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Heartland Park Topeka Now In Bank's Ownership

Heartland Park Topeka witnessed NASCAR's Craftsman Truck series in its heyday but has hit financial trouble since. Heartland Park Topeka witnessed NASCAR's Craftsman Truck series in its heyday but has hit financial trouble since. Picture: Marion Doss
 Neil Tipton
 Saturday, August 8, 2015

The beleaguered Heartland Park circuit in Topeka, Kansas, has a new owner after control of the facility was taken by its bank. CoreFirst Bank & Trust announced on Friday it had "filed the deeds" for the facility, meaning it became the sole owner of the property.

The move follows months of wrangling and a failed bid to buy the facility by the City of Topeka. Former operator Raymond Irwin and Jayhawk Racing LLC and the city of Topeka no longer own any part of Heartland Park and have 30 days to vacate the property.

Happily, the move also seems to have secured the future of the financially-beleaguered track, with CoreFirst saying in a statement that "qualified" third-party will run, and eventually buy, the circuit. Details of the new operator will be announced "in the not too distant future", the statement added.

The potential buyer's plans are thought to include growing the racing events at Heartland Park and adding a car condo and motorsports development project.

In the meantime, CoreFirst has worked with the NHRA to ensure that the August and September drag racing events at the facility can go ahread, with the bank and the NHRA sharing the costs of putting on the events.

"The bank believes it is critical for Heartland Park's future that these scheduled races take place," the statement added.

The track had been operated by Irwin and Jayhawk Racing LLC, with CoreFirst lending Irwin millions of dollars since he began managing the track in 2003. Financial difficulties meant that the bank could have filed deeds as early as March but elected to see the outcome of a potential saviour plan from the City of Topeka. However in May, councillors voted 6-4 to oppose moving forward with purchase plans, reversing an earlier positive vote. Local elections had seen several of the plan's supporters voted out as public anger grew at the potential use of taxpayer's money to save the track.

Had the city bought the track, it would have contracted-out operations to with Shelby LLC, a company formed by Missouri real estate developer Chris Payne. It is not known whether Shelby is the company CoreFirst is dealing with, or if any of the other four businesses which had expressed an interest to the council in running the track may also be in the running.

Image from Flickr used under a Creative Commons licence.

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