Visit Topeka and Pride Kansas announced its partnership with the first openly gay professional drag racer, Travis Shumake. Shumake will make his racing debut during the Menards National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Nationals on August 12-14 at Topeka’s Heartland Motorsports Park in Randy Meyer Racing’s Top Alcohol Dragster. The dragster will be outfitted with the Pride Kansas logo to represent the state’s inaugural week-long Pride celebration happening in Topeka on September 17-24.
“Just like the city of Topeka, the sport of NHRA drag racing is an unexpectedly welcoming and diverse place,” said Shumake. “Making my national event debut in Topeka sends a clear message that cities and sports with traditionally conservative reputations shouldn’t be overlooked as leaders in diversity. I couldn’t have picked a better debut sponsor. We are both trying to provide representations, resources and hope to underrepresented groups.”
A second-generation racer, Shumake grew up competitive shifter-kart racing with his father Tripp Shumake, a nationally renowned Funny Car racer who also competed in the NHRA. At the age of 37, Shumake fully committed to the sport in February 2022 and spent the last several months finalizing his sponsorship opportunities and completing his vehicle licensing, making him eligible to race at NHRA-sanctioned tracks and national events.
“We are extremely excited to welcome Travis to Topeka in August for his national debut,” said Topeka Mayor Mike Padilla. “Topeka is committed to being an inclusive and welcoming community, which has been demonstrated in our recent Human Rights Commission Municipal Equality Index score, in which we received the highest score in the state, tying only with Overland Park. As a city, we continue to increase our efforts on the score, ensuring that everyone has a seat at the table in everything we do.”
Shumake will be running a tribute on his rear wing to late Kansas racing legend Dale Wilch who passed away last August. A close family friend, Wilch brought Travis to Heartland Park for this same event as a kid with his daughter Nichole.
“To bring my family back to NHRA Drag Racing is a dream come true for all of us. Drag Racing was their life; I was just an afterthought.” He jokes. “It’s been 40 years since my dad’s final funny car win at the World Finals and I don’t think any of us thought we’d be pulling into the water box at Topeka this weekend. A reminder to never give up on your dreams, and when you dream…dream big.”
The Randy Meyer Racing Team will kick off qualifying at the Heartland Nationals this Friday, and will complete the field on Saturday before first round of eliminations. You can watch live on NHRA.tv or watch the re-air on FS2.