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Kalitta Motorsports Post-Race Report Indy Nationals


Post-Race Report
Event 3 of 24: NHRA Nationals
Lucas Oil Raceway – Indianapolis, IN
July 12, 2020

Doug kalittaFourth Final Round In A Row Keeps Points Leader Doug Kalitta and Mac Tools Rolling

Doug Kalitta

Doug Kalitta

Doug Kalitta and the Mac Tools Top Fuel team continue to dominate and rewrite the record books. Today Kalitta raced to his fourth consecutive final round and picked up his 700th round win on the way to a runner-up finish at the NHRA National event at Indianapolis. It was the first NHRA National event in over four months but Kalitta and his Mac Tools team did not miss a beat. This was the team’s seventh final round in the past ten races going back to Kalitta’s amazing win at the U.S. Nationals last Labor Day.

“I was happy to get to another final obviously,” said Kalitta. “My Mac Tools Toyota dragster was running really good on that run. Smoked the tired right at the very end. I looked over and there he was. It was just one of those deals. That is drag racing for sure. Super happy to get to the final at this first Indy race and hopefully it is a success for everything that is going on to keep us coming back out. That is all I am hoping for. Hats off to (team owner) Connie (Kalitta) for keeping everything together and getting us through these four months. I think we are all just happy to be back out here. I am super proud of my Mac Tools guys.”

With a revised NHRA schedule that featured only one day of qualifying Kalitta took advantage entering race day as the No. 2 qualifier. In the first round he defeated Lex Joon setting up a tough second round match-up with Leah Pruett.

The quarterfinal race was one of the closest of the day with just four thousandths of a second deciding the win in Kalitta’s favor. His 3.803 was enough to hold off Pruett’s 3.813 second run. The margin of victory was approximately two feet at over 320 mph. It was round win No. 699 for the Michigan based racer and in the semifinals Kalitta would have to defeat fellow Toyota racer and three-time world champ Antron Brown to reach the historic milestone.

Brown’s team had struggled to find a consistent tune-up leading up to race day but over the first two rounds he appeared to be on track. Kalitta and his Mac Tools team were well prepared and when Brown smoked the tires, Kalitta cruised to victory and round win No. 700, a feat only accomplished buy one other Top Fuel driver in history, Tony Schumacher.

“I have to admit I have been very fortunate,” said Kalitta. “Connie has been out here forever and I have had a great opportunity to take advantage of every run down the track. There have been a lot of great people that have supported me to get to that milestone. It was special to get it at Indy too. This is a cool track to do it at.”

“Getting the win at the U.S. Nationals and then getting the 700th here at this track is a big deal. Coasting across the finish line last year it was a miracle we won that race last year. That is drag racing. It was at the biggest track at the biggest race. I will always remember that round win. Running here in Indy is just cool. I grew up racing all these little bull-ring tracks around here and it is just a great racing town with great racing people and fans,” added Kalitta

The final round was a rematch of last year’s U.S. Nationals final round between Kalitta and Billy Torrence. From the start it looked like Kalitta was going to take out the patriarch of the Torrence family with an astounding, .018 reaction time. As the finish line closed in Torrence was welded beside Kalitta and unfortunately tire smoke for the Mac Tools team gave Torrence the stripe by 12 thousandths of a second. It was the closest race of the day and while not another win a strong finish for Kalitta’s team.

“I haven’t been very consistent today on my reaction time,” explained Kalitta. “I have been either really good or middle of the road. You have to keep at it. The reaction times are very critical in Top Fuel and really all the classes. You keep trying your hardest and every now and then you get a little lucky. It was the time to do it and unfortunately we didn’t capitalize on it.”

Kalitta’s performance was even more impressive when you consider he is six weeks removed from minor knee surgery. The Mac Tools wheelman has been dealing with minor knee discomfort and he was finally able to free up his racing and flying schedule to go under the knife. He has been diligently rehabbing in preparation for the return to the track this weekend.

“The knee is feeling good,” said Kalitta. “It has been six weeks since the procedure. It was a pretty minor deal. It was an orthoscopic kind of thing for a meniscus tear and I was a little nervous kind of going into the weekend how it was going to feel. I am going to soften the springs up since they are a little stiff which will also help.”

Doug Kalitta on reaching his seventh final in ten races: “(Crew chief) Rob (Flynn) and (car chief) Troy (Fasching) and all the guys working on this car I am just so proud of them. The thing is just going down the track. We are just fine tuning this thing it seems like. They have been working real hard at it. They are stringing some nice runs together when it counts.”

Qualified: No. 2 (3.804 sec., 316.30 mph)
Bonus points: +1 (3rd quickest of Q1)

Race Details:

First Round
Driver Qual – R/T – ET – MPH
Doug Kalitta 2 .101 3.847 311.56 (W)
Lex Joon 15 .096 4.045 230.02

Second Round
Driver Qual – R/T – ET – MPH
Doug Kalitta 2 .053 3.803 321.58 (W)
Leah Pruett 10 .047 3.813 319.14

Semifinal Round
Driver Qual – R/T – ET – MPH
Doug Kalitta 2 .094 3.794 319.07 (W)
Antron Brown 14 .056 5.565 125.00

Final Round
Driver Qual – R/T – ET – MPH
Doug Kalitta 2 .018 3.852 307.86
Billy Torrence 4 .056 3.802 322.34 (W)
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J.R. ToddDHL and J.R. Todd Race to Semifinals in NHRA Return

J.R. Todd

J.R. Todd

The DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car team came out of the gate at the rebooted NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series like a team on a mission to erase a frustrating start over four months ago. Driver J.R. Todd drove his Camry Funny Car to the No. 4 qualifying spot during two hot sessions yesterday and then used all his driving skill and some luck to race to a semifinal finish today. When racing concluded Todd was in the Top Ten in Funny Car points and has momentum heading to next week’s second event at Lucas Oil Raceway.

“I’ve missed being around these guys (DHL teammates),” said Todd. “They are a lot of fun to be around. It’s like old times. February was a long time ago. This made up for all that down time sitting at home. I’m glad to be back out here with these guys and, hopefully, we can keep that going for weeks and months to come.

Heading into the first round against No. 13 qualifier Alex Miladinovich Todd knew he could not take the young driver lightly. He got the jump on the starting line and was pulling away when his tires broke loose from the track forcing him to lift off the throttle. He immediately jumped back on the gas and was able to get the win as Miladinovich lost traction further down track.

“That’s what you’ve got to do on race day,” said Todd, in reference to his pedaling job. “You don’t expect those things to happen, so it’s got to be instinct and driving by the seat of your pants and react to it. You never want it to happen, but we were pretty fortunate that Alex didn’t make a full pull in the lane next to us and we were able to take advantage of that. Any time you turn on the win light is a great day. It’s nice to get back into a rhythm, with however runs we made from Thursday to now, I still wasn’t into my routine. You just forget a lot of things and it takes time for it all to come back to you.”

In the quarterfinals against former teammate Alexis DeJoria Todd had lady luck on his side. Both Toyota Camry Funny Cars launched aggressively and were side by side at half-track when DeJoria’s parachute deployed slowing her dramatically and giving Todd the victory with a winning time of 4.128 seconds, the slowest winning elapsed time of the second round.

“We definitely didn’t out-perform everybody today, but we’ll take them anyway we can get them. We reached the semis and gained some points on guys in front of us to get back in the swing of things. We definitely have a lot of potential with the new chassis. We’re still learning with that and we had to change some things inside the car as the weekend went on. I think once we get going in the swing of things we’ll be in good shape.”

Todd was matched up with No. 1 qualifier Tommy Johnson Jr in the semifinals and he knew his DHL team would have to get aggressive to get to another final. The DHL Funny Car left the starting line first but immediately lost traction as Johnson cruised to a smooth pass and a win. The team was unsure what derailed their efforts but they were working to investigate the issue throughout the rest of the day.

“I am not sure what happened in the semis. The guys are going to look at the data and also the car. It wasn’t how we wanted to end the day. I am looking forward to getting back here in a couple days,” added Todd.

J.R. Todd on being back at the track: “It is definitely different but I am glad we are racing again. I hope a lot of people are tuning into FOX today to watch. I think the racing has never been more competitive and after these two races we will be in the championship hunt. We closed the gap on some people and I think this race car has a lot of potential.”

Qualified: No. 4 (4.056 sec., 306.12 mph)
Bonus points: +1 (3rd quickest of Q1)

Race Details:

First Round
Driver Qual – R/T – ET – MPH
J.R. Todd 4 .071 4.391 275.11 (W)
Alex Miladinovich 13 .146 5.067 160.98

Second Round
Driver Qual – R/T – ET – MPH
J.R. Todd 4 .084 4.128 278.86 (W)
Alexis DeJoria 5 .097 4.697 162.12

Semifinal Round
Driver Qual – R/T – ET – MPH
J.R. Todd 4 .059 9.211 77.50
Tommy Johnson Jr 1 .070 3.958 319.29 (W)
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Shawn LangdonShawn Langdon Pleased with Return to Racing in DHL Top Fuel

Shawn Langdon

Shawn Langdon

For Shawn Langdon driver of the DHL Top Fuel dragster getting back to the track this weekend was mainly a difference of horsepower and elapsed times. For the past five weeks Langdon has been campaigning his private sportsman dragster at big money bracket races staying sharp to get back to his day job, winning NHRA National events for Kalitta Motorsports. By Langdon’s count he has logged 132 passes down the track and he added one more important round win today.

Langdon qualified No. 8 after two rounds yesterday saw the 2013 Top Fuel champion step up in the final session to grab a top half position and lane choice over upstart and second generation pro Justin Ashley.

“We just had a long layoff and came out this weekend and made some good, decent conservative runs. That was our game plan. We’ll come back next week and try to get a little more aggressive,” said Langdon. “It was amazing (on being back in the car after the layoff). I’ve been racing the whole off-season. It’s different out here with limited fans. I’m glad to be back racing, but it’s just different.”

Langdon and Ashley were the first two cars down the track to restart the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the race was well worth the wait. Ashley had a nearly psychic reaction time of .018 and briefly was in front of Langdon and the DHL Top Fuel dragster. On a rocket shot of a run that at the time was the second quickest of the event 3.789 seconds and over 315 mph Langdon took out Ashley and set up a race against No. 1 qualifier Steve Torrence.

The quarterfinal battle was close for most of the race but Langdon’s car slowed off its first round pace and Torrence posted the quickest run of the round.

“There wasn’t much that we could do in the second round against Torrence. We weren’t trying to run that fast,” said Langdon.

Langdon on returning to Indy next weekend: “I am looking forward to getting right back to this track. We have some good data and I think this DHL dragster can run with anybody.”

Qualified: No. 8 (3.919 sec., 314.02 mph)
Bonus points: 0

Race Details:

First Round
Driver Qual – R/T – ET – MPH
Shawn Langdon 8 .066 3.789 315.19 (W)
Justin Ashley 9 .018 3.960 256.99

Second Round
Driver Qual – R/T – ET – MPH
Shawn Langdon 8 .070 3.828 316.38
Steve Torrence 1 .053 3.760 324.75 (W)

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Unofficial NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship Standings:

Top Fuel

1 Doug Kalitta 310
2 Steve Torrence 199
3 Billy Torrence 190
4 Leah Pruett 189
5 Antron Brown 174
6 Brittany Force 153
7 Shawn Langdon 144
8 Clay Millican 142
9 Justin Ashley 140
10 Austin Prock 131

Funny Car

1 Jack Beckman 278
2 Tommy Johnson Jr 276
3 Matt Hagan 238
4 Tim Wilkerson 179
5 John Force 173
6 Ron Capps 159
7 Alexis DeJoria 154
8 Bob Tasca III 149
9 J.R. Todd 141
10 Robert Hight 100

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 60 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.

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.