A year ago – and in his first season as a team owner – Heartland Motorsports Park was the place for a major moment for Top Fuel star Antron Brown. The three-time world champion won his first race as a team owner, setting the stage for Brown’s big finish, one that included an Indy win, a playoff victory and a second-place finish in points.
Heading into the final NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series national event at Heartland Motorsports Park at this weekend’s Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor, Brown is well ahead of last year’s pace.
He already has one victory and three final round appearances in 2023 in his 11,000-horsepower Matco Tools dragster, sitting fourth in points heading to Topeka. With two career wins at the historic facility, Brown would love nothing more than to get a third win at the final NHRA national event at Heartland Motorsports Park.
“(I) love going to Topeka,” Brown said. “We’re the defending champions from last year and we’re coming from Sonoma with some momentum. We’re going to go in there with our heads down and do what we do. It can get hot, it can get tricky out there like we saw last year, but we can’t wait to get there and show out. That’s where we turned our season around last year and got on a roll, and we’re looking forward to one last showing out there and gaining some good points and momentum as we approach Indy and the Countdown (to the Championship).”
Brown (Top Fuel), Bob Tasca III (Funny Car) and Troy Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) won the pivotal regular-season race in 2022, and this year’s event will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including live eliminations coverage starting at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, Aug. 13. It is the 13th of 21 events during the 2023 season and Brown enters the race with plenty of momentum, coming off a runner-up finish in Sonoma.
It gave him a strong finish to the three-race NHRA Western Swing, putting the 72-time event winner in position for another big finish this year. A second straight Topeka victory would have Brown and his Toyota team peaking at the perfect time and he’ll also be racing in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge on Saturday.
Brown will take on Steve Torrence in a Sonoma semifinal rematch, while the other matchup features points leader Justin Ashley, who won in Sonoma, and Josh Hart. It makes for an exciting element on Saturday, while also opening up the possibility of a double-up weekend. Brown would love that, but he knows nothing comes easy in a loaded class that also features defending world champ Brittany Force, Austin Prock, Doug Kalitta, Clay Millican, Mike Salinas and Leah Pruett.
Still, Brown can tell his team is again headed in the right direction heading into what could be another pivotal weekend in Topeka.
“(Sonoma) was a great bounce-back race weekend for us,” Brown said. “We qualified well, went some rounds, moved up a few spots in the points, and we’re just looking forward to getting out to Topeka.”
In the Funny Car ranks, nobody has been as incredible at Heartland Motorsports Park over the years than 16-time world champ John Force, whose 10 career Topeka wins stand far and away above any other NHRA competitor. He’ll look to add another in a loaded field that includes points leader Matt Hagan, defending back-to-back world champ Ron Capps, defending event winner Tasca, Cruz Pedregon, Sonoma winner J.R. Todd, Tim Wilkerson, Alexis DeJoria and Robert Hight.
Coughlin’s Pro Stock win a year ago in Topeka was a memorable one, as it marked his second career victory in the class. He’s picked up two victories in 2023, but Coughlin is chasing points leader Dallas Glenn, who has enjoyed a tremendous 2023 campaign and won at Topeka in 2021. Other top drivers include defending world champ Erica Enders, Greg Anderson, Camrie Caruso, Aaron Stanfield, Kyle Koretsky and Matt Hartford.
The event also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, which includes some of the sport’s top drivers. After nitro qualifying on Friday and Saturday, fans can see an exciting jet car performance.
Race fans at Heartland Motorsports Park can enjoy the special pre-race ceremonies that introduce and celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the fan favorite SealMaster Track Walk. The final can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes, where fans are invited to congratulate the Topeka event winners.
Fans are invited to the Nitro Alley Stage all weekend, which will help create a festive atmosphere leading into Nitro Alley. The Nitro Alley Stage will be the main entertainment hub in the pits when the Camping World Drag Racing Series competitors are not on the track, hosting Nitro School, meet and greets and much more. As always, fans get a pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. Fans can see their favorite teams in action and servicing their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers, and more. They can also visit NHRA’s Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, merchandise, food, and fun.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature one round at 7:15 p.m. CT on Friday, Aug. 11 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Aug. 12 at 2:15 and 4:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. CT on Sunday, Aug. 13. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 7:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, and then eliminations at 3 p.m. ET Sunday.
To purchase tickets to the final NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series National Event on Aug. 11-13 at Heartland Motorsports Park, fans can visit www.nhra.com/tickets. For more information on the NHRA, please visit www.nhra.com.