Pre-Race Team Kalitta Notes
Event 4: 2021 NGK NTK Four-Wide Nationals
zMAX Dragway – Charlotte, NC
May 14-16, 2021
After three races Team Kalitta sits second in Funny Car and third and seventh in Top Fuel in the point standings. Team Kalitta started the season with a dominant Funny Car win by J.R. Todd and a runner-up finish by Shawn Langdon in Top Fuel at the Gatornationals. Doug Kalitta raced to runner-up honors at the Las Vegas Four-Wide Nationals with Langdon and Todd racing to the semis in Atlanta.
Todd Eyes First Charlotte Four-Wide Win
The NGK NTK NHRA Four-Wide Nationals will be a chance for J.R. Todd and the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car team to do something no other Funny Car team has done in the modern era. A win on Sunday would make them the only Funny Car team with wins at the only two tracks hosting the unique four-wide races. Todd has collected two four-wide wins at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2018 and 2019 but a win at zMAX Dragway has eluded the 2018 Funny Car world champion.
“We have run really well at the Four-Wide Nationals in Las Vegas and I am hoping to get a streak started this weekend in Charlotte,” said Todd. “We raced to the semifinals in Atlanta but we are still fine tuning this DHL Camry Funny Car. I know the Yella Fellas will get us on the right track. We have a lot going on this weekend with our sponsors NGK Spark Plugs, Toyota and DHL so it will be a busy race but that is what I like. I just have to stay focused and do my job.”
At the season opening Gatornationals Todd raced to his first win of the season defeating Robert Hight in a pedalfest that had the fans in the packed grandstands on the edge of their seats. Todd has followed that up with a No. 1 qualifier performance at the Southern Nationals and a semifinal finish. Heading into the fourth race of the season Todd is excited about where his team is headed.
“We have only had three races but it seems like the season has been going on for a long time,” said Todd. “We are about to get real busy with back-to-back races and more races every month I like being at the track on a more consistent basis. Racing at zMAX Dragway is cool too because it is a great facility and the fans always turn out. We will also have some NASCAR guys in our pits this weekend which makes it extra special to show off what we do.”
With qualifying starting on Friday Todd will be eager to post a good time to roll into the two sessions on Saturday to set up a race day tune-up. In the two races this season where the DHL Camry Funny Car qualified in the top half it raced to at least the semifinals.
“(Crew chief) Todd Smith and Jon Oberhofer are doing a really good job when we get some good data at the beginning of the race,” said Todd. “Everyone wants to start strong but we have been very consistent so far this season. We will be racing under the lights on Friday night so I think we could see some killer numbers. This DHL Funny Car can definitely run low and that is what makes it so fun to drive especially when you have great conditions under the lights.”
2019 NHRA Carolina Four-Wide Nationals Highlights (event not contested in 2020): Qual. No. 8; Beat Bob Tasca III and Bob Gilbertson; Lost to Robert Hight and Shawn Langdon
Last Event Recap (2021 NHRA Southern Nationals): Qual. No. 1; Beat Alexis DeJoria, bye; Lost to John Force
Career Stats: 238 events, 230 starts, 257 round wins, 19 wins, 36 finals, 13 No. 1 qualifiers; in Funny Car: 86 events, 86 starts, 10 wins, 16 finals, 109 round wins, 4 No. 1 qualifiers
Gatornationals: WINNER; Qual. No. 6; Beat Blake Alexander, Tim Wilkerson, Cruz Pedregon and Robert Hight
Las Vegas1: Qual. No. 9; Beat Cruz Pedregon and Jonnie Lindberg; Lost to Ron Capps and Bob Tasca III
Atlanta: Qual. No. 1; Beat Alexis DeJoria, bye; Lost to John Force
Mac Tools Team Ready to Make Move at NGK NTK Four-Wide Nationals
The Mac Tools Top Fuel team and championship contender Doug Kalitta will be heading to the NGK NTK NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte looking to add another zMAX Dragway title to their record book. In 2017 Kalitta grabbed four win lights on the way to victory at the annual fall event at the “Bellagio of Drag Strips” nestled beside Charlotte Motor Speedway. This weekend at the 11th NGK NTK Four-Wide Nationals, Kalitta will be looking for three win lights thanks to the unique quad format for four-wide racing. Hosting national events in Charlotte has opened the sport to thousands of new fans over the years and the race attracts NASCAR fans and drivers who are looking for an exciting alternative.
“The Charlotte facility is one of the nicest tracks we race at all season,” said Kalitta. “The fans are great and I think we have introduced drag racing to a lot of NASCAR fans over the years. We will have Kyle Busch here on Friday from Rowdy Energy drink one of our sponsors so that will be neat.”
Two weeks ago in Atlanta, a race that featured only one day of qualifying, Kalitta and the Mac Tools team had to battle a tough track with limited runs. They made the show but going into the first round they knew they needed to step up on the performance side. The team did just that in the first round posting the second quickest run of the event at the time but it wasn’t enough to get the win light in a race that was decided by about six feet at the finish line.
“We didn’t go as many rounds as we would have liked in Atlanta but that is the tricky thing about the one day qualifying races,” explained Kalitta. “You can get behind the eight ball a little and it takes time to catch up. We made a great run in the first round that if we were racing a different opponent would have advanced us to the next round. That is racing and we just put it behind us.”
The 2021 season has only seen three races contested since mid-March and now that the calendar is turning to summer events will be happening with a higher frequency. The accelerated schedule is a welcome change for Kalitta and the Mac Tools Top Fuel team that has a runner-up finish at the first four-wide race this season.
“We are getting into a racing rhythm which I think will be good for this Mac Tools team,” said Kalitta. “We had a race two weeks ago and now we will be going back to back with Charlotte and then Houston. I love racing this Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster so spending this time at the track is important.”
Kalitta sits in seventh place in the Camping World Top Fuel point standings but he is just one round out of fourth place. zMAX Dragway will host one qualifying session on Friday, May 14, followed by two qualifying sessions on Saturday May 15. Final eliminations will begin at noon ET on Sunday, May 16. Fans can tune in to FS1 for the broadcast on Sunday evening.
2019 NHRA Carolina Four-Wide Nationals Highlights (event not contested in 2020): Qual. No. 4; Beat Richie Crampton and Lex Joon; Lost to Clay Millican and Leah Pruett
Last Event Recap (2021 NHRA Southern Nationals): Qual. No. 9; Lost to Antron Brown
Career Stats: 527 events, 520 starts, 715 round wins, 49 wins, 106 finals, 50 No. 1 qualifiers
Gatornationals: Qual. No. 4; Beat Arthur Allen; Lost to Justin Ashley
Las Vegas1: RUNNER-UP; Qual. No. 3; Beat Troy Buff and Rob Passey, Beat Shawn Langdon and Leah Pruett; Lost to Steve Torrence
Atlanta: Qual. No. 9; Lost to Antron Brown
Langdon Looking To Add Top Fuel Win at NGK NTK Four-Wide Nationals
As the fourth race of the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series gets underway at zMAX Dragway Shawn Langdon and his DHL Kalitta Air Top Fuel team are building momentum. Two weeks ago Langdon raced to a semifinal finish at the Southern Nationals on a race day that did not see stellar performance numbers. The team did pick up two critical round wins and held onto the No. 3 spot in the Top Fuel point standings. The NGK NTK NHRA Four-Wide National is the event where Langdon scored his first career Funny Car win and this weekend he will be looking to become just the second driver to collect a Funny Car and Top Fuel four-wide title at zMAX Dragway. He would join former crew chief Del Worsham with the distinction if the DHL Kalitta Top Fuel dragster can light three win lights on Sunday.
“It would be awesome to join Del on that list,” said Langdon. “Del has been around the sport for a long time and he is one of the most accomplished racers. He is one of the best talents behind the wheel. I was fortunate enough to work with him when I was driving Funny Car when he was the crew chief with Nicky Boninfante. Just to be able to pick his brain and have him on my side was a huge added bonus for me when I was making that transition. He was great to talk about runs after the fact since I understood what I was saying from the driver’s perspective. He got it. We were a pretty good combination.”
Langdon is enjoying his time back in the Top Fuel dragster and at the season opening Gatornationals the 2013 Top Fuel world champion scored a runner-up finish. Racing at a facility like zMAX Dragway, known on the tour as “The Bellagio of Drag Strips” gives Langdon confidence and also a certain amount of pride.
“zMAX Dragway is one of the best facilities we have on our schedule if not the best,” said Langdon. “It is accessible. It is close to town, traffic doesn’t get to crazy and they have plenty of grandstands. They have really nice pits and a great race track. Those are all the things you look for when it comes to a great race track. They have it all. You want to put on a good show and I know they are sold out on Saturday with limited capacity so that will give it a pretty good vibe.”
The 2021 season will begin to shift into high gear this weekend as the NGK NTK Four-Wide Nationals are the first race of a back-to-back weekend of races. The teams will be heading to Houston, Texas immediately after this race. The rapid fire events are a plus in Langdon’s opinion.
“We have been in a good groove and last race in Atlanta we had some things fall out way,” said Langdon. “We were able to make it to the semifinals even though we struggled getting down the track. We had a lot of luck on our side but looking back at the first three races we have a runner-up, a semifinal and a quarterfinal finishes.”
“We are in contention and we are third in points. We are right behind Steve Torrence who has been dominant the last couple of years and one of the most dominant combinations over the last decade is Antron Brown and Brian Corradi and we are up in the mix with them. We still haven’t won a race yet. I feel like we are there and we definitely have an opportunity. We have the team and the resources to win races led by Connie Kalitta. Everything just needs to fall our way and I really feel like we have a competitive car that we can race for wins. We are looking to be racing for a championship at the end of the year,” added Langdon.
2019 NHRA Carolina Four-Wide Nationals Highlights (event not contested in 2020): In Funny Car: WINNER; Qual. No. 5; Beat Jeff Diehl and Terry Haddock; Tommy Johnson Jr. and J.R. Todd; Robert Hight, John Force and Matt Hagan
Last Event Recap (2021 NHRA Southern Nationals): Qual. No. 11; Beat Leah Pruett, Mike Salinas; Lost to Steve Torrence
Career Stats: 270 events, 267 starts, 303 round wins, 17 wins, 35 finals, 19 No. 1 qualifiers; in Top Fuel: 222 events, 219 starts, 15 wins, 32 finals, 264 round wins, 19 No. 1 qualifiers
Gatornationals: RUNNER-UP; Qual. No. 6; Beat Doug Foley, Leah Pruett, Antron Brown; Lost to Josh Hart
Las Vegas1: Qual. No. 6; Beat Troy Buff and Rob Passey; Lost to Doug Kalitta and Steve Torrence
Atlanta: Qual. No. 11; Beat Leah Pruett, Mike Salinas; Lost to Steve Torrence
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) Camping World 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.