Pomona: Scott Kalitta preview

Scott Kalitta ready and now steady for NHRA Funny Car return in Pomona Pomona, Calif., (Feb. 7, 2006) - It's been over 15 years since two-time NHRA Top Fuel World Champion (1994-1995) Scott Kalitta climbed into the cockpit of a nitro-powered...

Scott Kalitta ready and now steady for NHRA Funny Car return in Pomona

Pomona, Calif., (Feb. 7, 2006) - It's been over 15 years since two-time NHRA Top Fuel World Champion (1994-1995) Scott Kalitta climbed into the cockpit of a nitro-powered Funny Car to compete at an NHRA national event. That will change this weekend as the 2006 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series season gets rolling at the season-opening CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals at the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Pomona, Calif., Feb. 9-12.

Kalitta, the defending champion of the Winternationals in Top Fuel, will enter this year's event in his new Kalitta Air Funny Car. Kalitta is returning to the NHRA Funny Car class full-time in 2006. He has spent most of his quarter-mile career behind the wheel of a Top Fuel dragster, where he won 17 NHRA national events, but he garnered his first national event victory in a Funny Car in Houston in 1989, while hobbled with a broken foot to boot. He last competed in a Funny Car in 1990 in Dallas, where he became only the third driver in NHRA history to qualify both a Top Fuel dragster and a Funny Car, the sport's quickest and fastest professional categories, at the same event.

Times have literally changed since Kalitta last took the controls of a "flopper". Kalitta's best elapsed time in his previous stint in a Funny Car was what seems like a now sluggish 5.281 seconds. His previous best speed was only 286.62 mph. Recently, while completing his licensing procedure for his class move, Kalitta shattered both of his former bests in a Las Vegas testing session by running a much quicker 4.891-sec. lap at over 318 mph.

While testing over the winter, Kalitta's initial return to Funny Car was quite rocky including a freakish instance that saw the Funny Car's carbon fiber burst panel get jostled free and lodged into the engine's injector, which held the race car's 7,000 horsepower power plant at wide-open throttle. After skidding along the retaining wall at over 300 mph, Kalitta wrestled his ride to a stop. He was unhurt, but reeling about a tattered body shell and his now second brush with the wall in testing. After some brainstorming with crew chief Johnny West and co-crew chief Larry Meyer, Kalitta and his crew realized that there was a problem with the car's body flexing so much that it was rubbing the front left wheel and thus causing the car to steer towards the left. Once the problem was discovered and subsequently corrected, Kalitta's rides in his new entry have continued to improve in both performance and comfort.

"That thing was a beast," Kalitta, a 43-year old resident of Palmetto, Fla., said. "I was thinking to myself and telling anyone that would listen that something just wasn't right. Luckily though, we found the problem and got it fixed. The car's a lot of fun to drive now - smooth and straight.

"I'm really looking forward to competing in Funny Car again. Last year was one of the best points battles in NHRA history and it was in Funny Car. It's going to be a challenge for our team to compete with the likes of [John] Force and [Gary] Scelzi (2005 Funny Car POWERade Champion), but neither me nor my dad (team owner and drag racing legend Connie "the Bounty Hunter" Kalitta) have ever been known to back down from a challenge. I'm cautiously optimistic about this season, but no matter what, we'll have fun."

The CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals begins Thursday, Feb. 9, for the Funny Car class with one qualifying session at 2:30 p.m. (PT). The next qualifying attempt will be made on Friday at 2:30 p.m. Two more qualifying sessions follow on Saturday at 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. The top sixteen qualified cars will race Sunday in final eliminations beginning at 11:00 a.m.

All times and dates subject to change.

The CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals is the 1st of 23 national events in the 2006 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

About Kalitta Motorsports

Based in Ypsilanti, Michigan, Kalitta Motorsports is a Top Fuel and Funny Car drag racing team in the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) POWERade Drag Racing Series. The racing operation was started in 1959 by now legendary drag racer and team owner Connie "the Bounty Hunter" Kalitta. His son Scott Kalitta drives the Kalitta Air Funny Car. Scott's cousin, Connie's nephew, Doug Kalitta drives the flagship Top Fuel dragster for Mac Tools. Native Australian Dave Grubnic drives the StriVectin-SD Top Fuel dragster, while Hillary Will drives the Kalitta Motorsports-managed and Ken Black-owned Top Fuel dragster.

Connie serves as head tuner for all Team Kalitta entries. He is assisted by crew chiefs Rahn Tobler (Mac Tools dragster), Jim Oberhofer (Hillary Will-driven dragster), Jon Oberhofer (StriVectin-SD dragster), Johnny West (Kalitta Air Funny Car) and Larry Meyer (Kalitta Air Funny Car co-crew chief).

-kr-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Kalitta , Scott Kalitta , Jim Oberhofer , Hillary Will