Englishtown: Kalitta Motorsports preview

Team Kalitta set to attack NHRA summer six-pack ENGLISHTOWN, N.J., (June 19, 2007) -- This weekend, June 21-24, Team Kalitta and the rest of the driving stars and powerful cars that make up the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series open up a sextet...

Team Kalitta set to attack NHRA summer six-pack

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J., (June 19, 2007) -- This weekend, June 21-24, Team Kalitta and the rest of the driving stars and powerful cars that make up the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series open up a sextet of consecutive national events with the annual running of the ProCare Rx NHRA SuperNationals in Englishtown, N.J., at legendary Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.

In what promises to be a strenuous six-week stretch of straight line racing, the professional, quarter-mile racers at Kalitta Motorsports are optimistic that the string of summer events will serve as a springboard to a successful run for their respective class championships.

Doug Kalitta, driver of the bright red Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster, is hoping that the next half-dozen events will help him and his Mac Tools team make a move up in the POWERade points.

"We have our eye on 8th place right now," Doug said. "We're in 12th, but we're only 85 points away from that all-important No. 8 spot. It is certainly within our reach. Our car has shown some big improvements in the past couple of races, so I think this swing of races will be really good for us."

This season, the NHRA instituted the Countdown to the Championship points format for all of the professional classes. At the end of the first 17 events, only the drivers in the top eight in points in their respective classes will be eligible to win the season championship.

"We've had some great performances at Englishtown," Doug continued. "The weather looks pretty good for this weekend, so hopefully we and the fans will see some more big numbers from our Mac Tools car."

Doug has had the most success among his Kalitta Motorsports teammates on the drag strip at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park with two Top Fuel titles (2003, 2000). He and the Mac Tools team hold the track record for elapsed time at famed facility the with a spectacular 4.481-second lap in 2003.

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.

Team Kalitta Top Fuel helmsman and native Australian Dave Grubnic, driver of the black and electric blue Zantrex-3 dragster, finds himself and his team in the precarious, fence-sitting 8th place in Top Fuel points. The ever-smiling Aussie thinks the set of six in a row is the perfect time to capitalize on capturing more points.

"We're not at all happy with 8th. We want to move up," Grubnic said. "I think these next six races are going to be critical as far as points go. Our Zantrex-3 team needs to take advantage of these consecutive races. It is easier to build momentum when you are racing every week, so we need to get our car running its best now and just keep producing strong, consistent runs. If we can do that, we'll win some rounds and move up in the points."

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 red and yellow-branded DHL Toyota Solara Funny Car, is also on the outside of the top eight looking in the points window for the nitro-fueled Funny Car class. Scott is currently in 16th place amongst the fuel floppers, but like his cousin, he is well within striking distance of eighth place, just 98 points below the line of demarcation.

"Our DHL car is running a lot better lately," Scott said. "We've been qualifying much better, and we've had a better handle on the tune-up in the last two races. I'm very optimistic about our chances for the remainder of the season.

"I agree with Dave (Grubnic). I think this summer swing will be very important. With the summer heat coming in, it's going to make all the tracks trickier and slicker, which tends to even out the playing field a little more. We just need to get consistently down the track and not beat ourselves. We'll be fine if we can accomplish that."

Scott, a 45-year old resident of Palmetto, Fla., 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, advanced to the semi-final round of eliminations in Englishtown in her rookie appearance in 2006.

-credit: km

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