First Openly Gay Drag Racer Debuts at NHRA Nationals in Topeka, K.S.
History was made this weekend in Topeka, Kansas, when Travis Shumake, the first openly gay professional drag racer, made his national racing debut during the Menards National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Nationals at Topeka’s Heartland Motorsports Park.
In partnership with Visit Topeka and Pride Kansas, Shumake crossed the NHRA Nationals finish line in a Pride Kansas-themed dragster to represent the state’s inaugural week-long Pride celebration happening in Topeka September 17–24. The 24-foot, 4,000-horsepower, nitromethane burning rocket also featured a modern geometric rainbow hood and matching parachutes.
“I am honored to have made my national racing debut in Topeka,” Shumake said. “Like the sport of drag racing, Topeka is a surprisingly welcoming community, and an advocate for inclusion. I am proud to draw attention to the state’s first Pride event and look forward to people around the country discovering Topeka for themselves.”
“We’re excited to see Travis make his national event debut in Top Alcohol Dragster at Topeka this weekend with sponsors like Visit Topeka and Pride Kansas,” said Jeffrey Young, vice president of marketing and communication at NHRA. “Travis is an outspoken and passionate leader in the LGBTQ+ community, and he does a terrific job of helping wave the NHRA flag of ‘Speed for All.’”
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. In February 2022, Shumake fully committed to the sport and has 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.
Shumake’s NHRA debut at Heartland Motorsports Park comes just a month before Kansas’ first-ever statewide Pride festival, which will take place from September 17–24, with the inaugural Pride parade taking place on Saturday, September 24. The week-long celebration will feature regional artists and activists, with events happening at Equality House, the North Topeka Arts and Entertainment (NOTO) District and Studio 62, an eclectic art bar that hosts weekly drag shows. Kansas representative Brandon Woodard, who was elected to the Kansas State Legislature in 2018 as one of the state’s first openly gay state representatives, will be speak at the inaugural event, and Oceanside Hotels, a popular regional Indie Rock band, and several drag artists will welcome visitors to Topeka.
“We’re thrilled to have Travis’ historic debut race take place in Topeka ahead of the state’s first ever Pride parade,” said Shawn Zarazua, director of Pride Kansas. Kansas. “From our rainbow-colored crosswalk to our various LGBTQ+ resources and landmarks, our city is rooted in diversity and inclusion, and we can’t wait to continue this celebration in September.”
“It’s been a pleasure to work with Travis, Pride Kansas and our many other partners who are moving diversity and inclusion forward in the sunflower state,” said Sean Dixon, president of Visit Topeka. “We look forward to turning some heads with Kansas’ first Pride event this fall, and our community can’t wait to welcome visitors from far and wide who are curious about what Topeka and the state have to offer.”