Gainesville: Doug Kalitta preview

NHRA Top Fueler Doug Kalitta looking to Gainesville for quick quarter-mile rebound Gainesville, Fla., (March 14, 2007) -- Doug Kalitta, driver of the bright red Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster, vividly remembers his trip to the Sunshine State for...

NHRA Top Fueler Doug Kalitta looking to Gainesville for quick quarter-mile rebound

Gainesville, Fla., (March 14, 2007) -- Doug Kalitta, driver of the bright red Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster, vividly remembers his trip to the Sunshine State for the ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals in 2000. He and his team of nitro warriors had just suffered through a tough weekend in Phoenix where they failed to qualify for final eliminations for only the second time in his burgeoning quarter-mile career that began two years earlier. When they arrived for the Gatornationals seven years ago, the Kalitta Motorsports team went from feeling like zeros to celebrating like heroes in the winner's circle at one of the most prestigious drag racing events in the world.

After another rough outing at the previous event in Phoenix this season in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, Kalitta is quick to notice a few similarities between now and then, but he and his Mac Tools team remain focused on trying to win one elimination round at a time at this year's annual running of the ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals at famed Gainesville Raceway in Gainesville, Fla., March 15-18, 2007.

"That was a cool deal back in 2000," Kalitta, a 42-year old resident of Ann Arbor, Mich., said. "We were obviously really down after we left Phoenix, but then winning the Gators made us forget all about that.

"This year is a little different. We did manage to qualify in Phoenix, but not very well, and we ended up losing in the first round, but that's all behind us now. We need to go rounds in Gainesville. We need to make sure we qualify and hopefully get into the top-half of the field to give ourselves a better chance to win some rounds on Sunday. Then, with a little luck, we should have a good shot at winning the whole thing again."

Kalitta also won the Gatornationals in 2005. He enters the event this year in 9th place in POWERade championship points.

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, Kalitta 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, Kalitta 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, Kalitta garnered his third career runner-up points finish in 2006. He was also points runner-up in 2003 and 2004.

The ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals begins Friday, March 16, for the Top Fuel class with one qualifying session at 1:00 p.m. (ET), and then another qualifying session at 3:30 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 11:00 a.m.

-credit: kr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Kalitta