Heartland Park owner pleased to have NHRA race on Memorial Day weekend

05/24/2014 7:52 PM

06/03/2014 10:17 AM

For the first time since 2006, the NHRA stop at Heartland Park Topeka is on Memorial Day weekend, and track owner Raymond Irwin hopes to keep the date in the future.

The NHRA races were a Memorial Day weekend staple from 2001 to 2006 before moving either a week before or after the holiday weekend. But Irwin said in recent years, when running the week before Memorial Day, the event conflicted with too many high school and graduation ceremonies.

“Last year we were on so many of the graduation weekends, and that hurt,” Irwin said. “Because people want to come out, but family comes first. That’s what it’s all about.”

Irwin said ticket sales for this weekend’s Kansas Nationals were up between 4 percent and 5 percent.

“The best year we ever had was the first weekend of June (in 2008),” Irwin said. “I prefer being a little later in the season, but not too late, because July and August in Kansas are hot.”

Though the NHRA event goes head-to-head with the Indianapolis 500, and its ESPN telecast conflicts with NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600, Irwin likes the cachet of being part of the year’s biggest day of racing.

“The other thing is, sometimes it does rain,” he said, “and Memorial Day gives us an extra day where people don’t have to take a day off from work to utilize their ticket, and that’s a neat backstop.”

Nobile tops in Pro Stock

Vincent Nobile retained the No. 1 qualifying position in Pro Stock with his run of 208.71 mph and an elapsed time of 6.601 seconds. Points leader Erica Enders-Stevens qualified second at 208.68 and 6.606.

Nobile, who just graduated from Adelphi University in New York, qualified No. 1 for the second time this season and fifth in his five-year career. Nobile, 22, has reached the semifinals five times this season and has lost in the first round in the other two races, including last week at Atlanta.

NHRA fines Vandergriff

The NHRA has fined Top Fuel driver Bob Vandergriff Jr. $20,000 for violating NHRA rules in last weekend’s event at Atlanta.

Vandergriff was fined for abandoning his race car on the track, remaining and walking on an active race track after exiting his race car and for initiating a verbal confrontation with three NHRA officials.

To reach Randy Covitz, call 816-234-4796 or send email to rcovitz@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/randycovitz.

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