Legendary drag racer John Force has never lived in Topeka, but Force has been a fixture at Heartland Park Topeka since the track opened in 1989 and has been a semi-regular visitor to the winner’s circle at HPT, posting a track-best nine national-event wins.
The 16-time world Funny Car champion, who turned 65 earlier this month, will be back at Heartland Park this weekend, leading Team Force in the NHRA Kansas Nationals.
Force said last week in a phone interview that he’s anxious to get back to Topeka.
“I raced in the early days over at the Kansas City Raceway in Independence, Mo.,” Force said. “Then when they built this new super track, it was awesome to come in here.
“The hotels, the restaurants, everybody in town, they want you there. It’s fun to go back there and then when you can race at a race track that’s a high-end track with great stands and facilities and plenty of parking, I love it.”
The fact that Force, who won his 16th championship last season, has had unparalleled success at HPT is icing on the cake.
“To win nine races, I can’t complain,” he said.
Force, who has 139 national-event wins, won at Heartland Park for the first time in 1993 and added wins in ’94, ’96, ’97, ’99, ’00, ’05 and ’08. He won both races at HPT in ’96.
His most recent Topeka win in 2008 was also one of his most emotional wins, with Force winning for the first time after suffering serious injuries in a horrific crash at Dallas in 2007.
Force, currently second in Funny Car points to his son-in-law, Robert Hight, will be aiming to make more memories this week.
“Tell Topeka we love them and we need them in the stands,” Force said. “We need to pack Topeka. We’ve got to grow NHRA and we’ve got to grow that race track.
“It’s a family deal and come on out and we’ll give you a show, the greatest show on earth.”
The Kansas Nationals gets under way at 8 a.m. Friday with Sportsman qualifying. Mello Yello Drag Racing Series pro qualifying sessions in Pro Stock, Funny Car and Top Fuel are scheduled for 4:30 p.m. and 7 o’clock Friday.
Sportsman eliminations will start at 8 a.m. Saturday with pro qualifying sessions set for 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Sportsman eliminations will continue at 9 a.m. Sunday, with Mello Yello Series eliminations getting under way at 11 a.m.