DOUG KALITTA LOOKS TO EXTEND POWERADE SERIES POINTS LEAD WITH TOP FUEL VICTORY AT K&N FILTERS SUPERNATIONALS ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- In his real world job, Doug Kalitta is a pilot for a successful charter aviation service. In the NHRA POWERade...
DOUG KALITTA LOOKS TO EXTEND POWERADE SERIES POINTS LEAD WITH TOP FUEL VICTORY AT K&N FILTERS SUPERNATIONALS
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- In his real world job, Doug Kalitta is a pilot for a successful charter aviation service. In the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, where he moonlights as driver of a 330-mph Top Fuel dragster, Kalitta's competitors might think that the Ann Arbor, Mich. native really spends his days away from the track at the controls of a sleek Stealth fighter instead of his trusty Lear Jet.
Quiet and often unassuming, Kalitta has flown virtually undetected by radar this season, overtaking his opponents with some precision strikes. He has posted three victories in five final round appearances and currently leads the NHRA POWERade world championship chase for the second time in his driving career.
While defending world champ Tony Schumacher has grabbed headlines for his jaw-dropping 336 mph national speed record, Kalitta has been going about his business -- the business of winning his first NHRA POWERade world championship crown.
Kalitta hopes to add another victory to his season ledger and maintain his category points lead at the 36th annual K&N Filters SuperNationals presented by Advance Auto Parts, June 16-19 at historic Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. The $2 million race, which will be televised on ESPN2, is the 11th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
With victories at Gainesville, Fla., Atlanta and Bristol, Tenn., Kalitta marched through the southern states in impressive fashion. He also has posted two runner-up finishes -- at Las Vegas and Columbus, Ohio -- in his 7,000 horsepower Mac Tools dragster.
According to Kalitta, his team has been focused on attaining one thing this season -- consistency. He says if his team can do that, the victories will come, which they have so far.
"Probably this year, we're hoping to be more consistent on Sunday rather than having the fastest car on Friday or Saturday," said Kalitta, who drives one of three Top Fuel dragsters fielded by his uncle, NHRA driving legend Connie Kalitta. "I really have to give the credit to Rahn (Tobler, crew chief), he has the car strong and consistent on Sunday."
With the stop in New Jersey, Kalitta is returning to a quarter-mile drag strip that has been very good to him over the years. He has posted two victories in three final round appearances at Englishtown -- and he will certainly be a favorite this year.
Other drivers to watch include Schumacher in his U.S. Army dragster, Brandon Bernstein in his Budweiser/Lucas Oil dragster and Miller Lite dragster driver Larry Dixon, the defending event winner, whose crew chief Dick LaHaie is the man to beat when the temperatures soar. Kalitta's teammates -- two time series champ Scott Kalitta, a two-time winner this season, and recent first-time winner Dave Grubnic -- also may figure into the final round eliminations picture on Sunday at Raceway Park.
Kalitta's top challengers took a step forward in the points chase after he suffered an uncharacteristic first round loss at Topeka, the third race in a grueling six-race stretch over the course of seven weeks. Kalitta, who opened that swing with back-to-back victories, says in this battle fatigue is not an option.
"I'm always ready to go, as far as that goes, a majority of the work is in the tuning of the car and I'm glad it's left up to Rahn and all the guys (in the crew)," Kalitta said. "For them, it's a grueling schedule for sure. Fortunately we haven't been eating up a lot of parts."
Other defending event winners include Gary Densham in Funny Car, Jason Line in Pro Stock, and Andrew Hines in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
In Funny Car, points leader John Force has been the driver to beat, posting a season-leading four victories in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, the last three consecutively. Whit Bazemore, Robert Hight, Gary Scelzi and Tommy Johnson Jr. also have earned victories and been regular visitors to the final round.
Greg Anderson, with three straight wins in his Summit Racing Pontiac, has begun to show signs of his dominant 2004 form when he was named the Speed Channel Driver of the Year and should be a threat along with the resurgent Warren Johnson, who maintains a slight edge over former crew chief Anderson in the POWERade point standings.
Pro Stock Motorcycle has featured some of the closest and most unpredictable competition all season as less than 130 points separate the top 10 competitors. Points leader GT Tonglet, who rides a Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson, Geico Suzuki rider Karen Stoffer, Buell rider Chip Ellis and the charismatic Steve Johnson have all posted victories along the way. It is only a matter of time before defending series world champ Andrew Hines and three-time champ Angelle Sampey break into the win column.