COURTESY: NHRA Communications
TOPEKA, Kan. — A victory at Heartland Park Topeka one year ago ended a nearly six-year winless slump for veteran Top Fuel driver David Grubnic in the highly competitive 8,000-horsepower Top Fuel category in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
This season, the driver of the Candlewood Suites Top Fuel dragster will try to claim his third victory at the popular Kansas multipurpose motorsports complex as the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series pulls into the sprawling Midwest facility for the 25th annual NHRA Kansas Nationals, May 17-19.
The native Australian, who is off to a bit of a slow start so far this season, is eager to pick up the pace and defend his event win at Topeka and add a fourth coveted Wally trophy to his mantle.
“Kalitta Motorsports and I have enjoyed a lot of success at Heartland Park Topeka,” said Grubnic, currently 10th in points with three quarterfinal appearances as his best results so far in 2013. “The fans in Topeka are some of the best in the country. They open their town up to us as if it were their house. We always have a great time and the people are so friendly that it makes the event even more enjoyable. We always look forward to coming back and adding to those great memories. We still have our standing goal of winning events, which we have yet to achieve. We were fortunate last year with our win to archive our goals, and our plan is to continue with the same this year.”
Jack Beckman (Funny Car) and Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) join Grubnic as the defending winners of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event in Topeka, the eighth of 24 events in the 2013 season, which will be televised on ESPN2HD.
Along with Grubnic, the entire Kalitta Motorsports Team is confident that their hard work will pay off and bring home some season wins.
“We are currently working on a new engine combination that once Connie (Kalitta, crew chief and team owner) has fine-tuned to his liking we are confident will help us to defend our Topeka title,” the 50-year-old resident of Ennis, Mont. said. “Connie Kalitta, James Riola, and the entire crew are doing a fabulous job with the Candlewood Suites race car.”
In order to defend his win at Topeka, Grubnic knows he will have to hold off a tough contingent of challengers, including national speed record holder and last season’s Topeka runner-up Spencer Massey, seven-time world champ and current points leader Tony Schumacher, Al-Anabi Racing’s Shawn Langdon, teammate and Mac Tools driver Doug Kalitta, GEICO driver Morgan Lucas and rookie Brittany Force in her Castrol Edge dragster.
Defending NHRA Funny Car world champion Beckman in his Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger will once again be one of the drivers to beat in the loaded Funny Car division. Some of his toughest competition will come from teammate Ron Capps, a three-time winner at Topeka, and Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry veteran driver Cruz Pedregon, who has won four times at Topeka. Last season’s rookie of the year, Courtney Force, who won the season-opener at Pomona in her Traxxas Ford Mustang, also will be one to watch.
In Pro Stock, defending world champion Allen Johnson is a two-time Topeka winner in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger. His new teammate, Jeg Coughlin, is also a past winner at Topeka and will be looking for more success in his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger. Series points leader Mike Edwards, who has claimed two victories this season, and Greg Anderson, are also past Topeka winners and will be trying to claim another victory there. Others to watch in the 200 mph factory hot rod class include Erica Enders-Stevens, Vincent Nobile, Jason Line and Shane Gray, a past Topeka winner who has been to the last three final rounds.
The NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series also will thrill the crowds during the weekend with intense side-by-side competition.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers because every ticket is an exclusive pit pass, allowing them to see firsthand the highly skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds. Spectators also won’t want to miss the popular interactive NHRA Nitro Alley and the NHRA Manufacturers Midway.
NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will begin on Friday, May 17, with sessions at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, May 18, at 12:15 and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 19.