News Ticker

Team Kalitta Pre-Race NHRA Reading Nationals Report

Share

Pre-Race Team Kalitta Notes
Event 19 of 24: 2019 NHRA Nationals
Maple Grove Raceway – Reading, PA
September 13-15, 2019

  • Team Kalitta is entering the Countdown to the Championship with four world championship contending teams.
  • Each Team Kalitta driver has tasted victory and is focused on winning a Mello Yello title.

Doug KalittaDoug Kalitta In Position For Top Fuel World Championship

Doug Kalitta

Doug Kalitta

Doug Kalitta and the Mac Tools team started the season with a win at the Winternationals and they capped off the regular season with a win at the U.S. Nationals to catapult themselves into the Countdown to the Championship as the No. 2 Top Fuel team. Kalitta is only 20 points out of the Mello Yello points lead heading into the NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway this weekend. This is the second time Kalitta will enter the Countdown as the No. 2 driver. The veteran driver was the regular season champion in 2014 but finished fifth that season. Two years ago he started fifth and finished a strong third in his quest for his first Top Fuel world championship. The Mac Tools team is positioned once again for a serious run at the Mello Yello Top Fuel championship.

“I think this team has been solid all season,” said Kalitta. “We have been right in the mix with the top teams. Everything came together for us at the U.S. Nationals and we are ready for the Countdown. That was a big win for this team. We have six races to show what this Mac Tools team is made of and we will be ready for Reading.”

For Kalitta like every other Top Fuel Countdown contender he will be looking to keep a trend alive with a win at the Maple Grove Raceway national event. Since 2013 the Top Fuel winner in Reading has gone on to win the Mello Yello championship. Winners have come from a variety of starting points and but the one constant is a win at Maple Grove Raceway.

“I think you look at the performance opportunities at a track like Maple Grove and you can see where the winner from that race has a strong race car,” said Kalitta. “I would definitely like to keep that streak alive if we get a win this weekend. The biggest thing I am focusing on is just being consistent and not making any mistakes. You can’t let any outside pressure distract you at this time of the year.”

The Mac Tools Top Fuel racer has one victory at the NHRA Nationals in Reading picking up the win over legendary Top Fuel racer Kenny Bernstein in 2002. Two years later Kalitta was the No. 1 qualifier. Since then Kalitta has been battling to reach the finals and grab that second career win.

“The track has a lot of history. You see record runs just about every year. There are a lot of great teams in the Countdown and we are just going to give it our best shot starting on Friday,” added Kalitta.

2018 NHRA Maple Grove Highlights: Qual. No. 8; Beat Richie Crampton; Lost to Clay Millican

Last Event Recap (2019 NHRA U.S. Nationals): Qual. No. 8; WINNER; Beat Clay Millican, Brittany Force, Austin Prock, Billy Torrence

Quotable: Kalitta on heading into Countdown: “I am excited. We have a lot of momentum from the U.S. Nationals win. We just need to keep charging and doing the things we know how to do.”

Career Stats: 507 events, 500 starts, 677 round wins, 46 wins, 98 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
Sonoma: Qual. No. 5; Beat Scott Palmer; Lost to Antron Brown
Seattle: Qual. No. 8; Beat Scott Palmer; Lost to Mike Salinas
Brainerd: Qual. No. 7; Beat Terry McMillen, Steve Torrence; Lost to Mike Salinas
Indianapolis: Qual. No. 8; WINNER; Beat Clay Millican, Brittany Force, Austin Prock and Billy Torrence
twitter 48web link 48

J.R. ToddRace to Second Championship Begins Now for DHL and J.R. Todd

J.R. Todd

J.R. Todd

The time has come for the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car and reigning champion J.R. Todd to reach back and build on the successful results that catapulted him to the top of the Funny Car standings last season. After picking up his second consecutive U.S. Nationals title last year Todd and his Yella Fellas team took the win at the NHRA Nationals in Reading. It was that race that continued to keep the Funny Car team in championship form. This year they are looking to recreate the Reading magic albeit with a little tougher path to follow.

“Last year we were coming off a win in Indy but this year I think we still have an amazing team and race car,” said Todd. “We almost made it to three finals in a row at the U.S. Nationals and we aren’t hanging our head in this DHL pit. A whole new season starts this weekend and I have a lot of confidence.”

The win last year at the NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway put Todd in select company as one of only three drivers to have a Top Fuel and Funny Car win at the eastern Pennsylvania track. He is in good company with Hall of Famers Kenny Bernstein and Gary Scelzi. Todd’s teammate, Shawn Langdon, is also in the running to add his name to this illustrious list.

“I think having success at a race track in Top Fuel and Funny Car is cool,” said Todd. “The race cars are so different you can’t really compare them. Any time your name is on a list with Bernstein and Scelzi it is pretty awesome. I am going to be focused on getting a second Funny Car win this weekend. That would go a long way in making a second championship a reality.”

It has been sixteen seasons since a Funny Car driver has won back to back Mello Yello championships. John Force wrapped up his streak of ten championships in a row with championships in 2001 and then 2002. Since then nine different drivers have added their names to the list to Funny Car world champions.

“Our goal is to win another championship this season,” said Todd. “I think we have the team and Funny Car to get the job done. We have been making good runs lately and I think I have been doing a good job behind the wheel. This is where you have to get it done. You have to avoid first round losses and you need to get some of those qualifying bonus points. This class has never been tougher and I think you will see four or five Funny Cars in contention for the championship when we get to Pomona. My job is to make sure this DHL Camry is one of those race cars.”

In order to be in the championship hunt Todd and his DHL team will need to make up some ground. Heading into Reading as the No. 8 Funny Car he is 80 points away from Robert Hight, the regular season champion. Todd has a history of making jumps in the Countdown including the second biggest move when he was racing Top Fuel in 2014 when he jumped from the No. 10 spot to the No. 2 spot. Last season Todd took the championship from the No. 5 starting spot in the Countdown.

“You can’t look at how many people you have to jump over,” said Todd. “You have to look at what you can control. Last year we won the first race and that moved us up. We went to four more finals after that in the Countdown. That kind of performance is going to put you in a position to win the championship. It all starts this weekend and we are going to be looking at qualifying on Friday as the jumping off point for our championship run.”

2018 NHRA Maple Grove Highlights: Qual. No. 8; WINNER; Beat Bob Tasca III, Mike Smith, Ron Capps and Tim Wilkerson

Last Event Recap (2019 NHRA U.S. Nationals): Qual. No. 5; Beat Cruz Pedregon, Ray Martin; Lost to Jack Beckman

Quotable: J.R. Todd on heading into Countdown: “Getting a good start in Reading will be key. You can’t win the championship in the first race but you can put yourself in a great position with a strong finish at the first Countdown race.

Career Stats: 218 events, 210 starts, 230 round wins, 18 wins, 32 finals, 12 No. 1 qualifiers; in Funny Car: 66 events, 66 starts, 9 wins, 12 finals, 80 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. No. 11; Lost to John Force
Sonoma: Qual. No. 11; Lost to Matt Hagan
Seattle: Qual. No. 2; Beat Jeff Diehl; Lost to Ron Capps
Brainerd: Qual. No. 10; Lost to Ron Capps
Indianapolis: Qual. No. 5; Beat Cruz Pedregon, Ray Martin; Lost to Jack Beckman
facebook 48twitter 48instagram red 48

Shawn LangdonGlobal Electronic Technology and Langdon Focused on Chase for Funny Car Championship

Shawn Langdon

Shawn Langdon

The Global Electronic Technology Toyota Camry Funny Car is peaking at the right time on the performance curve and that has second year Funny Car driver Shawn Langdon fired up for the Countdown. Langdon is one of only two drivers to have avoided a first round loss since June. The race day win lights have been adding up and the former Top Fuel world champion knows that wins are right around the corner.

“Our goal at the beginning of the year was to win the championship and win races,” said Langdon. “We are close. We have had a great car in qualifying. There are just some minor improvements on race day really just some minor tweaks and we can get this Camry in the winner’s circle. It is very capable. I really feel like we have a top three race car right now.”

Last year it was teammate J.R. Todd who took the win at Maple Grove Raceway and then dominated in the Countdown for his first Funny Car world championship. Langdon picked up the Top Fuel win in 2013 and cruised to his own world championship. This weekend the driver of the Global Electronic Technology Camry Funny Car will be focused on getting four win lights on Sunday no matter where he is positioned in the Top Ten.

“Especially at the nine spot it is crucial that first race you can’t lose first round,” explained Langdon, who has an eight race streak of first round wins. “Really you want to avoid first round losses at any of the races but that first race is critical. We are going to go to Reading with the same temperament we had (in Indy) of just maintaining the quality of car that we had here throughout qualifying. The car responded well to the changes. We were able to find some weak spots and we fine-tuned those. We made a great run the first round (in Indy).”

The drive for a Funny Car championship has Langdon leaning on his experiences from 2013. That season he entered the Countdown as the Top Fuel regular season champion and was able to maintain his top spot through the final six races. The mental toll is one that Langdon is preparing for once again with a fast race car and high expectations.

“There is a lot of mental work in the Countdown as a driver,” said Langdon. “There is no easy way to go about it. I do know that being in the No. 1 spot it is yours to lose. That is a tough spot to be in and you have a lot of eyes on you. I like being an aggressive driver. I feel like coming from the nine spot will let me express my competitive nature and my aggressive driving style. I just want to do what I need to do to make sure this Toyota is in the mix at the end.”

Langdon also has experience in the Countdown moving up and around drivers who finished the regular season ahead of him. In 2012 he moved up three positions over six races. Two seasons ago he jumped up three spots as well. For Langdon he feels that the starting position doesn’t mean anything once the Countdown starts.

“We have six races left and with win lights on Sunday you can make up ground pretty quickly,” said Langdon. “The points have been reset so there aren’t any big leads in front of me. I will be aggressive and I know my guys will give me a great race car. I won this race in 2013 and went on to win the championship. It would be cool to try and duplicate that in Funny Car. It won’t be easy because I really think anyone of the Funny Cars in the Top Ten could win the championship. I am going to do everything I can to make sure it is the Global Electronic Technology Toyota Camry Funny Car.”

A win this Sunday in Reading, Pa., would also put Langdon in elite company. The 2013 Top Fuel winner would join teammate J.R. Todd along with Hall of Famers Kenny Bernstein and Gary Scelzi as the only drivers to have Top Fuel and Funny Car wins at the Maple Grove Raceway NHRA national event.

2018 NHRA Maple Grove Highlights: Qualified No. 6; Lost to Robert Hight

Last Event Recap (2019 NHRA U.S. Nationals): Qual. No. 7; Beat Tommy Johnson Jr.; Lost to Matt Hagan

Quotable: Langdon on Countdown: “I have a lot of confidence right now in this Global Electronic Technology Toyota Camry Funny Car. It is running the best it has all season so I definitely think we are peaking at the right time. The Countdown is about consistency and avoiding mistakes. I can’t wait to get to Maple Grove.”

Career Stats: 250 events, 247 starts, 281 round wins, 15 wins, 32 finals, 18 No. 1 qualifiers; in Funny Car 42 events, 42 starts, 31 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. No. 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
Sonoma: Qual. No. 2; Beat Terry Haddock; Lost to John Force
Seattle: Qual. No. 6; Beat Cruz Pedregon; Lost to Matt Hagan
Brainerd: Qual. No. 6; Beat Paul Lee, Bob Bode; Lost to Ron Capps
Indianapolis: Qual. No. 7; Beat Tommy Johnson Jr.; Lost to Matt Hagan

Richie CramptonDHL Top Fueler Richie Crampton Eager to Race for Top Fuel Title

Richie Crampton

Richie Crampton

With the six-race Countdown to the Championship kicking off this weekend Richie Crampton and the DHL/Kalitta Air Top Fuel team are racing for a win and the chance to repeat history. The previous six Top Fuel winners at the NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway have gone on to win the Mello Yello championship. Winners have come from the No. 1 position to as deep in the Top Ten as the No. 6 position. For Crampton who starts the chase for his first Top Fuel world championship from the No. 9 spot the first race is one where he is looking to build some momentum.

“We just need to have a long Sunday,” said Crampton, the winner of the historic Gatornationals this season. “It has been a while since we have seen the kind of race day success we expect but the Countdown is a brand new season. This DHL Top Fuel team is ready and we spent some time after Indy getting ready for these last six races. I think it is anyone’s championship to win honestly. The first races are critical and I have a lot of confidence in my team.”

This is Crampton’s fourth run for a Top Fuel championship in the Countdown format. He made his first Countdown in 2014 and the following year started as the No. 3 driver at the end of the regular season. The young Australian Top Fuel racer finished right where he started as the third place finisher for the Mello Yello Top Fuel world championship, his best Top Fuel finish to date. Three seasons ago Crampton made the Countdown in the No. 9 spot and again held form finishing No. 9. Last season he narrowly missed a top ten finish slipping out of the playoffs at the U.S. Nationals. This season Crampton solidified his spot with a strong qualifying effort in Indy.

“It was a definite bummer to miss the Countdown last season,” said Crampton. “I wasn’t going to let that happened again. This team is too good. We are in the playoffs and we want to start moving up in the standings starting at Maple Grove Raceway this weekend.”

All four Team Kalitta race teams are battling for Mello Yello championships and the positive team mentality is something Crampton feels gives them all an advantage. Last year teammate J.R. Todd stormed through the Countdown for his first Funny Car world championship. Crampton thinks there are opportunities for the entire Team Kalitta organization to thrive.

“One of the main things we have going for us here at Team Kalitta is all the support we give each other and especially the support from our sponsors like TRD (Toyota Racing Development),” said Crampton. “We are constantly getting feedback and info for the teams and crew chiefs. I think it will really pay off in the Countdown. We are constantly pushing each other to get better as a group of drivers and I am really looking forward to seeing how far we can take this DHL Top Fuel dragster in the playoffs.”

2018 NHRA Maple Grove Highlights: Qual. No. 9; Lost to Doug Kalitta

Last Event Recap (2019 NHRA U.S. Nationals): Qual. No. 5; Lost to Austin Prock

Quotable: Crampton on heading into Countdown: “It is a brand new season. We have some ground to make up but this DHL/Kalitta Air team is up to the task.”

Career Stats: 121 events, 120 starts, 99 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
Sonoma: Qual. No. 7; Beat Terry McMillen; Lost to Steve Torrence
Seattle: Qual. No. 6; Lost to Antron Brown
Brainerd: Qual. No. 11; Lost to Clay Millican
Indianapolis: Qual. No. 5; Lost to Austin Prock

Photos courtesy of Gary Nastase Photography, driver photos: NHRA

Kalitta Motorsports logotwitter 48facebook 48instagram red 48web link 48

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.

Share