Kalitta wins in Englishtown; sets track records in eliminations Englishtown, NJ, May 18, 2003 -- Destiny and dominance. Both words in their respective ways may fittingly describe Doug Kalitta's weekend in Englishtown, NJ, but the latter more ...
Kalitta wins in Englishtown; sets track records in eliminations
Englishtown, NJ, May 18, 2003 -- Destiny and dominance. Both words in their respective ways may fittingly describe Doug Kalitta's weekend in Englishtown, NJ, but the latter more accurately depicts the incredible quantity and quality of feats the driver of the Mac Tools/Kalitta Motorsports Top Fuel dragster and the Mac Tools team accomplished at the K&N Filters NHRA SuperNationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.
In rain-shortened qualifying Saturday, Kalitta temporarily set elapsed time (4.511 seconds) and speed (327.59 mph) records at the famous drag strip in northern New Jersey. Those exceptional numbers set Kalitta and the Mac Tools dragster atop of the 16-car eliminations field on Sunday. Kalitta has now been low qualifier at six of the eight NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series national events run in 2003.
Kalitta used low elapsed time (4.526 seconds) of the first round of Top Fuel eliminations to easily defeat Rit Pustari (4.960 seconds). It was the first of three times Kalitta would post low elapsed time for a round. Kalitta also reset the Old Bridge Township Raceway Park speed record, which he had set Saturday, to 330.63 mph in the round.
Preparing their racecar for its second round match-up with Darrell Russell's dragster, the Mac Tools team became concerned when the clutch on their 6000+ horsepower, red rail developed problems.
"I was really nervous going into the second round," co-crew chief Jim Oberhofer said. "We had issues with our clutch in the warm up. The tires kept spinning when they were not supposed to, and I was worried that we may have gotten too much heat in there."
Oberhofer and his crew's fears were quelled 4.544 seconds after the Mac Tools dragster left the starting line in round two. Kalitta scored the win when Russell struggled to a 4.613-second posting, approximately 35 feet behind Kalitta at the finish line.
In the semifinals, Kalitta faced off against Paul Romine. Romine ran a respectable 4.617-second, 310.13-mph lap, but it was not nearly enough to compete with Kalitta's incredible 4.481-second, 328.62-mph blast in the other lane. Kalitta's extraordinary effort stunned the near-capacity crowd in Englishtown and reset the track's elapsed time record, which he had set Saturday. The 4.481-second trip down the track was also the quickest pass ever for Kalitta and third quickest in NHRA history. Kalitta now holds three of the top five quickest runs ever.
In the final round, Kalitta, who had lane choice throughout eliminations, chose the right lane for his showdown with POWERade points leader Larry Dixon. The race was close, but Kalitta marched on to victory circle by lighting up the scoreboard with another 4.4-second run. Kalitta's 4.494-second, 328.54-mph shot settled Dixon's 4.554-second, 326.40-mph attempt to second place.
"This was a huge win for our Mac Tools team," Kalitta said. "We have kept ourselves in position to challenge for the Top Fuel championship. Connie (Kalitta, crew chief) and our whole team did an awesome job with our car all weekend. We like qualifying No. 1, but we are here to win, no matter where we qualify. It is a testament to the strength of our Mac Tools team to complete the sweep of qualifying No.1 and winning the race. That is the second time we have done that this year (Kalitta qualified No.1 and won the event in Houston). It is just a great feeling to get another win."
"Connie is not afraid of anyone or anything. I don't think there is another crew chief out there with the guts to go for consecutive 4.40s, especially in the last two rounds. That's why he is a legend."
On a somber note, Top Fuel competitor Brandon Bernstein, driver of the Budweiser dragster, was injured in a freakish, over-the-retaining-wall crash in the first round of eliminations. Bernstein, currently in second place in POWERade championship points, is expected to miss several races due to his injuries. His father Kenny Bernstein, retired Top Fuel driver and team owner, will assume the driving responsibilities of his son's car until Brandon's return to racing.
Kalitta said, "We want to wish Brandon a full and speedy recovery. We are all competitors on the track, but we never want to see another driver get hurt. They have a great team over there. I hope Brandon gets back in the seat soon."