CONCORD, N.C. – After a season-opening win and a final-round appearance leading into the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, Doug Kalitta had high hopes about racing for his first world title. Things haven’t gone to plan during the first three playoff races, but the Top Fuel veteran still has big expectations to close out his NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
A championship may not factor into that, but Kalitta has his sights on a top-five finish in the class and more wins to finish his year, starting at this weekend’s NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway. Kalitta is the defending winner of the fall race at the state-of-the-art facility in his 10,000-horsepower Mac Tools dragster, something he would like to replicate to help end his year strong.
“Our focus is on making some improvements to win a few more races before this season wraps up,” Kalitta said. “We’ve been pretty consistent over the last few events, but we still aren’t at the level we need to be. I’ve got a great team behind me and I feel confident that we will end this year on a strong note. We definitely feel comfortable racing at Charlotte. It’s an excellent facility and the entire MAC Tools team is hoping this is an event where we can get back on track.”
Kalitta (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live final eliminations coverage starting at 2:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Oct. 14. It is the fourth of six races in the Countdown to the Championship and the 22nd of 24 races in a 2018 season that took a frustrating turn during the first half of the playoff season.
After a final-round finish at the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals to close out the regular season, Kalitta hasn’t been able to find that same rhythm, posting just one round win through the first three races in the Countdown to the Championship. It’s put Kalitta 299 points behind points leader Steve Torrence, who has won the first three playoff races, meaning a championship is out of the equation. But Kalitta is just 52 points back of fifth and 75 points out of fourth, giving him plenty of motivation to race well over the final three races.
“Winning another event would be huge to close out this season,” said Kalitta, who has one win and five finals appearances in 2018. “We haven’t started out the Countdown the way we had hoped, but being able to build up some momentum and get to the winner’s circle again would be a big boost for us. I have an excellent team, and they have stuck together all season long. It’s really impressive to see the work they have put in, and I know it is a championship-caliber bunch.”
Kalitta isn’t thinking ahead to 2019, but he does know the boost any late-season success, starting this weekend in Charlotte, would provide for next year. He’ll have to deal with the likes of Torrence, Clay Millican, Tony Schumacher, Antron Brown, Leah Pritchett and Dallas runner-up Terry McMillen at zMAX Dragway, but Kalitta continues to have confidence that the Kalitta Motorsports Top Fuel teams, which also includes Richie Crampton, can have an impact to finish out 2018.
“Our whole team would love a strong finish to the season to get ready for 2019,” said Kalitta, who has 44 career Top Fuel victories. “Richie and the CRAFTSMAN team have been working hard to close out the year strong, and some of those adjustments were definitely noticeable in Dallas. I feel the same way about the MAC Tools team, and our goal is to get a few wins to close out this year strong and be ready for a championship run next season.”
Funny Car points leader and defending world champ Hight will look for a repeat win at Charlotte to keep his hot streak going. He has two straight wins and a 50-point lead on J.R. Todd.
Pro Stock points leader Gray, who has seven 2018 wins, continues his impressive season, as the second-year star holds an 89-point lead on Vincent Nobile.
Krawiec is after his first Pro Stock Motorcycle playoff win in 2018, as the defending champ tries to track down points leader LE Tonglet, who has a 47-point lead after his Dallas win.The NHRA Carolina Nationals will also feature thrilling competition in the NHRA E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod Drag Racing Series, which will have its 11th of 12 races, as well as the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where the future stars of the sport earn their racing stripes.
Those in attendance will also have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with some of the biggest names in drag racing during the NHRA Legends Tour. This includes meet-and-greets, autograph sessions, and a variety of other activities. Legends scheduled to attend the NHRA Carolina Nationals include Jim Dunn, Frank Manzo and more.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 2:45 and 5:15 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 12, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Oct. 13, at 12:45 and 3:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 12 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 14.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 800-455-FANS (3267). Tickets also are available online at www.zmaxdragway.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
NHRA Carolina Nationals NHRA CAROLINA NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 11th annual NHRA Carolina Nationals, the 22nd of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the first of six races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – earn points leading to 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: zMAX Dragway- Track is located on Hwy 29 off I-85 at exit 49 (Speedway Blvd.) in the Concord, N.C. area.
COURSE: Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 630 feet above sea level.
Friday through Sunday, Oct. 12-14SCHEDULE:
FRIDAY, Oct. 12 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 2:and 4:30 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 2:45 and 5:15 p.m.
SATURDAY, Oct. 13 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying and eliminations
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at noon and 2:30 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 12:45 and 3:15 p.m.
SUNDAY, Oct. 14- Pre-race ceremonies, 11 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at noonTELEVISION:
Friday, Oct. 12, FS1 will televise one hour of live qualifying coverage at 6 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, Oct. 14, FS1 will televise three hours of live finals coverage starting at 2:00 p.m. (ET).2017 EVENT WINNERS:
Doug Kalitta, Top Fuel; Robert Hight, Funny Car; Tanner Gray, Pro Stock; Eddie Krawiec, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Top Fuel – 3.713 seconds by J.R. Todd, Mar. ’15; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’12.
Funny Car – 3.851 seconds by Courtney Force, April ’17; 333.91 mph by Robert Hight, April ’17.
Pro Stock – 6.455 seconds by Jason Line, Mar. ’15; 215.48 mph by Greg Anderson, Mar. ’15.
Pro Stock Motorcycle – 6.792 seconds by Eddie Krawiec, April ’17; 199.88 mph by Arana Jr., Mar. ’15.
Top Fuel – 3.628 sec. by Clay Millican, Feb. ’18, Pomona, Calif.; 336.57 mph by Tony Schumacher, Feb. ‘18, Phoenix
Funny Car – 3.793 sec. by Robert Hight, Aug. ’17, Brainerd; 339.87 mph by Robert Hight, July ’17, Sonoma, Calif.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ’14, Englishtown N.J.
Pro Stock Motorcycle – 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct ‘12, Reading, PA.; 201.01 mph by Hector Arana Jr., March ‘18, Gainesville, Fla.
For tickets call (800) 455-FANS. Tickets also are available online at www.zmaxdragway.com.
Photos courtesy of NHRA
Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. NHRA presents 24 national events featuring the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, and E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service. NHRA provides competition opportunities for drivers of all levels in the NHRA Summit Racing Series and the NHRA Drags: Street Legal Style presented by AAA. NHRA also offers NHRA Jr. Street program for teens and the Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League for youth ages 5 to 17. In addition, NHRA owns and operates four racing facilities: Atlanta Dragway in Georgia; Gainesville Raceway in Florida; Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis; and Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California.