When Heartland Park Topeka opened in 1989, the planned scope of the multi-sport motor sports facility seemed destined to make the Capital city of Kansas the capital of automobile racing in the midwest for decades to come. With a world-class road circuit and a first-class drag strip, the racing calendar filled immediately. Every form of American racing at some point brought an event to Heartland Park. The success of those early events constantly seemed in the news as fans flocked to Topeka.
Now two and a half decades later, Heartland Park Topeka is very much in the news again, but hardly for the right reasons. Ownership of the facility remains in turmoil. The city of Topeka hopes to buy the facility but needs expanded bond issues that have so far fallen short of expectation, while raising property tax in a city that is not exactly booming. There are other suitors, yet stories this past week made it clear the facilities need over $7 million of improvements to be viable again.
Once, some of the most exotic cars in the world, from Porsche, Toyota, Nissan and Jaguar, made their way around a world-class road circuit. With them, the people of the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) racing circuit brought European flair to middle America. Their time in Topeka was short, just three years, but those carbon fiber wonders with their turbo chirping engines were a fascinating sight to behold as they whisked past.
However, all the turbochargers in the world could not make the earth quake underfoot and shutter every organ in a body. Only a Top Fuel Dragster can do that. While the road circuit fell into complete disrepair and event after event vanished, the National Hot Rod Association Kansas Nationals continues to bring the best in drag racing to Topeka. The fan’s love of that major drag event has remained near constant, but even the drag facility needs major maintenance.
That leads me to worry that padlocks will inevitably close the facility gates for good and a glorious period of racing in Topeka will become just a memory.