KALITTA, CAPPS AND LINE EARN WINS AT KRAGEN O'REILLY WINTERNATIONALS

POMONA, Calif. -- Doug Kalitta raced to his first Top Fuel victory in more than a year Tuesday at the rain-delayed Kragen O'Reilly NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

Ron Capps and Jason Line also were winners in their respective categories at the first of 24 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series events in 2009. The season-opening event, which had been plagued by five straight days of rain delays, was finally completed under clear blue skies.

Kalitta powered his Kalitta Motorsports dragster to a winning performance of 3.822 seconds at 308.57 mph to take an emotional win over top qualifier Antron Brown, whose Matco Tools dragster trailed with a 3.847 at 307.16.

Kalitta said he was thrilled to win at the same track where his uncle Connie Kalitta, the legendary drag racer who is celebrating his 50th anniversary in the sport this year, and his late cousin Scott, who was killed last year in a crash at Englishtown, N.J., had both previously won (Scott in 2005, Connie in 1967).

"The Kalitta name has a long history at this track as both Connie and Scott have won here, so I am glad to be able to join them on the list," said Kalitta of his 31st career victory. "We're back. It was kind of a dry spell for us last year. The new team I have this year is really great and they are hungry to win, so I am glad we were able to get it done today."

Doug said the roll cage on his dragster today was the same one used by Scott in his win at this event in 2005. He said Scott was in his thoughts throughout the day.

"I think of Scott when I am up on the line all of the time and still use some of the techniques he taught me to get motivated before a race, so he's always riding with me," Kalitta said. "I am sure he was watching over us and he's really proud that all three Kalittas have now won here at Pomona."

Capps also ended a year-long winless drought in Funny Car, posting a performance of 4.154 at 296.96 in his NAPA Dodge Charger to hold off surprise finalist Jim Head, whose Head Racing Toyota Solara lost traction at the start of the race. It was Capps' 26th career victory and second at this event (also 1998).

"It's cool to be the first Full Throttle winner," Capps said. "And it's great for NAPA. We really wanted to get them a win this year because they really like our program and love what NHRA does for them because the customers can get so close. They were blown away when they came aboard last year and are doing so much with us with the TV commercials and everything. This is a big win for us."

Line claimed his 16th victory in Pro Stock and first ever at this track by outrunning Mike Edwards in the final round. Line drove his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP to a 6.567 at a track record speed of 211.63 to hold off Edwards' Young Life/Penhall GXP, which trailed at 6.575 at 210.01.

"I drove pretty good out there which feels pretty good because I've been criticized for that in the past," said Line, who had a reaction time advantage on all four of his opponents. "I drove decent and had a pretty good hot rod -- probably the second best one here -- and I would have loved to have raced Greg (Anderson, teammate who set the national E.T. record at 6.528 seconds in the second round) in the final, but we had a good race and it feels good to win. I botched the shift in the final or I probably would have gotten the (national) speed record because I hit the chip in third gear and again in fifth gear because I was so excited to be getting down the track in the final."

The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series continues Feb. 20-22 with the 25th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Firebird International Raceway near Phoenix.

-credit: nhra