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Team Kalitta Pre-Race Report Auto Club Finals

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Pre-Race Team Kalitta Notes
Event 24 of 24: 2019 NHRA Vegas Nationals
Auto Club Raceway at Pomona – Pomona, CA
November 15-17, 2019

Team Kalitta is entering the final race of the Countdown to the Championship with Doug Kalitta in the Top Fuel championship fight while Richie Crampton is looking for a strong finish. In Funny Car J.R. Todd and Shawn Langdon are also both battling to move up in the point standings.

Doug KalittaWorld Championship within Reach for Doug Kalitta, Mac Tools Headed to Pomona

Doug Kalitta

Doug Kalitta

Doug Kalitta and the Mac Tools team are returning to Auto Club Raceway at Pomona hoping to repeat their season opening success and possibly capture their first NHRA Top Fuel world championship. With the beginning of the final race of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season just three days away Kalitta sits in third place 55 points begin the point leader. With each round worth 30 points at the season finale the veteran driver is easily within striking distance. This will be the fourth time Kalitta and the Mac Tools team has rolled into the last race of the season with a chance to claim the world championship.

“You start every season with one goal and that is to win the world championship,” said Kalitta. “You have to be in contention in Pomona at the Auto Club Finals to achieve that goal. We have had a really strong season and I feel as confident as ever that we can race for this championship. We had some bad luck in Las Vegas but we put that behind us and are focusing all our energy on winning this last race.”

Two weeks ago at The Strip at Las Vegas a broken connection wire in the Mac Tools’ safety box broke during the burnout setting off the safety measures which deployed the parachutes and shut off the motor. Kalitta was unable to make the run against point leader Steve Torrence. It was a heartbreaking turn of events but not one that Kalitta continues to carry.

“It was just real unfortunate,” said Kalitta after the mishap. “We were definitely going to give it our best out there to see if we could get by Steve. We are just going to drag it out to Pomona and just go after the championship there.”

Entering the Auto Club Finals Kalitta has two final round appearances in the Countdown as well as the semifinal finish in Las Vegas. He only has one first round loss which ironically occurred in Dallas and he was joined by Torrence and at the time No. 4 driver Mike Salinas as early upset victims.

“We have gone rounds at every Countdown race this year,” said Kalitta. “It has been a wide open battle and we have a really good shot at this championship. We need to run well in qualifying and get some of those bonus points. Qualifying on Friday and Saturday will be critical to setting us up for success on race day.”

Success at the Auto Club Finals has been available to Kalitta. He won the 2016 race defeating J.R. Todd in the final round and three years before that he was runner-up to Shawn Langdon. He has a final round appearance from 1999 to his credit as well as two No. 1 qualifiers, 2006 and 2004.

“We run really well at Pomona and I would love to bookend this season with a win here this weekend to go along with our win at the Winternationals. The Southern California fans are great and this track has so much history. We aren’t going to save anything for the off season that’s for sure,” added Kalitta.

2018 NHRA Auto Club Finals Highlights: Qual. No. 11; Lost to Antron Brown

Last Event Recap (2019 NHRA Vegas Nationals): Qual. No. 9; Beat Shawn Reed, Leah Pritchett; Lost to Steve Torrence

Quotable:
Kalitta on chasing down Steve Torrence and Brittany Force for the championship: “I have two tough competitors in front of me in the points. We are just going to take care of our business and hopefully we can catch them early on race day.”

Career Stats: 512 events, 505 starts, 686 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
Las Vegas2: Qual. No. 9; Beat Shawn Reed, Leah Pritchett; Lost to Steve Torrence
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Shawn LangdonLangdon and Global Electronic Technology Team Chasing Seecond Countdown Win

Shawn Langdon

Shawn Langdon

The Global Electronic Technology Toyota Camry Funny Car team and Shawn Langdon will be locked in on winning the Auto Club Finals this weekend. They are looking to pick up their second Countdown win and close out a strong season in the Mello Yello point standings. Throughout the Countdown Langdon has been a strong competitor and will be looking to get one more win in a breakthrough 2019 NHRA season.

“We made a lot of progress with the Global Electronic Technology Camry this season,” said Langdon. “Getting the win at the Four-Wide race in Charlotte and winning in St Louis during the Countdown were two huge plusses. We got the car to come around before Epping and finished the season with some momentum. Of course we would have liked to have gotten more wins but this class has been very tough this season.”

Throughout the Countdown four different drivers have picked up wins with teams moving up and down the point standings race to race. There was no clear cut favorite or dominant team. Over the past three races Langdon and his Camry Funny Car took on some tough first round opponents and just missed on extending their race days on Sunday.

“We got the win in St. Louis and then we just hit a tough stretch of first round opponents,” said Langdon. “We didn’t get off to a great start in qualifying and they set us up to have to be really aggressive on race day. We love to be aggressive don’t get me wrong but things didn’t go our way. We are going to get after it in Pomona I can guarantee you that.”

Langdon has seen a high number of win lights at the Auto Club Finals going back to his Top Fuel dragster days. Since 2010 the 2013 Top Fuel world champion has two wins (2015 and 2013) and two runner-ups (2017 and 2010) as well as a No. 1 qualifier in 2012.

“I love racing at Pomona. I am a California guy. I have lots of people that will be coming out to support me and it will be a fun weekend no matter what. You want to finish the last race of the season on a high note. That is the race that is going to hang with you over the off-season. I feel really good about my chances with this Global Electronic Technology team,” added Langdon.

2018 NHRA Auto Club Finals Highlights: Qualified No. 9; Beat Matt Hagan; Lost to Ron Capps

Last Event Recap (2019 NHRA Vegas Nationals): Qual. No. 5; Lost to Cruz Pedregon

Quotable:
Langdon on getting a Funny Car win at the Auto Club Finals: “There are a lot of legends that have both a Top Fuel and Funny Car win at the Auto Club Finals. I would definitely like to add my name to that list. We just need a couple of good runs in qualifying and then I want to see four win lights on Sunday.”

Career Stats: 255 events, 252 starts, 286 round wins, 16 wins, 33 finals, 18 No. 1 qualifiers; in Funny Car: 47 events, 47 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
Las Vegas2: Qual. No. 5; Lost to Cruz Pedregon

Richie CramptonRichie Crampton and DHL Team Looking for Bookend Countdown Win in Pomona

Richie Crampton

Richie Crampton

Richie Crampton and the DHL Kalitta Air Top Fuel dragster team have one goal heading into the Auto Club Finals. They would like to finish the Countdown the same way they started it, by standing the winner’s circle. The team opened the six race playoffs with a win at the Reading NHRA National event and the young Australian has a chance to close out the playoffs with a second win of the six race run.

“We got off of a great start in Reading but since then we have just hit a tough stretch,” said Crampton. “We have qualified pretty well but on race day things haven’t gone our way for some reason. Everyone on this DHL team is working their tails off but this Countdown has been tough for a lot of the Top Fuel teams.”

For the second race in the Countdown Crampton will be flying the throwback DHL logo on his Top Fuel dragster. The longtime Kalitta sponsor is celebrating 50 years as the leading global brand in the logistics industry.

For Crampton who has two wins this season to his credit the key to his success has been consistency in qualifying. Since April his DHL dragster has only started a race day from the bottom half of the field on four occasions and two of those were from the No. 9 starting spot. The level of competition in the Top Fuel class has been so high that on race day anyone from the No. 1 to No. 13 or No. 14 starting spot has a legitimate shot at winning.

“This DHL team has gotten some tough draws in the first round,” said Crampton. “We have had to race our teammate Doug Kalitta on more than a few occasions as well as teams that are Countdown contending teams. There are no more easy first round wins. We have lost races by a few thousandths of a second after making our best run of the weekend. There is nothing to hang your head on when that happens. We just get right back to work.”

Between races Crampton works for Morgan Lucas Fabrication so there isn’t a Top Fuel driver in the pits who is more aware of how these machines operate and what you need to do to get the most out of theme. Pairing Crampton with crew chief and racing legend Connie Kalitta is a potent one-two punch.

“I love racing Connie’s Top Fuel dragster. There is a lot of pressure but also a lot of pride. He is a legend as a driver and crew chief. I know every time I get behind the wheel I have a chance to go low or win the race. He has forgotten more about drag racing than I know. This DHL team will never give up and we are looking forward to a strong showing at the Auto Club Finals,” added Crampton.

2018 NHRA Auto Club Finals Highlights: Qual. No. 10; Lost to Billy Torrence

Last Event Recap (2019 NHRA Vegas Nationals): Qual. No. 7; Lost to Austin Prock

Quotable:
Crampton on racing at Auto Club Raceway: “You can’t beat the atmosphere at the Auto Club Raceway. You have snowcapped mountains in the background. The fans are awesome. There is a ton of history in Southern California. Getting a win at the Auto Club Finals is a big deal.”

Career Stats: 126 events, 125 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
Las Vegas2: Qual. No. 7; Lost to Austin Prock

J.R. ToddJ.R. Todd and DHL Camry Want Another Auto Club Finals Win To Cap Season

J.R. Todd

J.R. Todd

The reigning NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car champion will be battling to repeat as the Auto Club Finals Funny Car winner this weekend. J.R. Todd and the DHL Toyota Camry are still mathematically alive in the race for the Funny Car world championship but once qualifying begins on Friday and Saturday most likely the door will close on his chances of going back-to-back as champion. He was looking to achieve something that hasn’t happened in almost 20 years but Todd knows that just being in the game is half of the battle.

“There is a reason no one has repeated as Funny Car champion since the early 2000s,” said Todd. “There are ton of championship caliber Funny Cars racing at every event. You look at how competitive this Countdown was this season. I don’t think one driver went to three finals in the first five races. In the first four races there were four different winners. We were in the mix all season and just came up a little short. Trust me no one is hanging their heads over in the DHL pit.”

This season saw Todd pick up another win at the Four-Wide race in Las Vegas and capture three runner-up finishes including a Countdown runner-up in St. Louis to teammate Shawn Langdon.

“We ran strong all season and just got picked off a couple of times early in the Countdown,” said Todd. “You look at most of the guys we lost to in the Countdown they went rounds after they beat us. I just feel like we were right there and some things didn’t go our way. The positives are we never gave up and we battled all year. You want to make the playoffs and then have a strong showing if you can’t get the championship. That is what this DHL team did.”

Last season Todd clinched his first Funny Car championship on race day in Pomona and he went on to win the race in dramatic fashion over Tommy Johnson Jr. As the No. 4 qualifier Todd ousted Jim Campbell, Bob Tasca III, Ron Capps and then Johnson to hoist the winning Wally along with the Mello Yello champion trophy. His goal this weekend is to repeat as Auto Club Finals champion.

“Last year was amazing. We clinched the championship early on race day and then we just kept grinding with more round wins. We knew we wanted to win the race and the championship. This year we are going after a second Auto Club Finals win and we are looking to move up as high as possible in the standings. These Yella Fellas never quit busting their tails this season and there is no reason to not give it our all this weekend,” added Todd.

In addition to the 50th anniversary DHL throwback look on his Toyota Camry Funny Car Todd and Kalitta Motorsports have partnered for one race with Covered California to promote the state’s health insurance marketplace, and the only place where Californians can get financial help to purchase high-quality coverage from top insurance companies. The Covered California logo will appear on the rear wing of Todd’s 11,000-horsepower Toyota Camry Funny Car throughout the NHRA Finals.

2018 NHRA Auto Club Finals Highlights: Qual. No. 4; WINNER; Beat Jim Campbell, Bob Tasca III, Ron Capps and Tommy Johnson Jr.

Last Event Recap (2019 NHRA Vegas Nationals): Qual. No. 4; Lost to Jonnie Lindberg

Quotable:
Todd on getting another win at the Auto Club Finals: “I would love to grab another Wally to close out the season. I remember last year’s race like it was yesterday and getting that last win light of the season is pretty special. We are going to try and be the last Funny Car standing on Sunday for sure.”

Career Stats: 223 events, 215 starts, 236 round wins, 18 wins, 33 finals, 12 No. 1 qualifiers; in Funny Car: 71 events, 71 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
Las Vegas2: Qual. No. 4; Lost to Jonnie Lindberg
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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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