Pre-Race Team Kalitta Notes
Event 2 of 24: 2020 NHRA Arizona Nationals
Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park – Phoenix, AZ
February 21-23, 2020
Doug Kalitta, enters the event as the Top Fuel Mello Yello points leader after his third consecutive Winternationals victory. Top Fuel teammate Shawn Langdon and Funny Car teammate J.R. Todd will be looking for a strong start as the team heads to Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.
Doug Kalitta, Mac Tools Team Bring Points Lead and Win Streak to Arizona Nationals
The second race of the season will see Doug Kalitta and the Mac Tools team in a familiar and also new position heading to the NHRA Arizona Nationals. For the third year in a row Kalitta will head to Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park as the points leader and the most recent event winner. The two go hand in hand naturally but the twist this year is no Top Fuel driver had ever won three Winternationals in a row before Kalitta secured his win two weeks ago.
“You love to start the season with a win and getting three Winternationals wins in a row is definitely special,” said Kalitta. “I love racing in Pomona and we have had a lot of success on that track. We are going to look to take this success with us to Phoenix and try and keep this winning streak going.”
In Pomona Kalitta qualified No. 5 and then took out a tough quartet of rising stars in the Top Fuel ranks. His reaction times were dead-on all day on Sunday including a .038 in the final round against 2019 Auto Club Road to the Future winner Austin Prock. In the semifinals against Brittany Force Kalitta got the jump off the line and laid down a blistering 3.675 second pass to get the win. It was the second quickest pass of the day and brought the Pomona crowd to their feet.
“That semifinal run was huge,” explained Kalitta. “We knew we needed to really put up a good number and I think we got just about everything that was out there. I am just super proud of Rob Flynn and all my Mac Tools guys. That Sunday showed that a lot of the behind the scenes work with TRD, NGK spark plugs and Mobil 1 really paid off and will continue to pay off.”
Kalitta has had a strong history of round wins at the Arizona Nationals but has only secured one Top Fuel victory. In 2001 Kalitta outran Darrell Russell for his lone win in the desert. He has runner-up finishes in 2015, 2010 and 2004 to go along with No. 1 qualifiers in 2016, 2014, 2013 and 2003.
“We have definitely gone rounds in Phoenix and been to quite a few finals. It is always close racing and they have done a lot of improvements over the years. I think we will have a strong weekend with this Mac Tools team. I know I am fired up to get another win. We were in Denver for the Mac Tools Tool Fair between the races and being around all those great people really gets you pumped up,” added Kalitta.
2019 NHRA Arizona Nationals Highlights: Qual. No. 5; Beat Jim Maroney; Lost to Jordan Vandergriff
Last Event Recap (2020 NHRA Winternationals): Qual. No. 5; WINNER; Beat Brandon Welch, Justin Ashley, Brittany Force and Austin Prock
Quotable: Kalitta on winning three races in a row at Auto Club Raceway: “We swept both races in Pomona last year and then picked up the Winternationals win again this year. We definitely enjoy racing there and I would love to win the Auto Club Finals again this year and hopefully get that Top Fuel championship this time.”
Career Stats: 514 events, 507 starts, 694 round wins, 48 wins, 101 finals, 50 No. 1 qualifiers
Langdon and DHL Top Fuel Dragster Ready for NHRA Arizona Nationals
Heading into his second race of the 2020 season behind the wheel of the DHL Kalitta Air Top Fuel dragster Shawn Langdon feels more comfortable and confident. With the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park just a few days away the 2013 NHRA Top Fuel world champion is looking to capitalize on his strong qualifying effort at the Winternationals.
“We came off the trailer with some strong runs on Friday a couple weeks ago,” said Langdon. “We were provisional No. 1 qualifier and then we hit a couple snags on Saturday. I think if we get more qualifying runs in Arizona we will be in great shape for race day.”
As the No. 4 qualifier at the Winternationals Langdon drew second generation nitro driver Justin Ashley in the first round. The conditions had changed dramatically and his DHL Kalitta Air dragster was a little too aggressive. Langdon had to pedal his hot rod to try and stay in the race. It was good practice for Langdon who looked at the first round upset philosophically at the end of the day.
“We know we have a race car and team that can win races this season,” said Langdon. “The support we get from sponsors like DHL, Toyota, Fifth Third Bank and Sealmaster makes all the difference. We brought on some new partners before Pomona including Ozium and RevChem Composites too that will be great contributors to our success. The biggest thing to remember is this season is a marathon not a sprint.”
Getting back behind the wheel of a Top Fuel dragster tuned by drag racing legend Connie Kalitta also has Langdon motivated to perform at the highest level. Kalitta has long established himself as one of the premiere crew chiefs and tuners in the history of the NHRA.
“Having Connie tune the DHL dragster that I get to drive is awesome. After a run I will usually talk with him and Kurt Elliot about the pass. It isn’t a long conversation by any means but it is great to just learn from him and get his input,” added Langdon.
Langdon’s best effort at the NHRA Arizona Nationals was a No. 1 qualifier in 2012. He has never reached the final round at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park
2019 NHRA Arizona Nationals Highlights: Qualified No. 7; Beat Cruz Pedregon; Lost to Matt Hagan
Last Event Recap (2020 NHRA Winternationals): Qual. No. 4; Lost to Justin Ashley
Quotable: Langdon on getting season started: “The off-season was nice but by the end of January I was ready to get back into a race car. Testing in Las Vegas went well and we made some good runs in Pomona. I really feel good about getting to Phoenix and going some rounds on Sunday.”
Career Stats: 257 events, 254 starts, 287 round wins, 16 wins, 33 finals, 18 No. 1 qualifiers; in Top Fuel 209 events, 206 starts, 14 wins, 30 finals, 248 round wins, 18 No. 1 qualifiers
DHL Toyota and J.R. Todd Poised to Grab Arizona Nationals Title
The DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car team and J.R. Todd are looking forward to getting to Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park this weekend and pick up one more round win at this year’s edition of the NHRA Arizona Nationals. Last season Todd and his DHL crew blasted through three tough rounds of racing after qualifying No. 5 only to miss out on the Wally when his Funny Car backfired and deployed the emergency shutoff equipment at the hit of the throttle.
“That was a tough loss for sure,” said Todd. “We had been running strong leading up to the final and I felt like we really had something for them in that race. You hate to lose like that but we put those kinds of things behind us. This season we are looking forward to getting back to Phoenix and getting four win lights on Sunday.”
Two weeks ago at the season opening NHRA Winternationals Todd and his DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car hit the ground running qualifying No. 8. In the first round they were out-dueled by veteran driver Tim Wilkerson to give them an early finish. Todd took the early exit in stride and immediately turned his attention to the Arizona Nationals.
“You always want to come out strong at the first race but there are 23 more races after the Winternationals,” said Todd. “We had a really good test session and I am not going to let one day of the season upset my enthusiasm for where I think this team is headed. We have so many great partners supporting us like WIX Filters, Toyota, NGK spark plugs and Mobil 1 I feel really good about how far we can go this season.”
With the move of former Funny Car teammate Shawn Langdon back to Top Fuel Todd is the lone Funny Car representing Kalitta Motorsports. The team is eager to show they can succeed in the highly competitive category throughout the Mello Yello season.
“I know Shawn will do great in Top Fuel. I don’t mind being the only Funny Car. We get so much support from Toyota and TRD and I can still talk with Shawn and Doug about the track. The Kalitta teams all work together. We have three great race cars over here and I am excited to get some more round wins with this DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car,” added Todd.
2019 NHRA Arizona Nationals Highlights: Qual. No. 5; RUNNER-UP; Beat Terry Haddock, Tommy Johnson Jr., Robert Hight; Lost to Matt Hagan
Last Event Recap (2020 NHRA Winternationals): Qual. No. 8; Lost to Tim Wilkerson
Quotable: J.R. Todd on getting season started: “It was a blast to get back in this DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car in testing in Las Vegas. The first race of the year in Pomona can go either way. We had some good qualifying runs and then the weather threw us a curve ball. It is a long season and I am just glad to be back on the track.”
Career Stats: 225 events, 217 starts, 237 round wins, 18 wins, 33 finals, 12 No. 1 qualifiers; in Funny Car: 73 events, 73 starts, 9 wins, 13 finals, 88 round wins, 3 No. 1 qualifiers
Photos courtesy of Gary Nastase Photography
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 60 years, Connie has been involved in the sport as a driver, tuner, and team 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.
Kalitta Motorsports fields three full-time entries in the NHRA Mello Yello nitro classes. Connie Kalitta’s nephew, Doug Kalitta, pilots the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster while 2013 NHRA Top Fuel world champion Shawn Langdon drives the DHL Top Fuel dragster. In Funny Car, J.R. Todd is the driver of the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car. Connie Kalitta serves as head tuner for all Kalitta Motorsports entries. He is assisted by co-crew chiefs Todd Smith and Jon Oberhofer on the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car, Kurt Elliott on the DHL Top Fuel dragster and Rob Flynn with Troy Fasching lead the efforts on the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster.