Seattle: Doug Kalitta in championship hunt

KENT, Wash. -- For the first time in his career, Top Fuel driver Doug Kalitta held the POWERade point standings in the quickest and fastest category of the NHRA. Since he started in 1998, Kalitta has posted 17 career wins and has ...

KENT, Wash. -- For the first time in his career, Top Fuel driver Doug Kalitta held the POWERade point standings in the quickest and fastest category of the NHRA. Since he started in 1998, Kalitta has posted 17 career wins and has finished in the top three of the final point standings twice in the last three seasons.

But the points lead was a first for the former USAC sprint car champion.

"It was great to have the lead," said Kalitta, 39, who led for one event, between St. Louis and Denver. With a runner-up finish at Denver, Tony Schumacher moved back into the points lead, 28 ahead of Kalitta.

"I'm extremely happy about where we are because we are showing great signs of better consistency and being able to stay with these guys for the rest of the year," Kalitta said. "We want to edge out the competition, but we have to pace ourselves because there are a lot of races left on the schedule."

Kalitta and his Mac Tools dragster team will lead the way into the 17th annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, July 23-25, at Pacific Raceways. Larry Dixon, John Force and Greg Anderson are the defending winners of the $1.4 million race. It is the 14th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Seattle is the second stop of the three-race Western Swing which consists of NHRA events held in Denver, Seattle and Sonoma, Calif. on three consecutive weekends.

Kalitta is quick to give credit to crew chief Rahn Tobler for much of the team's improved consistency. Tobler, the husband and former crew chief for three-time Top Fuel champion Shirley Muldowney, joined the Kalitta crew shortly after Muldowney retired last November.

"I think we're on the right track with our goals," Kalitta said. "We've wanted to be in the points lead since I started driving. We're happy to just be at the top and hope we can stay close to the top and be in the running for the POWERade championship at the end of the season.

"Rahn has been in this position a few times before with Shirley, so I think we're in good hands."

Kalitta is one of three drivers in the Kalitta Racing stable. His cousin and two-time Top Fuel champion, Scott Kalitta, who snapped a seven-year winless drought with a victory in Denver, is in fourth place with the Jesse James/Mac Tools dragster. Australian David Grubnic sits in sixth place with the Kalitta Air dragster.

Kalitta thinks the three-car concept will be especially crucial during the next few races. The NHRA has implemented rule changes aimed toward improving the safety of the car. Pacific Raceways will be the site of a new fuel change. The fuel mixture may not contain more than 85 percent nitromethane, down from 90 percent.

"Having three cars, now more than ever, will help us gain more information and make better decisions more quickly," Kalitta said. "It will be interesting to see how the changes affect the teams in the second half of the season. Hopefully we will continue to be consistent and continue to win races."

Kalitta has two wins in five final rounds after the first 13 events of the season. He has not, however, ever posted a win at Pacific Raceways.

"I've never won there, but we've been to the final round a couple of times," Kalitta said. "It's been a good race for us. I'm looking forward to the Western Swing. It's been good to us in the past."

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Shirley Muldowney , Larry Dixon , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , David Grubnic , Scott Kalitta , Jesse James