TOPEKA, Kan. --
The driver of the Schumacher Electric dragster has been to the last two finals at the popular Midwestern dragstrip, but his history there begins well before the 2011 season.
"I ran my first national event in an alcohol car there," said Massey, a Ft. Worth, Texas native. "It has always been a track that has been special to me. I've won there and tuned a lot of cars there. I won my first race for DSR at that track. I am very familiar there. It's like my second home track, behind the Texas Motorplex."
Massey will try to make it three finals in a row and claim his second win at Heartland Park, May 17-19 at the NHRA Kansas Nationals. David Grubnic (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car) and Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) are the defending winners of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event that will be televised on ESPN2HD.
Massey says everyone in the area rolls out the red carpet when the circuit comes to town.
"The city of Topeka is really a racer-friendly town," Massey said. "It's fun to go there because everyone really supports the race and it's something everyone there looks forward to each and every year. As racers, we enjoy the atmosphere of that event and we always look forward to getting back out there."
Massey holds the Top Fuel track speed record at 329.10 mph, which he set last season. Over the years the track has become known as a high-performance showplace, and that also puts Massey in a great mood to go racing there.
While the potential for records will be a part of the mix at Heartland Park, the focus for all Top Fuel drivers will be dealing with the incredible level of talent in the category at the moment. Five different winners have emerged with Wally trophies in the first seven races. Massey, who won the Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at Charlotte, N.C. in mid-April, says he expects more of the same throughout the season.
"There are just a lot of really great cars right now," Massey said. "It's like bracket racing at 300 miles per hour. That puts quite a bit of pressure on us as drivers, so it can be nerve-wracking when everybody has great reaction times. At the same time it is a lot of fun too, knowing that every race is going to be really close."
Last year Massey left this event first in the points standings. He enters the race this year fourth overall and is looking to improve on that position. He feels like his team is making great progress.
In order to score a second win at Topeka, Massey knows he will have to hold off a tough contingent of challengers, including seven-time world champ and current points leader Tony Schumacher, Atlanta winner and defending world champ Antron Brown, Al-Anabi Racing's Shawn Langdon, Mac Tools driver Doug Kalitta, GEICO driver Morgan Lucas and Atlanta runner-up Brandon Bernstein.
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 teammates Ron Capps, a three-time winner at Topeka, and Charlotte winner Matt Hagan, who was the No. 1 qualifier in Atlanta. Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry veteran driver Cruz Pedregon, the current series points leader with two victories this season, 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 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.
• SCHEDULE: NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 5 and 7 p.m. Friday, May 17, and will continue Saturday, May 18, at 12:15 and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. Sunday, May 19.
• TICKETS: For tickets, log on to www.NHRATix.com or call the NHRA Ticket Sales Center at (800) 884-NHRA (6472).
• TELEVISION: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 5:30 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, May 18, and three hours of eliminations coverage at 8 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, May 19.
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