Doug Kalitta reaches 33rd career final in season-opening Pomona event

Pomona, Calif., Feb. 29, 2004 -- Mac Tools Top fuel dragster driver Doug Kalitta began his chase for the 2004 NHRA Top Fuel championship in grand style by reaching the final round Sunday at the K&N Filters Winternationals at Pomona Raceway, the first of 23 events on the 2004 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series schedule.

Kalitta entered Sunday's final eliminations as the No.1 qualifier (4.484 sec., 329.99 mph). Legendary drag racer and team owner Connie "the Bounty Hunter" Kalitta serves as crew chief on the Mac Tools entry while Rahn Tobler serves as the racecar's co-crew chief.

After defeating Scott Weis (4.533 sec., 331.36 mph to 6.059 sec., 133.94 mph) in round one and defending Top Fuel champ Larry Dixon (4.482 sec., 330.15 mph to 4.598 sec., 316.15 mph) in round two, Kalitta rolled to the starting line in the semifinals to face his new Kalitta Motorsports teammate David Grubnic. Kalitta's Mac Tools rail lost its blower belt around 1100 ft., but his 4.511-sec., 284.33-mph run was enough to hold off the faltering 5.283-sec., 171.90-mph attempt by Grubnic.

The finals looked to be a colossal match up between the two quickest dragsters on Earth, but it did not come to pass. As Kalitta began staging his dragster opposite of Tony Schumacher, a mechanical failure forced him to shut off his car and stopped his quest for the 16th win of his career before the lights ever went green.

"We had a mechanical failure during the burnout," Kalitta Motorsports team manager Jim Oberhofer said. "We will have to tear everything apart to be sure exactly what happened, but you can bet it will never happen again."

Oberhofer also serves as co-crew chief on the Mac Tools/Jesse James Top Fuel dragster piloted by Doug's cousin Scott Kalitta. Scott lost in round one to David Baca.

Doug Kalitta surmised, "That was not how we wanted it to end, but it did. It is what it is."

"We will find out what happened and make sure it's fixed and go to Phoenix."