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Team Kalitta Pre-Race Report NHRA Vegas Nationals

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Pre-Race Team Kalitta Notes
Event 23 of 24: 2019 NHRA Vegas Nationals
The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway – Las Vegas, Nev.
October 31- November 3, 2019

Team Kalitta is entering the fifth race of the Countdown to the Championship with Doug Kalitta and Richie Crampton in the Top Fuel championship fight. In Funny Car J.R. Todd and Shawn Langdon are also both in striking distance of the points lead and focused on winning a Mello Yello title.

doug kalittaDoug Kalitta, Mac Tools Within Striking Distance of World Championship Headed to Vegas

Doug Kalitta

Doug Kalitta

Entering the penultimate race of the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Doug Kalitta and his Mac Tools team are poised to win their first Top Fuel world championship. A season of consistency has continued into a solid Countdown run that has the veteran driver only 33 points out of first place. There is a quartet of teams within striking distance of the top spot but Kalitta has been the most consistent and steady throughout the season. Over the past five races the Mac Tools team has tallied three final rounds including a win at the U.S. Nationals.

“We have had a great race car the past two months and really all season,” said Kalitta. “I can’t complain about anything on the performance side. I have a lot of confidence and getting to two finals in the Countdown has given us a real shot at the championship. It is a wide open race this season.”

Kalitta and his Mac Tools team have finished second four times since he started racing in 1998. Most recently he finished right behind Antron Brown in 2016. The races of the past are not on Kalitta’s radar as he has captured some elusive success already this season.

“We have come close to the championship a number of times,” said Kalitta. “This year has been great getting the win at the U.S. Nationals. That was a big win for this Mac Tools team and for Kalitta Motorsports. We have two races to go and we are going to put all our energy into getting that championship.”

The U.S. Nationals win a first in 21 previous attempts gave Kalitta some momentum going into the Countdown. He took a runner-up finish in Reading, Pennsylvania to teammate Richie Crampton and followed that up with another final round appearance in Charlotte.

“We have everything we need to win this championship and that is because of Connie Kalitta. I started working on his Top Fuel dragster over 30 years ago. To win the Top Fuel championship would be really special to everyone on this team and at Kalitta Motorsports. I think we have a really good chance and it will be a battle with Steve (Torrence) and Brittany (Force) and Billy (Torrence). With points and a half in Pomona you never know what could happen.”

His history at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway has seen additional success. He has two wins to his credit including a win in 2015 over Larry Dixon as well as a runner-up finish in 2007. The three final round appearances have Kalitta ready to capture his first championship.

“I have been close to the championship before and I would love to win the championship this season. I have the race car that can do it and I feel as confident behind the wheel as I ever have. There are two races left in the season and I want to win them both,” added Kalitta.

2018 NHRA Vegas Nationals Highlights: Qual. No. 6; Lost to Richie Crampton

Last Event Recap (2019 NHRA FallNationals): Qual. No. 10; Lost to Austin Prock

Quotable: Kalitta on heading to final two races and heading to Las Vegas: “I have a lot of confidence in this Mac Tools team. We dodged a bullet in Dallas but we can’t count on other people making mistakes. I know this team is capable of winning the championship. We just have to go our starting on Friday and execute. It is going to be an exciting weekend in Las Vegas.”

Career Stats: 511 events, 504 starts, 684 round wins, 46 wins, 100 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
Reading: Qual. No. 3; RUNNER-UP; Beat Smax Smith, Mike Salinas, Austin Prock; Lost to Richie Crampton
St. Louis: Qual. No. 10; Beat Richie Crampton; Lost to Billy Torrence
Charlotte2: Qual. No. 10; RUNNER-UP; Beat Antron Brown, Leah Pritchett, Brittany Force; Lost to Steve Torrence
Dallas: Qual. No. 10; Lost to Austin Prock
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J.R. Todd

J.R. Todd Looking for Fourth Win in a Row at The Strip at Las Vegas

J.R. Todd

J.R. Todd

No driver has had the success at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that J.R. Todd has enjoyed over the past two years. The winner of three straight races at the race track just north of Sin City will be looking to make it four in a row this weekend at the NHRA Vegas Nationals. Last year Todd took the win at the fall Countdown race and raced to the championship two weeks later in California. The win was part of a dominant streak that saw Todd and the DHL Funny Car race to five final rounds in the Countdown and pick up his first Funny Car world championship.

“We have been on a hot streak for sure at The Strip,” said Todd. “We need to keep is rolling if we are going to get into this Funny Car championship battle. We have dug ourselves a hole but a win this weekend could do us a world of good. There will be 30 points per round in Pomona so we want to be within striking distance leaving Las Vegas.”

Todd will also be racing with a new look race car this weekend. His DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car will be adorned with a throwback DHL logo alongside the current DHL livery. Since 2007 DHL and Kalitta Motorsports have been partners in one of the most successful sponsorships in motorsports.

“It is an honor to drive the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car,” said Todd. “There is a lot of history with this race car and getting another NHRA Funny Car world championship last year was very special. The DHL and Kalitta brands have a global following and to be able to represent both companies is pretty amazing.”

The DHL team started the Countdown with a strong race in Reading, Pennsylvania posting a semifinal finish and they followed that up with a runner-up in St. Louis. The team stumbled in Charlotte with some tough qualifying runs and then an early exit on a rain delayed Monday finish. In Dallas two weeks ago Todd and Yella Fella DHL teammates qualified No. 3 and raced to the quarterfinals before being ousted by eventual race winner Matt Hagan, the fourth different Funny Car driver to win the Countdown this season.

“The Countdown for Funny Cars this year has been wide open. No one is really running away with it. There has been a different winner every race and just about everyone has a first round loss too. We made a move up the points coming out of St. Louis and even with two races left I think these DHL boys can make a jump. We will just need to be on our game starting on Friday in Las Vegas. We have won this race and done well here so I have a lot of confidence.”

Todd’s four final rounds is third best in his career and second best behind the wheel of the DHL Funny Car. His championship year last season was one for the record books. A strong finish in Las Vegas and Pomona could easily propel him to the top and a few missteps by his competitors could give him an opening for a back to back championship.

“We are not out of it by any means. You never know what could happen. I think there could be some big point swings in Las Vegas if we get some good qualifying runs and the ladder stacks up in our favor. The bottom line is we need to get every point available and win the last two races. The good news is we have done that before. I am ready to race for this championship,” summed up Todd.

2018 NHRA Vegas Nationals Highlights: Qual. No. 2; WINNER; Beat Richard Townsend, Shawn Langdon, Jack Beckman and Matt Hagan

Last Event Recap (2019 NHRA FallNationals): Qual. No. 3; Beat Cruz Pedregon; Lost to Matt Hagan

Quotable: J.R. Todd on win streak at The Strip: “We have had a lot of success the past three races at The Strip. We definitely want to keep winning in Las Vegas. We have a lot of ground to try and make up to get another championship. It is a long shot but we aren’t going to give up. This DHL Toyota team will be trying to get as many qualifying points as possible and then get four win lights on Sunday.”

Career Stats: 222 events, 214 starts, 236 round wins, 18 wins, 33 finals, 12 No. 1 qualifiers; in Funny Car: 70 events, 70 starts, 9 wins, 13 finals, 856 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
Reading: Qual. No. 10; Beat Tommy Johnson Jr., John Smith; Lost to Jack Beckman
St. Louis: Qual. No. 8; RUNNER-UP; Beat Jack Beckman, John Force, Robert Hight; Lost to Shawn Langdon
Charlotte2: Qual. No. 12; Lost to John Force
Dallas: Qual. No. 3; Beat Cruz Pedregon; Lost to Matt Hagan
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Richie Crampton

DHL and Richie Crampton Ready to Roll Dice at Vegas Nationals

Richie Crampton

Richie Crampton

Richie Crampton and the DHL Kalitta Air Top Fuel dragster are racing to preserve history. Since 2013 the Top Fuel winner of the Reading NHRA National event to start the Countdown has gone on to win the championship. Four races ago it was Crampton holding the Wally at the end of that race and the young Australian isn’t ready to give up on his hopes for his first Top Fuel title.

“We got the win in Reading and have had some struggles that past three races,” said Crampton. “The very next race we had to run our teammate Doug Kalitta in the first round and he is a tough guy to beat. We have come up on the wrong side of some close races but no one is hanging their head over here.”

With two wins this season including the historic Gatornationals Crampton knows his DHL race car is capable of winning every time it comes out of the trailer. In nine of the past eleven races Crampton has started race day in the top half of the field. Qualifying consistency has been a hallmark of the DHL team.

“I have a really strong race car for sure,” said Crampton. “Every race I think there are 10-11 Top Fuel dragsters that have a legitimate shot at winning the race. There are no easy rounds and we have been in some of the closest races of the season. I am really proud of how this team has continued to give it their best every race.”

In addition to focusing on his Countdown success Crampton and teammate J.R. Todd will be celebrtaing the 50th anniverary of primary sponsor DHL. Crampton’s Top Fuel dragster will feature the orginal DHL logo as well as the current look for the global leader in international express shipping and logistics services, DHL has enjoyed a decades-long partnership with Kalitta Air, which helps to transport DHL customers’ shipments around the globe.

“I have been fortunate to meet a ton of DHL employees at the races and at DHL special events,” said Crampton. “This partnership is more that what is going on at the race track. As the driver of the DHL Top Fuel dragster I know that there are thousands of people around the world rooting for this team and that makes the experience that much more intense. We want to be perfect on every pass and we know that DHL wants to be perfect with their business. That message comes through loud and clear for both companies.”

The final two races of the Countdown will see Crampton looking to reel in some of the toughest teams to move up the point standings. He also has a teammate, Dog Kalitta, near the top of the point standings that he can help by knocking out some of their Countdown competition.

“We definitely want to take out as many Countdown race cars to help Doug,” said Crampton. “Every Countdown dragster that we beat is one less car to get round points. The Vegas Nationals will be a big race and we would love to race Doug in the final round again like we did in Reading. That was a great race we got the win. We need to get every round win possible for this DHL dragster.”

2018 NHRA Vegas Nationals Highlights: Qual. No. 11; Beat Doug Kalitta, Brittany Force; Lost to Steve Torrence

Last Event Recap (2019 NHRA FallNationals): Qual. No. 9; Lost to Antron Brown

Quotable: Crampton on last two Countdown races: “We are going to race in Las Vegas and Pomona like the championship is on the line. We have our teammate Doug Kalitta at the top of the points and we will be looking to knock out as many Countdown cars as we can. We have a race car that can win rounds and that is going to be our number one goal.”

Career Stats: 125 events, 124 starts, 103 round wins, 10 wins, 12 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
Reading: Qual. No. 4; WINNER; Beat Dan Mercier, Antron Brown, Brittany Force and Doug Kalitta
St. Louis: Qual. No. 7; Lost to Doug Kalitta
Charlotte2: Qual. No. 4; Lost to Austin Prock
Dallas: Qual. No. 9; Lost to Antron Brown

shawnn langdonLangdon and Global Electronic Technology Funny Car Ready for Second Countdown Win

Shawn Langdon

Shawn Langdon

Shawn Langdon and the Global Electronic Technology Toyota Camry team will be rolling into Las Vegas looking to pick up their second win in the Countdown. Four different Funny Car drivers have stood in the winner’s circle during the 2019 Countdown and Langdon is looking to become the first repeat winner of the playoffs. A strong start in qualifying will go a long way in positioning the second year Funny Car racer for a first time win at The Strip.

“We have made good runs in qualifying during the Countdown but we haven’t dominated a full two days of qualifying,” said Langdon. “I think if we can come out strong on Friday and get some bonus points in both sessions we can really make some headway. No matter where you qualify you are going to get a tough first round match-up. We won St. Louis from the bottom half of the ladder.”

The win in St Louis was Langdon’s second of the season and gave the young Funny Car driver a huge boost in the points. Since that race the Global Electronic Technology team has raced to a quarterfinal finish two weeks ago in Dallas. With two races remaining Langdon knows it will take nearly perfect racing to add a Funny Car championship to his 2013 Top Fuel title.

“We need some of the guys in front of us to make some mistakes and we need to get every point available to make a move on this championship,” said Langdon. “We haven’t had a lot of success at Las Vegas but that doesn’t matter in my opinion. I am going into this race with the mindset of doing my job and trusting my team. I am not doing anything differently. All we can do is take care of our business and race as hard as we can. It is Vegas so anything can happen.”

Langdon will also be racing for a number of causes this weekend. His Global Electronic Technology Toyota Camry has turned pink for breast cancer awareness month and the entire Kalitta Motorsports team has joined forces with Ytel and Langdon’s primary sponsor to support the Never Forgotten Foundation. Fans can text “NFF” to 411-411 and they will receive information and instructions for the Race 2 Fight Hunger. For every $5 donated fans receive an entry into a raffle for racing themed prizes including race tickets and autographed merchandise.

“We are very excited to be supporting Never Forgotten Foundation again this year,” added Langdon. “We want to give the fans a chance to donate and also give them a chance to win a nice prize for their support. The Brysons are very generous people and I think what they have been doing for so many families across Southern California and around the world for over a decade is pretty amazing.”

The foundation supports those in need all over the country. NFF is ready to help ensure that no one becomes a statistic or becomes forgotten. Over the years the NFF has provided hundreds of thousands of meals to the Long Beach and Orange County Rescue Missions in addition to truckloads of non-perishable personal items for those in need.

2018 NHRA Vegas Nationals Highlights: Qualified No. 10; Beat Robert Hight; Lost to J.R. Todd

Last Event Recap (2019 NHRA FallNationals): Qual. No. 10; Beat Tim Wilkerson; Lost to Robert Hight

Quotable: Langdon on heading to Las Vegas: “We have two races left and this Global Electronic Technology team is going to try to win them both. We are going to try and make every run count. We can control our destiny and try and chase down some of the teams in front of us. There are eight rounds left in the season and we want to make the most of them.”

Career Stats: 254 events, 251 starts, 286 round wins, 16 wins, 33 finals, 18 No. 1 qualifiers; in Funny Car: 46 events, 46 starts, 36 round wins, 2 wins, 3 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
Reading: Qual. No. 8; Lost to Matt Hagan
St. Louis: Qual. No. 10; WINNER; Beat Tommy Johnson Jr., Jim Campbell, Bob Tasca III and J.R. Todd
Charlotte2: Qual. No. 10; Lost to Tim Wilkerson
Dallas: Qual. No. 10; 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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