Event 7: NHRA Gatornationals
September 27, 2020
Langdon DHL Race to Gatornationals Quarterfinals
Looking for the third consecutive win at the Gatornationals, the DHL Kalitta Air Top Fuel team was primed for a second win in a row of the season. Shawn Langdon, the 2013 Top Fuel world champion and most recent U.S. Nationals winner, was chasing his first win at historic Gainesville Raceway today. As the No. 7 qualifier Langdon was in a solid position for a long race day.
In the first round for the fourth time this season Langdon was racing rookie Justin Ashley. It was just two weeks ago that Langdon out-pedaled Ashley in the semifinals on the way to his second Top Fuel victory at the prestigious NHRA U.S. Nationals. Today Langdon evened his record in opening round races against Ashley to 2-2 with a first round win. Both drivers left almost instantaneously but Langdon’s DHL Kalitta Air Top Fuel dragster was too much for the rookie of the year top contender. Langdon’s winning time of 3.849 seconds was an improvement over his best qualifying time and set up a race against Billy Torrence in the quarterfinals.
The second round match-up looked to give Langdon the advantage since he had lane choice and the confidence of a Connie Kalitta tune-up. Langdon took a significant starting line lead when the tree fired and he was making a move when Torrence pulled beside him at half-track. Unfortunately, Langdon did not match his opponent with top end acceleration and in spite of running his quickest elapsed time of the weekend, 3.847 seconds at 315.49 miles per hour, he came up short in advancing to the semifinals.
“That was a just a tough race. That was our quickest run of the weekend with this DHL Kailtta Air dragster and we came up a little short,” said Langdon. “I felt good going into that race. We won a tough first round race and had some momentum. This dragster had won the past two Gatornationals and we wanted to make it three in a row. There is a lot of history at this track and I was looking for my first Gatornationals win. It would have been great to get a U.S. Nationals win and Gatornationals win back to back but it wasn’t meant to be. We will get our focus on St. Louis. This is a tough, tough class.”
Langdon on heading to St. Louis: “I am glad we are getting back on track next weekend. I won this race last year in Funny Car so I would like to go back to back in a different class. This DHL Top Fuel dragster has been running well since the U.S. Nationals and I think we can get more wins before the end of the season.”
Qualified: No. 7 (3.880 sec., 315.93 mph)
Bonus points: 0
Driver Qual – R/T – ET – MPH
Shawn Langdon 7 .053 3.849 301.54 (W)
Justin Ashley 10 .039 3.957 255.86
Driver Qual – R/T – ET – MPH
Shawn Langdon 7 .047 3.847 315.49
Billy Torrence 2 .081 3.778 324.49 (W)
Gatornationals Title Eludes J.R. Todd and DHL Camry
The DHL Toyota Funny Car team and driver J.R. Todd were looking to race to their third consecutive final round of the 2020 season today at 51st annual NHRA Gatornationals. Their focus on was getting the first win of the season at one of the most historic venues on the NHRA schedule. The postponed Gatornationals gave all the teams a news experience racing in Florida in the fall versus spring. Warm temperatures and high humidity made conditions tough for all the teams but Todd and the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car team persevered through a long day of qualifying yesterday.
The team qualified in the top half going into race day as the No. 7 qualifier with lane choice over fellow championship contender Tommy Johnson Jr. The DHL Toyota Camry took off the starting line beside Johnson and both Funny Cars were side by side all the way down the track. Todd made his quickest run of the weekend a 4.006 seconds, 321.58 mph pass which was almost enough to advance to the quarterfinals unfortunately Johnson also stepped up and took the win.
“We are not out of this championship yet,” said Todd. “We needed that round win but it was a good race. This DHL Toyota Camry was right there at the finish line. We picked it up from qualifying but we came up a little short. I have a lot of confidence going to St. Louis. We qualified in the top half this weekend and things just didn’t go our way. We have a lot of support from TRD and Mobil 1 which definitely helps along with the guys from WIX Filters and NGK Spark Plugs. This is a great team and we have four more races to finish out the season. Our goal is to win every one of those races. This Toyota team has gotten on a roll before and we can do it again.”
Todd and the DHL Toyota Funny Car team will head to St. Louis looking to get one more win light at the track where he raced to the final last year. With four races left in the season Todd and the DHL Funny Car are not out of the championship discussion by a long shot.
J.R. Todd on racing in St. Louis: “We almost got the win last year when we were racing Shawn (Langdon). That was a great race to face him in the final. It would be cool to get our DHL cars in the final in Funny Car and Top Fuel. This team isn’t quitting and we are focused on getting wins over these last four races starting next weekend.”
Qualified: No. 7 (4.107 sec., 308.64 mph)
Bonus points: 0
Early Exit at Gatornationals Tough on Doug Kalitta and Mac Tools Team
Since the beginning of the season Doug Kalitta and the Mac Tools Top Fuel team have been the Top Fuel point leader. Coming into the 51st annual NHRA Gatornationals Kalitta was looking to extend that streak and pick up his fourth Top Fuel win at Gainesville Raceway. The past two seasons Kalitta Motorsports has taken home the trophy at the historic event and today Kalitta was looking to make it three in a row.
During the two qualifying sessions yesterday in some of the hottest and unforgiving conditions of the season the Mac Tools team was running near the top of the class. At the end of Saturday Kalitta was positioned as the No. 6 qualifier and first round match-up with veteran Terry McMillen. It was a tough race because conditions cooled slightly and the threat of inclement weather covered the track with an overcast sky and cooler track temperatures.
When the dragsters pulled up Kalitta was ready for action jumping to a starting line advantage on reaction time with a .057 second to .066 second head start. That lead unfortunately disappeared as McMillen was on a dramatically improved run from his qualifying effort. He blasted to the finish line with a 4.747 second pass, the quickest of the session, to get the first round win.
“We will have to wait and see what happens with the points,” said Kalitta, after the first round. “You can’t have too many first round loses but we have four more races. The points will tighten up but this Mac Tools team is pretty tough. I am not getting discouraged. We will be back at it in St. Louis next weekend and I have three wins there. We can get right back on top with a couple wins. No matter what this championship will most likely come down to the last couple of races and I know this Mac Tools Toyota team will be right in the battle.”
Kalitta will head to the NHRA Midwest Nationals in St. Louis in second place just 22 points out of the Top Fuel point lead.
Doug Kalitta on heading to St. Louis: “We have three wins in St. Louis and we will be going for number four this coming weekend. Getting another win will get us back in the points lead hopefully. We aren’t going to fall too far behind with four races left. We made some good runs this weekend and I know we have a tune up that can win races.”
Qualified: No. 6 (3.869 sec., 300.13 mph)
Bonus points: 0
Unofficial NHRA Mello Yello Championship Standings:
1 Steve Torrence 548
2 Doug Kalitta 526
3 Leah Pruett 515
4 Billy Torrence 433
5 Justin Ashley 402
6 Shawn Langdon 383
7 Terry McMillen 377
8 Antron Brown 373
9 Clay Millican 337
10 Doug Foley 216
1 Jack Beckman 569
2 Matt Hagan 565
3 Tommy Johnson Jr 512
4 Ron Capps 486
5 Tim Wilkerson 448
6 Bob Tasca III 434
7 J.R. Todd 420
8 Alexis DeJoria 296
9 Cruz Pedregon 266
10 Paul Lee 258
Photos courtesy of Gary Nastase Photography, driver photos: NHRA
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.