NHRA - National Hot Rod Association


Menards NHRA Nationals Friday preview 

It’s been more than two years since 11,000 horsepower of nitro exhilaration filled Heartland Motorsports Park, but it’s finally time for the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series to return at this weekend’s Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor. 
12 Aug 2021
Josh Hachat
Race coverage

It’s been more than two years since 11,000 horsepower of nitro exhilaration filled Heartland Motorsports Park, but it’s finally time for the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series to return at this weekend’s Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor. 

It’s been a long wait — 26 months, to be exact — since the NHRA stars last visited Topeka thanks to the pandemic, and the anticipation for the return is palpable. Taking place in August also puts a premium on performing well this weekend. After Topeka, racers in Top Fuel and Funny Car only have events in Brainerd and Indy before the Countdown to the Championship begins, and Pro Stock won’t race again until the U.S. Nationals, making the race in Topeka the penultimate race of their regular season. 

With that in mind and racing on a track known for its fast speeds and incredible performances, things should get interesting in a hurry at Heartland Motorsports Park. The facility has one of the more unique setups on the NHRA tour, and with qualifying under the lights on Friday, the action will be intense right off the bat. For tracks like Topeka that have had a longer than expected time between hits of nitro, the return this year has been truly memorable. With fans in the Midwest ready for their 330-mph fill and drivers on the tour angling for their championship position, expect nothing less than a terrific weekend on the track. 

After finishing the NHRA Western Swing with a flourish, Top Fuel’s Leah Pruett will look to keep that rolling in Topeka. She advanced to the final round at the last two events, winning in Pomona and picking up her first victory in nearly two years. The team made major strides to get their season on track and now appear to be peaking at the perfect time. 

Of course, Steve Torrence, the three-time defending world champ, enjoys a healthy lead in the points standings, and he’s also the most recent winner at the track, making him the prohibitive favorite heading into the weekend. Others to watch include Brittany Force, who has done everything but win this year, Antron Brown, Pomona finalist Justin Ashley, Doug Kalitta, who is currently ninth in points but is looking to get his season turned around, and Mike Salinas. 

Ron Capps became the 7th different Funny Car winner through 10 races this year when he picked up the victory in Pomona. It’s a nod to the tremendous parity in the class, and it certainly wouldn’t be a total shock if there’s another first-time 2021 winner this weekend among a group that includes Alexis DeJoria, who has enjoyed strong success most of the year, Tim Wilkerson, and Blake Alexander. 

Capps, though, has been as consistent as anyone, capped off by the Pomona win that gave him the points lead — by just five points — over Bob Tasca III. Beyond Capps and Tasca, Robert Hight is the defending race winner, and he will try to become the first three-time winner in the class this year. John Force and Tasca also have that chance, but it won't be easy going against a field that also includes defending world champ Matt Hagan, J.R. Todd, and Cruz Pedregon. 

There’s been nobody hotter in Pro Stock than Aaron Stanfield. He’s won two straight races and three of the past four events. He’s kept Greg Anderson from making history and tying Warren Johnson for the most wins (97) in class history, and Stanfield will look to continue his hot streak in Topeka. 

With the spot on the schedule, Pro Stock drivers will have to be in top shape, as the class makes its first appearance in Topeka since 2018. Anderson, who has been a dominant force in qualifying and is the points leader, will get another crack at tying Johnson, but he’ll also have to contend with defending world champ Erica Enders, rookie Dallas Glenn, Troy Coughlin Jr., and Deric Kramer, who is actually the defending event champ in the class thanks to his 2018 triumph. 

The Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown class will also be in action this weekend. 

You can catch the action all weekend on FOX Sports 1 and NHRA.tv.

You can follow NHRA on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to get a closer look at the action. 

NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature one round at 7:30 p.m. CT on Friday, Aug. 13, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Aug. 14 at 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. Final eliminations start Sunday at 11 a.m. 

Qualifying: Saturday, Aug. 14, 12 p.m. Eastern, FS1
Eliminations: Sunday, Aug. 15, 3-6 p.m., Eastern, FOX