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Team Kalitta NHRA Sonoma Nationals Pre-Race Report

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Pre-Race Team Kalitta Notes
Event 15 of 24: 2019 Sonoma NHRA Nationals
Sonoma Raceway – Sonoma, CA
July 26-28, 2019

Team Kalitta looks to continue to dominate 2019 season with four wins including two each in Top Fuel and Funny Car. Each Team Kalitta driver has tasted victory and maintains Top Ten point position.

doug kalittaDoug Kalitta Ready to Extend Dominance at Sonoma Nationals

Doug Kalitta

Doug Kalitta

The Sonoma NHRA Nationals and Doug Kalitta have a strong history of success together. The championship contending Top Fuel racer is the winningest Top Fuel competitor in the history of the track. From 1998 to 2005 Kalitta picked up five victories at Sonoma Raceway and solidified his position as one of the greatest drivers to every take a win light. For Kalitta and the Mac Tools team the wins in the past are nice but a victory this weekend at the Sonoma NHRA Nationals would be a welcome addition to his resume.

“I have had a lot of success at Sonoma Raceway and I would love to get more wins there,” said Kalitta. “This weekend will be a good starting point to get some momentum heading to Indy for the U.S. Nationals and then the Countdown. We didn’t have great results in Denver but getting down to sea level we are hoping to get back in a winning groove.”

The five wins at the Sonoma Nationals have been bracketed around an additional runner-up finish in 2002. From 2000-2005 Kalitta raced to four final rounds and won three times. That kind of year to year
dominance is something Kalitta and the Mac Tools team is proud of for a variety of reasons.

“That stretch of wins in the early 2000s was great,” said Kalitta. “You just have a high level of confidence when you come back to a track year after year and have a lot of success. I know we can capture that success again. These guys working on this Mac Tools dragster are too good. I am really concentrating on doing my job as a driver.”

In addition to the five wins Kalitta also posted four No. 1 qualifiers at the Sonoma NHRA Nationals starting from the top of the field in 2012, 2004, 2003 and 1998. The cooler night time conditions contribute to low elapsed times and Kalitta is looking forward to Friday nights second session.

“You know the Friday night session will be the best chance to run a low number,” said Kalitta. “You want to get a solid run in the first qualifying session so you can be at the back of the pack. You can see what everyone else is running and set your tune-up from there. The track will be in great shape so I am excited about the possibilities to see some really quick times. We just want to be in the mix so we can get a favorable first round match-up on Sunday.”

2018 Sonoma NHRA Nationals Highlights: Qual. No. 9; Beat Steve Torrence, Clay Millican; Lost to Tony Schumacher

Last Event Recap (2019 Mile High NHRA Nationals): Qual. No. 10; Lost to Clay Millican

Quotable: Kalitta on heading to Sonoma: “We didn’t get a win in Denver so we will have to wait another year to try to sweep the Western Swing. Getting a win in Sonoma and then Seattle is our new goal. I am looking forward to getting off the mountain and back to sea level.”

Career Stats: 503 events, 496 starts, 669 round wins, 45 wins, 97 finals, 50 No. 1 qualifiers

2019 Season:
Winternationals: Qual. No. 7, WINNER; Beat Scott Palmer, Billy Torrence, Terry McMillen and Steve Torrence
Arizona Nationals: Qual. No. 5; Beat Jim Maroney; Lost to Jordan Vandergriff
Gatornationals: Qual. No. 11; Beat Terry McMillen, Steve Torrence; Lost to Clay Millican
Las Vegas1: Qual. No. 7; Beat Terry McMillen and Steve Chrisman; Beat Steve Torrent and Richie Crampton; Lost to Mike Salinas and Brittany Force
Houston: Qual. No. 8; Beat Terry McMillen; Lost to Brittany Force
Charlotte1: Qual. No. 4; Beat Richie Crampton and Lex Joon; Lost to Clay Millican and Leah Pritchett
Atlanta: Qual. No. 3; Lost to Shawn Reed
Richmond: Qual. No. 5; Lost to Scott Palmer
Chicago: Qual. No. 5; Beat Shawn Reed, Pat Dakin; Lost to Mike Salinas
Topeka: Qual. No. 5; Beat Leah Pritchett; Lost to Antron Brown
Bristol: Qual. No. 1; Beat Cameron Ferre, Terry McMillen; Lost to Mike Salinas
Norwalk: Qual. No. 13; Beat Clay Millican; Lost to Steve Torrence
Epping: Qual. No. 3; Lost to Terry McMillen
Denver: Qual. No. 10; Lost to Clay Millican
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JR ToddJ.R. Todd and DHL Camry Racing for More History at Sonoma Nationals

J.R. Todd

J.R. Todd

For J.R. Todd and the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car team heading to Sonoma is a welcome change of pace and altitude. The Mile High NHRA Nationals last week proved to be a challenging event with high temperatures and tricky track conditions frustrating the reigning NHRA Funny Car championship team. Todd is looking at the Sonoma NHRA Nationals as a new start in his pursuit of his second Funny Car world championship. The challenge of the Western Swing is one that Todd relishes conquering.

“All three tracks are different. It will be hot in Sonoma so that can be tricky,” explained Todd. “We will get to run at night so that should be our best run. Seattle it just depends on the weather. That place can be fast but it is usually hot as well. When the conditions are right there are a lot of trees around there and you can produce a lot of power. All three tracks have different characteristics but I enjoy all three tracks. I have had success at all three.”

The success Todd has achieved at Sonoma Raceway has not been limited to one category. He is one of only two drivers to ever win in Top Fuel and Funny Car at the historic northern California track which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2019. The Funny Car champion has two Top Fuel wins and one Funny Car victory. The other driver to achieve this feat is NHRA legend and Hall of Famer Don “The Snake” Prudhomme who took the Funny Car title in 1989 and Top Fuel title in 1992.

“I think it is really cool Snake and I are the only drivers to have won Top Fuel and Funny Car at Sonoma,” said Todd. “I know if Shawn (Langdon) wins Funny Car he could join the club but I am going to do my best to pick up that second Funny Car win. Everything about at Sonoma Raceway is first class. The staff is amazing and the facility is one of my favorite tracks on the circuit.”

Sonoma Raceway is one of just a handful of multi-use facilities the NHRA competes on and is the only track that also hosts NASCAR and Indy Car events on the same racing surface. Todd has a number of friends in other racing series and the thought of sharing the track with them has the 9-time Funny Car national event winner excited to get to the races.

“I never even thought who NASCAR and Indy Car both race here until last week, but yeah it is kind of cool to be able to share the track with Indy Car guys or NASCAR guys and some of my buddies that race other forms of motorsports,” said Todd. “I wouldn’t say that I have an advantage as a driver at that track. Teams that I have been with have run well there. The Kalittas just seem like they have a good handle on that track. You are always happy to get to some place that is closer to sea level. We are hoping to go there and redeem ourselves.”

This season Todd has picked up one win at the Las Vegas NHRA Nationals and has raced to three final rounds, most recently at the Virginia NHRA Nationals. Since that final round Todd has picked up two No. 1 qualifiers but hasn’t advanced beyond the quarterfinals.

“I think we figured a few things out after Norwalk and we have grabbed a couple No. 1 qualifiers but we want to get those win lights on race day,” said Todd. “I missed an opportunity to get a win in the first round in Denver but I learned something from that loss. You have to take as many positives from a bad experience as possible out here. It is tough and there are no easy rounds. I have a great race car and I just need to get the most out of every run from Friday through Sunday.”

2018 Sonoma NHRA Nationals Highlights: Qual. No. 15; Lost to Jack Beckman

Last Event Recap (2019 Mile High NHRA Nationals): Qual. 11; Lost to John Force

Quotable: J.R. Todd on heading to Sonoma: “I got the win in Sonoma my rookie year with my friend Eric Medlen. It was my second career Top Fuel win. To go back there ten years after we lost Eric and get a win with Team Kalitta in Connie’s car was special too. I got my first Funny Car win there. It is definitely a special place for me. It is probably my favorite track on the tour.”

Career Stats: 214 events, 206 starts, 227 round wins, 18 wins, 32 finals, 12 No. 1 qualifiers; in Funny Car: 62 events, 62 starts, 9 wins, 12 finals, 77 round wins, 3 No. 1 qualifiers

2019 Season:
Winternationals: Qual. No. 9; Lost to Bob Tasca III
Arizona Nationals: Qual. No. 5; RUNNER-UP; Beat Terry Haddock, Tommy Johnson Jr., Robert Hight, Lost to Matt Hagan
Gatornationals: Qual. No. 11; Lost to Jack Beckman
Las Vegas1: Qual. No. 4; WINNER; Beat Gary Densham and Jim Campbell in first quad, Matt Hagan and Jeff Diehl in second quad and in the final quad beat Tommy Johnson Jr., Jack Beckman and Tim Wilkerson.
Houston: Qual. No. 4; Beat Jim Campbell; Lost to Robert Hight
Charlotte1: Qual. No. 8; Beat Bob Tasca III and Bob Glibertson; Lost to Shawn Langdon and Robert Hight
Atlanta: Qual. No. 2; Beat Jim Campbell; Lost to Tommy Johnson Jr.
Richmond: Qual. No. 4; RUNNER-UP; Beat Bob Tasca III, Shawn Langdon, Jonnie Lindberg; Lost to Ron Capps
Chicago: Qual. No. 6; Lost to John Force
Topeka: Qual. No. 1; Beat bye; Lost to Robert Hight
Bristol: Qual. No. 5; Beat Terry Haddock; Lost to Jack Beckman
Norwalk: Qual. No. 7; Beat Robert Hight; Lost to John Force
Epping: Qual. No. 1; Beat bye; Lost to Tim Wilkerson
Denver: Qual. 11; Lost to John Force
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richie cramptonRichie Crampton and DHL Team Focused on Sonoma Success

Richie Crampton

Richie Crampton

Richie Crampton and the DHL Top Fuel dragster team are looking at the Sonoma NHRA Nationals as a chance to jump start their final push of the regular season. Last weekend at the Mile High NHRA Nationals the No. 8 qualifier took out Austin Prock in the first round and then missed an opportunity to defeat the current Top Fuel points leader Steve Torrence in the second round. The quarterfinal loss was tough one for the young Australian but only added fuel to a burning desire to stack up more wins this season.

“We definitely missed a great opportunity in the second round,” said Crampton. “That one hurt but I am putting it behind me and focusing on Sonoma. You have to have a short memory out here. On Friday we will be back at it and what happened in Denver is the past. I am looking at racing hard and smart in Sonoma.”

There are four races left in the regular season and Crampton is looking to make the most out of each event. He has a solid position in the Mello Yello top ten but round wins will secure a chance to race for the NHRA Top Fuel championship which is the goal of Crampton and the DHL team.

“We’re trying not to pay too much attention to the points, but you still always have an eye it and we made some gains this weekend,” said Crampton at the end of the day in Denver. “We ran well in round one to beat Austin Prock. Then we had a great shot to beat Steve Torrence in the second round and we didn’t take advantage of it. That’s a race we have to win, but we can’t do anything about it now. We just need to get ready to run Sonoma.”

Crampton has appeared in one final round at the Sonoma NHRA Nationals losing to current teammate J.R. Todd in the 2016 Top Fuel final. That was the best outing for Crampton at the historic track.
“We had a great race car in 2016 and J.R. took us out. I love having him as a teammate. Every one of my Kalitta teammates has Top Fuel experience and they all have a lot of success on top of that experience. That gives me a lot of confidence knowing I can talk to them and get some additional insight. This DHL team has a lot of talent and I am looking forward to getting to Sonoma and making so great passes.”

2018 Sonoma NHRA Nationals Highlights: Qual. No. 12; Lost to Brittany Force

Last Event Recap (2019 Mile High NHRA Nationals): Qual. No. 8; Beat Austin Prock; Lost to Steve Torrence

Quotable: Crampton on heading to Sonoma: “Kalitta Motorsports has a lot of success at Sonoma. I am looking to give it my best and see if we can park this DHL Top Fuel dragster in the winner’s circle on Sunday.”

Career Stats: 117 events, 116 starts, 98 round wins, 9 wins, 11 finals, 5 No. 1 qualifiers

2019 Season:
Winternationals: Qual. No. 6; Lost to Terry McMillen
Arizona Nationals: Qual. No. 15; Lost to Terry McMillen
Gatornationals: Qual. No. 12; WINNER, Beat Antron Brown, Leah Pritchett, TJ Zizzo and Clay Millican
Las Vegas1: Qual. No. 6; Beat Scott Palmer, Cameron Ferre; Lost to Doug Kalitta and Brittany Force
Houston: Qual. No. 13; Lost to Clay Millican
Charlotte1: Qual. No. 12; Lost to Doug Kalitta and Leah Pritchett
Atlanta: Qual. No. 7; Lost to Scott Palmer
Richmond: Qual. No. 7; Lost to Austin Prock
Chicago: Qual. No. 11; Beat Austin Prock; Lost to Steve Torrence
Topeka: Qual. No. 7; Beat Terry McMillen; Lost to Billy Torrence
Bristol: Qual. No. 9; Lost to Terry McMillen
Norwalk: Qual. No. 8; Lost to Billy Torrence
Epping: Qual. No. 2; Beat Audrey Worm, bye; Lost to Steve Torrence
Denver: Qual. No. 8; Beat Austin Prock; Lost to Steve Torrence

shawn langdonLangdon Looking to Add Funny Car Success to Sonoma Resume

Shawn Langdon

Shawn Langdon

As the second race of the Western Swing gets underway this weekend at Sonoma Raceway Shawn Langdon and the Global Electronic Technology Funny Car team are heading to northern California with confidence and momentum. The team is making strides at just the right time with only four races left in the NHRA regular season.

Last weekend in Denver at the Mile High NHRA Nationals Langdon raced to the quarterfinals but was even more encouraged by the performance numbers of his Global Electronic Technology Toyota Camry Funny Car. Racing at the mile high altitude the team qualified No. 9 but made consistent runs with the rest of the Funny Car field including a big first round victory over veteran Tim Wilkerson. The win moved Langdon up to ninth in the Mello Yello point standings and also put more pressure on the teams behind him in the standings.

“I feel like to have a good race car for hot conditions when the sun is out,” said Langdon. “Right now I feel like we can run when it is 120 degrees on track. I am about as excited as I have ever been with this race car. Race by race it is coming together. We are getting teased pretty good by it. It is showing us a lot of potential and I don’t think we have hit our full stride yet.”

The move from the mountain to Sonoma Raceway is a welcome adjustment for Langdon. The diversity of conditions is one of the characteristics that makes the Western Swing unique and challenging. The Global Electronic Technology team is looking to get to conditions more similar to where they recently had success.

“You go from Denver where you have to change out a lot of parts that you only run at that race. We relate Sonoma a lot more to how we ran in Epping when we raced to the final,” said Langdon. “It is a similar situation, high barometer and we are at sea level. We will be able to make power. In Denver you are trying really hard to make power but when you get to Sonoma you are automatically making power. The key is to manage that which I feel like we can do. I feel very confident.”

Langdon has had success at Sonoma Raceway racing in Top Fuel. In 2013 he took the Top Fuel title with a win over Morgan Lucas and the following year he raced back to the finals, dropping a close race to Khalid alBalooshi. If Langdon can pick up his second career Funny Car win and first Funny Car win at Sonoma Raceway he will join a very short list of dual nitro class winners at the historic northern California track. Only NHRA Hall of Famer and legend Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and Langdon’s teammate J.R. Todd have achieved that feat.

“Any time you can match a career achievement with Prudhomme you know you have done something special,” said Langdon. “To be able to add my name to that select group that also includes my teammate J.R. makes it even cooler. We are going to approach this race with the mindset of getting the most out of every round of qualifying and then focus on race day.”

2018 Sonoma NHRA Nationals Highlights: Qualified No. 8; Lost to John Force

Last Event Recap (2019 Mile High NHRA Nationals): Qual. No. 9; Beat Tim Wilkerson; Lost to Robert Hight

Quotable: Langdon heading to Sonoma: “This is one of the nicest facilities on the tour. My focus is going to be to win the last two races of the Western Swing and that starts with a good race this weekend in Sonoma.”

Career Stats: Qual. No. 9; Beat Tim Wilkerson; Lost to Robert Hight; in Funny Car 38 events, 38 starts, 26 round wins, 1 wins, 2 finals, 0 No. 1 qualifiers

2019 Season:
Winternationals: Qual. No. 6; Beat Jim Campbell; Lost to Tommy Johnson Jr.
Arizona Nationals: Qual. No. 7; Beat Cruz Pedregon; Lost to Matt Hagan
Gatornationals: Qual. No. 10; Lost to Cruz Pedregon
Las Vegas1: Qual. No. 8; Lost to Tim Wilkeron and Jeff Diehl
Houston: Qual. No. 10; Beat Cruz Pedregon; Lost to Ron Capps
Charlotte1: Qual 5; WINNER; Beat Jeff Diehl and Terry Haddock; Beat J.R. Todd and Tommy Johnson Jr; Beat Robert Hight, John Force and Matt Hagan
Atlanta: Qual. No. 6; Lost to Ron Capps
Richmond: Qual. No. 5; Beat Tim Wilkerson; Lost to J.R. Todd
Chicago: Qual. No. 4; Lost to Jeff Arend
Topeka: Qual. No. 8; Lost to Robert Hight
Bristol: Qual. No. 2; Beat Jeff Diehl; Lost to Ron Capps
Norwalk: Qual. No. 12; Beat Blake Alexander; Lost to Jack Beckman
Epping: Qual. No. 5; RUNNER-UP; Beat Jim Campbell, Robert Hight, Tim Wilkerson; Lost to Matt Hagan
Denver: Qual. No. 9; Beat Tim Wilkerson; Lost to Robert Hight

Photos courtesy of Gary Nastase Photography, driver photos: NHRA

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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. For more than 50 years, 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, 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.

Associate sponsors on Kalitta Motorsports’ race cars include AutoDesk CAM, Champion, Cogistics, Darton Sleeves, DHL, Global Electronic Technology, JEGS, Justice Brothers, Kalitta Air, Mac Tools, Racing Electronics, Red Line Oil, SealMaster, Toyota, and WIX Filters.

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