TOPEKA, Kan. - Heartland Park Topeka is only two-and-a-half hours from Augusta, Kan., hometown of NHRA Pro Stock Truck driver Todd Patterson. In drag racing lingo that's about the same amount of time it takes Patterson to make 1,177 runs down a ...
TOPEKA, Kan. - Heartland Park Topeka is only two-and-a-half hours from Augusta, Kan., hometown of NHRA Pro Stock Truck driver Todd Patterson. In drag racing lingo that's about the same amount of time it takes Patterson to make 1,177 runs down a quarter-mile dragstrip.
Patterson, driver of one of the two Dodge Motorsports Dakota R/Ts, is gearing up for this weekend's 12th annual Advance Auto Parts NHRA Nationals. In addition to preparing his truck, he also must prepare mentally for the sea of familiar faces that will follow his seven-and-a-half second runs down the suburban Topeka quarter mile.
"My wife, children, all of our employees, aunts, uncles and friends will be there,"said Patterson, who turns 38 in October. "It can be a distraction because you're thinking about who's out there watching you. It makes you try harder, which can be a positive or a negative."
Patterson co-owns Patterson Racing Engines with his father, a company worthy of five NHRA Division 5 national championships. He can remember watching his father drag race when he was just a toddler.
"My dad raced, and growing up around racing I've experienced every possible way to lose," Patterson said. "It's a lot harder to win than it is to lose. It hits you a lot harder in the moment, but when you take a step back, you are happy that you have your health and your equipment is intact."
It hasn't been an easy year for Patterson, who currently sits 14th in points, but he maintains a positive outlook for this weekend's race.
"I'd like to make Topeka my favorite track. My favorite track is Denver (Bandimere Speedway), only because I've done really well there," Patterson said. "I'd love to have a win at Topeka."
And with his family and friends in the stands rooting for him, he just might have that chance.
Welcome home, Mr. Patterson.
PRO STOCK DOMINANCE
TOPEKA, Kan. For Team Mopar and Dodge Motorsports NHRA Pro Stock competitors, Heartland Park Topeka is a special place.
Darrell Alderman, driver of the Team Mopar Dodge R/T, dominated the first three NHRA national events held at the 11-year-old facility, winning in 1989, '90 and '91. The final two victories also helped the Kentucky resident solidify his first two NHRA Winston Pro Stock World Championships.
"We have always had good luck at Topeka," said Alderman, who currently resides 10th in the Pro Stock points chase. "We seem to have hit the right combination in years past. To win three in a row is quite an accomplishment."
Dodge Motorsports R/T pilot Larry Morgan has also realized success in the heartland. The Pro Stock veteran drove to victory seven years ago.
"The 1993 Topeka race was one of my best victories," Morgan said. "We were really running well that year, and the Topeka race came at the right time."
Not to be outdone, Scott Geoffrion may hold the most dramatic victory at Heartland Park Topeka. In the race for the 1994 NHRA Winston Pro Stock World Championship, Geoffrion defeated teammate Alderman in the fall race final.
"We were awesome in 1994," said Geoffrion, who also won the spring HPT event in 1994 and 1997. "We were the top two in points, and you could just feel the anticipation when we rolled to the line.
"Neither one of us wanted to give an inch," Geoffrion added. "After I won at Topeka, I really thought I had a shot at my first world title."
Alderman won his third title following a similar final-round match up at the 1994 season-ending Winston World Finals at Pomona (Calif.) Raceway.
"The crowd went nuts," Geoffrion said. "The whole season came down to that final race. It was amazing enough to have a championship chase end that way, but when two teammates do it, it's hard to describe."
The Nickens Brothers team spent a considerable amount of time testing at HPT this past weekend.
"Both cars were real quick," Geoffrion noted.
Craig Eaton and the Dodge Motorsports Dakota R/T Pro Stock Truck earned the 13th-qualifying position.
Eaton lost in round number one to Scott Perin.