Race Recap: Doug Kalitta and his Mac Tools’ team took home the Wally at the Winternationals this afternoon, one year to the day of last year’s victory here in Pomona, defeating 2018 Top Fuel World Champion and number one qualifier, Steve Torrence. His victory was the first back-to-back win at the Winternationals since Larry Dixon’s wins in 2002 and 2003.
Kalitta proved his reputation as one of the best drivers in his class as three of the four rounds won were hole shot wins.
Starting in the seventh position with a 3.716 second qualifying pass, Kalitta earned a his 490th race start, ranking him eighth among all pro drivers. His first round match up was with Scott Palmer, who Kalitta held a 14-2 record against. Doug’s .053 reaction time and a 3.707 elapsed time (which was his best of the weekend), sailed past Palmer’s immediate tire smoke.
Second round Kalitta faced number two qualifier Billy Torrence. Right out of the gate, Kalitta took the starting line advantage and the power to hold on for his first of three consecutive hole shot victories. The margin of victory was very close .0023 seconds which amounted to approximately 13 inches at the finish line, moving Kalitta to the semi-finals.
With another challenging opponent in Terry McMillen, Kalitta powered his Mac Tools Dragster to a 3.708, but that alone would not have gotten the win light. It was his .043 reaction time that helped secure the semi-final win against McMillen’s 3.706, sending Kalitta into his 97th final round.
Kalitta looked to earn back to back Winternationals win against his final opponent, 2018 Top Fuel Champion Steve Torrence, who was looking to continue his win streak of 27 round wins. Both cars hazed the tires to make for an exciting race, but it was again Kalitta’s reaction time that defeated Torrence and sent the Mac Tools Top Fuel team to the Winner’s Circle.
This win is Kalitta’s 45thcareer win and third Winternationals title.
On the win:“It was really nice just to go rounds today. In the Countdown to end last year, all we were getting is one or two rounds, so to start going rounds today really helped the team’s morale. It was just a battle all day. It worked out well and we got the win.”
On winning the Winternationals for the second consecutive year:“Growing up, I remember coming out here years ago when Connie was driving. I always thought this was the coolest place going and I still do, so to win back-to-back Winternationals is really something special. To have success here is more than you can imagine for me.”
In beating Steve Torrence: “My car started smoking out there and I thought for sure that Steve was going to drive away. But we hung in there and the win late came on for our Mac Tools Toyota dragster. Steve and that Capco team are really good. We were real fortunate to get by them and we’ll just keep at it. I’m really proud of all the guys working on my car.”
Did you lift on the run in the finals when you started to smoke the tires? “There was no lifting. I could see the finish line, so we just held on to it down there. It was either let it blow or get the win. There was nothing to gain by lifting. I was just expecting him to go by when we started smoking, but fortunately for us, he was having some type of problem over there. He’s had a heck of a streak and there’s no better place to get by him at than the Winternationals.”
Changes on your team from last year: “Our guys have been very meticulous during the off-season. Everyone has been very positive and have been working together really well. Everyone on the team wants to win and we were really hungry for this one. It was definitely a good day for us.”
Qualified: No. 7 (3.716, 326.87 mph)
E1: 3.707 E.T. at 237.96 MPH defeated Scott Palmer 93.47 E.T. at 93.47 MPH
E2: 3.716 E.T. at 331.94 MPH defeated Billy Torrence 3.67 E.T. at 325.69 MPH
E3: 3.708 E.T. at 328.7 MPH defeated Terry McMillen 3.706 E.T. at 329.1 MPH
E4: 4.014 E.T. at 269.29 MPH defeated Steve Torrence 4.008 E.T. at 240.25 MPH
Langdon Advances his Global Electronic Technology Toyota straight to the Second Round
Race Recap: After a stellar qualifying effort throughout the weekend, Langdon carried that momentum into the first round of eliminations. Langdon had a strong reaction time right out of the gate and ran his best run of the weekend (3.930) to defeat his first opponent Jim Campbell. Despite being first off the line and quicker at the 60′ mark, the Global Electronic Technology Toyota Camry loses to Tommy Johnson, Jr.
Qualified: No. 6 (3.927 sec., 325.77 mph)
Disappointing Season Opener for 2018 Funny Car Champion JR Todd
Race Recap: Reigning Funny Car Champ, JR Todd and his DHL team, the “Yella Fellas” day came to a quick end after a very quick tire-smoke at the step.
Qualified: No. 9 (3.940 sec., 319.98 mph)
Despite An Optimistic Qualifying Performance, Crampton Exits First Round
Race Recap: Richie Crampton and the debut of the DHL Top Fuel Dragster had a great run first round of eliminations, but it wasn’t enough to get past his opponent. Leaving the starting line, Crampton had a slight advantage with his .053 reaction time, but Terry McMillen career-best run took the win.
Qualified: No. 6 (3.712 sec., 327.43mph)
E1: 3.737 E.T. at 325.22 MPH defeated by Terry McMillen 3.71 E.T. at 319.1 MPH
Photos courtesy of Gary Nastase Photography
NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship Standings:
1. Doug Kalitta – 117
2. Steve Torrence – 106
3. Terry McMillen – 72
4. Mike Salinas – 70
5. Billy Torrence – 56
6. Leah Pritchett – 52
6. Austin Prock – 52
8. Antron Brown – 37
9. Richie Crampton – 35
9. Scott Palmer – 35
1. Robert Hight – 121
2. Jack Beckman – 100
3. Tommy Johnson Jr. – 81
4. John Force – 71
5. Shawn Langdon – 58
6. Ron Capps – 57
7. Bob Tasca III – 55
8. Cruz Pedregon – 54
9. Matt Hagan – 37
10. Jim Campbell – 32
10. Gary Densham – 32
10. Frank Pedregon – 32
10. J.R. Todd – 32
10. Tim Wilkerson – 32
About Kalitta Motorsports:
Based in Ypsilanti, Mich., Kalitta Motorsports is a Top Fuel and Funny Car drag racing team in the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. The team was founded and is owned by drag racing icon Connie “the Bounty Hunter” Kalitta. Celebrating the 60th year of Kalitta Motorsports, Connie has been involved in the sport as a driver, tuner, and an owner. Kalitta Motorsports is one of the most successful teams in the history of auto racing with seven world championships and over 100 national event titles in five different professional drag racing sanctioning bodies since it was established by Connie in 1959.
Team Kalitta fields four full-time entries in the NHRA Mello Yello nitro classes. Connie Kalitta’s nephew, Doug Kalitta, pilots the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster while former Rookie of the Year winner Richie Crampton drives the DHL Top Fuel dragster. In Funny Car, 2018 Funny Car Champion J.R. Todd is the driver of the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car and Shawn Langdon pilots the Global Electronic Technology Toyota Camry Funny Car. Connie Kalitta serves as head tuner for all Team Kalitta entries. He is assisted by co-crew chiefs Jon Oberhofer and Todd Smith on the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car, Nicky Boninfante and Del Worsham on the Global Electronic Technology Toyota Camry Funny Car, Kurt Elliott on the DHL Top Fuel dragster and Rob Flynn and Troy Fasching lead the efforts on the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster.