History of Heartland Park Topeka

After opening its doors in 1989, Heartland Park Topeka, the record setting drag strip, 2.5-mile championship road course and dirt oval facility, would stretch it’s arms to welcome everything and anything that had to do with the history of the automobile and growing world of motorsports.


 

With the blessing of the City of Topeka, the enthusiasm of city and an investment of nearly $30 million, the track began to take shape in July of 1987. By April 1989, the history of American Motorsports would have a new chapter in its book.

Heartland Park Topeka provides top-notch entertainment for all types of racing fans. Heartland Park Topeka is a multimillion-dollar complex including a quarter-mile drag strip with 23 luxury suites, a 2.5-mile championship road course and a 3/8-mile dirt oval track.  The track went through a $20-million renovation back in 2003 that added 33 garages, a state-of-the-art tech building and a new timing and scoring building for road course events.

The multipurpose facility hosts a wide variety of entertaining events, including a NHRA Drag Racing National event featuring Top Fuel, Funny Cars and Pro Stocks. Heartland Park Topeka has also featured World of Outlaws, USAC Sprint and Midgets, demolition derbies, monster truck shows, Jr. Dragsters, car shows,  bracket racing, music venues, an NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing event, and much more.

Heartland Park Topeka is dedicated to providing fans the best possible experience. With a diverse selection of events to choose from, fans and racers can visit for their all-time favorite events, and try a few more along the way. Whether looking for a rare car part in vendor’s row, feeling the power of the cars on the drag strip, or walking the gleaming rows at the car shows, fans are not disappointed.

Attractions at Heartland Park Topeka events have brought TV crews from ESPN, MTV, SPEED TV and others to the City of Topeka.  Activities at the facility keep the tires smoking at this 750-acre site nearly 275 dates a year.

Heartland Park Topeka’s Top 20 Moments

#1 1988 – In May of 1988 Heartland Park Topeka was chosen for the official name of the Lario Enterprises race track in Topeka.

#2 1988 – In May of 1988, groundbreaking in Topeka, Kansas for the first major auto track to be built in North America since 1968.

#3 1989 –  Racing starts at Heartland Park Topeka with the Camel Grand Prix.

#4 1989 – 25,000 fans turn out for opening day races.

#5 1990 – Gary Ormsby became the first racer in history to break the 4.9 second and 295 mph barriers with a qualifying pass of 4.881 seconds, 296.06 mph at the AC-Delco Heartland Nationals.

#6 1991 – Pat Austin won both the Top Fuel and Top Alcohol Funny Car classes at Heartland Park Topeka, making him the first driver in NHRA history to win two classes at one national event.

#7 1994 – During 1994, more than 23 hours of Heartland Park coverage was seen on national cable networks such as The Nashville Network (TNN), ESPN, ESPN 2 and Prime Sports Network.

#8 1995 – The 1995 Western Auto Nationals was the first motor sport event in the history of the state of Kansas to be televised on network television (ABC).

#9 1995 Heartland Park Topeka joined the NASCAR family in 1995. Heartland Park Topeka was the first road course on the schedule for the inaugural NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

#10 1995 The track closed the 1995 season as home to the quickest run in NHRA history after Scott Kalitta recorded a 4.66 second pass during the Sears Craftsman Nationals.

#11 1995 – The 1995 Western Auto event was the first NHRA National event to be held primarily at night, thanks to a MUSCO lighting system.

#12 1996 Joe Amato became the first racer in NHRA history to break the 4.6 second barrier. Not long afterward, on the nights final pairing, Blaine Johnson topped Amato in his dragster with a run of 4.592 and 312.02 mph.

#13 1999 Heartland Park Topeka got the attention of the rest of the racing world with a bold experiment in 1999 by constructing a temporary, three-eighths mile dirt oval on top of the drag strip. Heartland Park trucked in more that 18,000 cubic yards of dirt to construct the track.

#14 2001 After two years with a temporary dirt track, Heartland Park constructed s permanent dirt track that opened Saturday, April 21, 2001. The three-eighths mile dirt oval, located on the west side of the facility has state-of-the-art, television quality lighting with 4,500 permanent seats.

#15 2003 The next chapter in Heartland Park Topeka’s history officially began March 31, 2003, when Raymond Irwin purchased the facility. Seeing the need for immediate facility improvements, Irwin remodeled the Heartland Park Topeka tower suites, revamped the drainage system in the staging lanes, resealed and resurfaced the staging lanes behind the HPT corporate tower, poured new concrete around concession areas and laid asphalt on major pedestrian traffic areas on either side of the corporate tower.

#16 2005 Australia’s Dave Grubnic became the first driver from outside North America to win an NHRA Top Fuel event Sunday, beating Larry Dixon in the final of the O’Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka.

#17 2005 The year began with a bang as the announcement came that Heartland Park Topeka would become the next home for the SCCA National Championship Runoffs from 2006-08. In preparation for the event, Heartland Park Topeka ownership announced the largest and most expansive renovation in facility history. With assistance from the City of Topeka, Shawnee County, the State of Kansas and the federal government, Heartland Park Topeka began the renovation in August of 2005 by completely replacing the asphalt on the drag strip.

#18 2006 Heartland Park Topeka completed the largest and most expansive renovation in facility history in preparation for hosting the SCCA National Championship Runoffs for the first time. The renovation included a complete replacement of the 2.5 mile road course asphalt, a new south paddock which covers 20+ acres, 33 permanent garages, a new registration building, a new spectator pavilion, a technical inspection building which also house showers and restrooms for competitors, a tire service building and a two-story road course time and scoring tower. Total cost of the renovations exceeded $15 million.

#19 2008 In January of 2008, Top Fuel Driver Antron Brown began his inspiring and entertaining blog on www.NHRA.com. Antron made his first trip to Heartland Park Topeka in May of 2008 and mentioned HPT on May 20th. Heartland Park Topeka was later mentioned in much greater detail on June 10th of 2008 in a blog titled, A Memorable Memorial Weekend and My First Time to Topeka.

#20 2009 Heartland Park kicked off its first Super Saturday Showdown on Saturday, April 11th. Modified, B-Mod, Factory Stock and Hobby Stock classes raced as fireworks filled the sky above. The classes will run every Saturday night throughout the summer and conclude the season in mid-October. 2009 will also feature other fan-favorites such as demolition derbies, trailer races and many others!

Local Economic Impact

Hedges & Company, based in Hudson, Ohio, estimated in its report completed in 2012 that Heartland Park Topeka’s total economic impact is just under $160 Million with more than $138 Million of this going directly into the economy of the greater Topeka metropolitan area.

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