Former Kansas City Chief great Christian Okoye will be the grand marshal for the event, and he’ll be joined by Chiefs players, cheerleaders and even the mascot during the highly anticipated weekend. There will be a special Chiefs Ambassadors VIP tent during the race where fans can meet players and get autographs and photos June 8-9. Proceeds from the tent will be donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters.
After a banner 2018 season in Top Fuel, Clay Millican will look to grab another victory against a star-studded field in Topeka. Defending world champion and points leader Steve Torrence leads the charge in the class on the strength of back-to-back victories, but Millican will aim for his first win of the year. He’ll also face off against the likes of three-time world champion Antron Brown, Brittany Force, the 2017 world champion, veteran Doug Kalitta, Leah Pritchett, Gainesville winner Richie Crampton, rookie Austin Prock, Mike Salinas and Terry McMillen.
In Funny Car, fans will be treated to a host of standout competitors, including points leader and two-time world champion Robert Hight, who has three wins in 2019. Looking to stop his hot streak will be Ron Capps, who won the most recent event in Atlanta, as well as the likes of John Force, who is a win away from 150 career victories, and defending world champion J.R. Todd. Others to watch include Shawn Langdon, who won his first career race in the class in Charlotte, Jack Beckman, Phoenix winner Matt Hagan, Tommy Johnson Jr., Bob Tasca and Tim Wilkerson.
The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service makes the fifth of 12 stops in 2019 in Topeka. Stevie “Fast” Jackson is the current points leader in a class that also includes defending world champ Mike Janis, Erica Enders, Alex Laughlin and defending event winner Rickie Smith. The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport, as well as the 2019 Mickey Thompson Tires Top Fuel Harley Drag Racing Series.
Along with the exciting on-track action, the Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals will honor first responders with NHRA’s “Salute to First Responders” celebration.
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 the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
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.
NHRA fans can take part in the Mello Yello Walking Tour to see the cars and teams hard at work in the pits. Fans can also attend Nitro School to learn more about how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds. Heartland Motorsports Park will host a Mello Yello autograph session and allow fans to meet their favorite drivers as well as the Cruising with Castello Sealmaster Track Walk hosted by NHRA announcer Joe Castello. A can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes. NHRA fans are invited to congratulate the winners of the event as they celebrate their Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals victories.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:45 and 8:00 p.m. on Friday, June 7 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, June 8, at 12:30 and 3:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 9.