Bristol: Kalitta Motorsports preview

Team Kalitta banking on big moves in points in Bristol BRISTOL, Tenn., (July 5, 2007) -- This weekend, July 6-8, the participants and fans of the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series visit one of the most scenic venues of the world's premier drag ...

Team Kalitta banking on big moves in points in Bristol

BRISTOL, Tenn., (July 5, 2007) -- This weekend, July 6-8, the participants and fans of the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series visit one of the most scenic venues of the world's premier drag racing tour when the series makes its annual stop in Bristol, Tenn., for the O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway, which is carved in the mountains of picturesque East Tennessee.

Kalitta Motorsports' Doug Kalitta, driver of the Mac Tools "Big Red" Top Fuel dragster, has had the most success traversing the quick quarter-mile in Bristol known as Thunder Valley. Doug has won the previous two NHRA national events at the famed facility and has been in the Bristol winner's circle a total of three times in his 10-year Top Fuel racing career (2001). He leads all of the NHRA's professional classes for total wins at Bristol Dragway.

"Bristol has been really good to us," Doug said. "It is definitely one of my favorite races on the tour, but not just because we've had some success there. The track and the whole facility are really great and we always have big crowds there.

"We're coming off of our best finish (semifinals) of the season in Norwalk (previous event) last week, so our Mac Tools team is anxious to get back out on the track and try to build some momentum and get in the top eight (points)."

This season the NHRA instituted a new Countdown to the Championship points system. Only the top eight in POWERade points after the first 17 national events will be allowed to vie for the season championship. Doug is currently in 12th place in points, but is only 53 points away from the No. 8 spot.

Doug also holds the track record for speed at Bristol Dragway, 331.53 mph (2006).

Since winning the NHRA's equivalent of Rookie of the Year, the Automobile Club of Southern California's Road to the Future Award, after the 1998 drag racing season, Doug, a 42-year old resident of Ann Arbor, Mich., has driven his dragster to 29 Top Fuel national event titles, which already ties him for sixth in career wins for the sport's quickest and fastest class. In the past four NHRA seasons, Doug has solidified his place among the best Top Fuel pilots of all-time. Last season was arguably the best of his straight-line career. He won a career-high five national events in 2006 and led the POWERade points for almost the entire second half of the season. After finishing just 14 points shy of his first NHRA championship, Doug garnered his third career runner-up points finish in 2006. He was also points runner-up in 2003 and 2004.

Doug's Top Fuel teammate and native Australian Dave Grubnic, driver of the black and blue Zantrex-3 dragster, is in a bit more comfortable spot in points, No. 6, but he and the Zantrex-3 team know that they are going to have to stay consistent to secure their place in the Countdown to the Championship.

"We're in it right now, but we still have six races to go," Grubnic said. "The key is going to be consistency just like it always is. When our car runs great, it has a good shot at winning. We know we can make the horsepower, so we have to make sure we do the best job we can to get that horsepower applied to the track as efficiently as possible.

"We are in sixth, but a quick look at the points and you can see that is still very fragile. The car in ninth is only 21 points away, so it's going to be a battle all the way through."

In early 2004, Grubnic, a 44-year old resident of Ennis, Mont., was hired to drive for Kalitta Motorsports. Since joining Team Kalitta, Grubnic has posted consecutive top-five championship points finishes. In the fall of 2004, he won the lucrative and coveted Budweiser Shootout in Las Vegas, becoming only the fourth driver in the special event's history to win its $100,000 prize in his first attempt. His only other event victory came at the 2006 running of the famed Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla.

Doug's Cousin Scott Kalitta, driver of the bright yellow and red DHL Toyota Solara Funny Car, is hoping for a couple of "get healthy" weekends starting in Bristol after failing to qualify for final eliminations in Norwalk last week.

"We're still in this thing, but we need to start going rounds," Scott said. "Our DHL car is certainly capable of winning races, but we have to start making a move now. Hopefully Bristol will be the start of that."

Scott is in 17th place in Funny Car points, 145 points away from the critical No. 8 position.

Scott, a 45-year old resident of Palmetto, Fla., is the son of team owner Connie and Doug's cousin. He returned to the Funny Car class last season after many successful years at the helm of a Top Fuel dragster. He won the NHRA Top Fuel World Championship in 1994 and 1995 as well as 17 NHRA national event trophies, but got his first professional NHRA national event win under the carbon fiber canopy of a Funny Car in Houston in 1989.

Hillary Will, driver of the Kalitta Motorsports-managed, Ken Black-owned KB Racing, LLC Top Fueler, was defeated in the first round of the Bristol event last season.

The O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals begins Friday, July 6, for the Top Fuel and Funny Car classes with one qualifying session at 5:30 p.m. (ET), and then another qualifying session at 8:00 p.m. Two more qualifying sessions follow on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. The top sixteen qualified cars will race Sunday in final eliminations beginning at noon.

All times and dates subject to change.

The O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals is the 12th of 23 national events in the 2007 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

-credit: km

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Kalitta , Scott Kalitta , Hillary Will , Ken Black