Archive for Wednesday, September 28, 1994


September 28, 1994


The way National Hot Rod Assn. speed records are falling, Heartland Park Topeka president Bill Kentling is pretty confident a couple more will be set this weekend.

In fact, he'd almost bet the track on it.

Heartland Park, the erstwhile "Fastest Track in the World," will be the site of the Sears Craftsman Nationals, which runs Thursday through Sunday.

HPT lost its nickname on Sept. 18, when Scott Kalitta made a top fuel pass in the Keystone Nationals in 308.95 mph. The previous high was 308.64 mph at -- you guessed it -- last fall's Sears Craftsman Nationals at Heartland Park.

Kentling didn't surrender the title easily.

"It's like a manhood issue with us," said Jade Gurss, HPT director of media and public relations. "In the tradition of Joe Namath, Bill Kentling has promised to get it back. ... Definitely we feel we'll be the first to see the first 310-plus run."

It's not a hollow boast.

Heartland Park has a history of fast events -- witness last year's Sears Craftsman Nationals, where nearly every NHRA milestone tumbled.

  • Chuck Etchells made the first four-second funny car run (4.987 seconds).
  • Jim Epler became the first funny car driver over 300 miles per hour (300.40 mph).
  • Kalitta won his first career top fuel title with his 308.64 mph, an NHRA-fastest time that stood for nearly a year, after three other drivers -- Cory McClenathan (302.41 mph), Eddie Hill (300.80 mph) and Del Worsham (300.20 mph) -- joined the exclusive 300-mph club.

And those are just the highlights.

Consider, too, that 1994 has been an unusually fast year. The top 17 top fuel times and 20 of the top 21 top fuel speeds were set in '94.

"There are so many cars running as fast as we are," McClenathan said. "You can't back up and say, 'Let's back off and try to run a half-way decent number.' ... We're going faster and quicker than ever before."

And, to aid in the quest for faster and quicker, HPT has scheduled a night qualifying session on Friday. Top fuel and funny cars run fastest in cool, dry air.

"The air has been cool there," McClenathan said. "Hopefully it'll dry out. I expect big miles-per-hour there."

McClenathan isn't sold on the idea of night-time drags. But fans like 'em, so McClenathan will run 'em.

"Fans like it more than I do," he said. "We like to go for the records. As far as driving is concerned, it's a blast driving at nighttime. The only thing is, if you get in an accident or something goes wrong, it makes it that much harder for the Safety Safari. It's a great thing for the fans. They have a blast."

HPT's gates open at 8 a.m. Thursday and Friday and at 7 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Competition in the sportsman categories begins Thursday, while pro qualifying starts on Friday.

Pro qualifying sessions are slated for 3 and 7 p.m. Friday and noon and 4 p.m. Saturday.

Finals will start Sunday at 11 a.m.

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