Doug Kalitta and the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster turned on the most notable win light of the veteran driver’s career today when the four-time Indy finalist became a first-time winner at the NHRA U.S. Nationals. Kalitta, the No. 8 qualifier, defeated some of the toughest young and veteran drivers competing in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. The win was the 46th in Kalitta’s Hall of Fame worthy career. The race today was also Kalitta’s 500th to start and the victory marked the 25th anniversary of team owner Connie Kalitta’s last Top Fuel victory at the U.S. Nationals.
“I just can’t say enough about everyone that’s been working on my Mac Tools Toyota. They were busting their butts – and (team owner) Connie (Kalitta) was right there with them,” said Kalitta. “Having him in our corner is awesome. What a day. It feels great to win a big race that Connie won. The track conditions were incredible this weekend. The Safety Safari team busted their butts out there. The fans here are awesome. It hasn’t settled in that I won the U.S. Nationals.”
In the first round of his 22nd U.S. Nationals Kalitta took the win over fellow Countdown contender and veteran driver Clay Millican. It was Kalitta’s right foot that sealed the victory with a stellar reaction time that got the win when both dragsters lit up the scoreboard with identical 3.721 second elapsed times.
“I’m a real persistent guy, so I never give up. It does make you wonder. When we got by Clay I was thinking this is going to be a good opportunity and I’m just glad we were able to take advantage of it,” said Kalitta. “These guys out here are all so good. You have to be right on your game every time and I’m not getting any younger, so you have to work a little harder at it. It worked out well just getting by Clay because those guys are always tough.”
The No. 1 qualifier was the next opponent for the Mac Tools team and again it was Kalitta getting a win with a solid 3.757 second elapsed time. This was the second race in a row for Kalitta to advance to the semifinals and he would face rookie Austin Prock with a fourth U.S. Nationals final round appearance on the line. The semifinal was Kalitta’s easiest round of the day as Prock went into immediate tire smoke and Kalitta cruised to victory and his 98th career final round.
“I just try to stay patient and make sure I go when that light comes on. We try not to worry about who’s in the other lane, but Brittany’s car has been on a rail. She qualified first, so we knew we had a tough run there and it was a close race,” added Kalitta.
For the second year in a row it was Kalitta and the Mac Tools dragster hoping to make history with their first U.S. Nationals win. In a dramatic final round for the ages Kalitta and Billy Torrence launched together with Kalitta holding a slight starting line advantage. As both dragsters barreled down the track they were neck and neck before both race cars hazed the tires and lost power just before the finish line. It was Kalitta who had the edge and momentum to get to the stripe for the win, his second of the season and first at the most prestigious drag race in the world.
“We came out of the semifinals and had to stop to do a quick interview with FOX and I got back just in time to warm up my car,” said Kalitta. “I was glad I was able to be the one to warm up my car because I didn’t want to change up anything the way our day was going. It was kind of ugly in the final. At 800 feet, it seemed like my car was just coasting with no power. I thought it was over, but the win light came on.”
Kalitta’s strong performance today also locked him into the No. 2 position in the Top Fuel points and as the regular season moves into the six race playoff the veteran driver will only be 20 points out of the Top Fuel lead with six races remaining in the season.