Tough day for Team Kalitta in Houston as Top Fuelers Dave Grubnic and Doug Kalitta bow out in opening round of Sunday's final eliminations BAYTOWN, TEX., (April 2, 2006) -- At the final day of the O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals in Baytown, Tex.,...
Tough day for Team Kalitta in Houston as Top Fuelers Dave Grubnic and Doug Kalitta bow out in opening round of Sunday's final eliminations
BAYTOWN, TEX., (April 2, 2006) -- At the final day of the O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals in Baytown, Tex., just minutes away from downtown Houston, it was a blue day for Dave Grubnic, driver of the pink and black StriVectin-SD Top Fuel dragster, and his Kalitta Motorsports teammate Doug Kalitta, driver of the bright red Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster, as both of the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series veterans and perennial championship contenders made unexpected first-round exits in final eliminations at Houston Raceway Park Sunday.
Grubnic, the No. 5 qualifier, was upset in round one by the No. 12 qualifier and round-win hungry Brandon Bernstein, who until today had not won an elimination round in 2006. The two Top Fuel favorites gave the fans in Southeast Texas a great race, but it was Bernstein's 4.510-sec., 328.38-mph effort that barely got to the finish line quicker than Grubnic's 4.553-sec., 328.14-mph attempt.
Grubnic won the previous NHRA national event before Houston in Gainesville, Fla., two weeks ago and moved from 11th to 3rd place in points by doing so. He leaves the Lone Star state in 4th place in POWERade Top Fuel championship points.
In early 2004, Grubnic, a native Australian and 43-year old resident of Ennis, Mont., was hired to drive for Kalitta Motorsports after several years of driving for teams with minimal funding. Since joining Team Kalitta, Grubnic, now in his 12th season as a Top Fuel driver, has posted consecutive top-five championship points finishes. In 2004, he won the lucrative and coveted Budweiser Shootout in Las Vegas, becoming only the fourth driver in the special event's 20-year history to win its $100,000 prize in his first attempt, and he picked up an emotional and long overdue first NHRA national event win in May, 2005 in Topeka, Kans., to become the first non-native North American to win a Top Fuel trophy.
Kalitta, the No. 2 qualifier, also became an upset victim in the first round when he was defeated by No. 15 qualifier Bob Vandergriff Jr. Kalitta's 7,000 horsepower dragster lost traction early in the run to relinquish an effortless win to Vandergriff Jr., 5.011 sec., 305.01 mph to 4.692 sec., 312.71 mph.
Kalitta now sits in 9th place in POWERade championship points. He entered the event in Houston in 8th place.
Kalitta, a 41-year old resident of Ann Arbor, Mich., is a two-time Top Fuel championship points runner-up (2003-2004) and the 1998 Auto Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award winner for rookie excellence. He has 24 NHRA national event wins. He is now in his ninth season in NHRA Top Fuel drag racing. Before joining the quarter-mile set, Doug raced in open-wheel competition and won the 1994 USAC National Sprint Car Championship.
Rookie Top Fueler Hillary Will, driving the Kalitta Motorsports-managed, Ken Black-owned dragster, qualified in the No. 14 position. She advanced to the quarterfinals where she was defeated by Clay Millican.