KALITTA QUIET ASSASSIN IN NHRA WINSTON TOP FUEL CHAMPIONSHIP CHASE BRAINERD, Minn. - When he's off the track, Doug Kalitta is a man of few words. He likes to let his Kitty Hawk dragster do all the talking, in 4.50-second syllables, with...
KALITTA QUIET ASSASSIN IN NHRA WINSTON TOP FUEL CHAMPIONSHIP CHASE
BRAINERD, Minn. - When he's off the track, Doug Kalitta is a man of few words. He likes to let his Kitty Hawk dragster do all the talking, in 4.50-second syllables, with 320-mph paragraphs.
Lately, Kalitta's machine has had plenty to say.
The Ann Arbor, Mich. driver has quietly been one of the hottest Top Fuel drivers in the category. He blitzed through the western swing, posting two runner-up finishes and a victory at Denver, Seattle and Sonoma, Calif. respectively. He moved into fifth in the Winston point standings with his effort, and sits only 64 points out of the lead for the championship. Kalitta, a five-time finalist this season, hopes to continue his hot streak at the 18th annual Colonel's Truck Accessories NHRA Nationals, Aug. 19-22, at The Colonel's Brainerd International Raceway. The $1.6 million race is the 15th of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. Kalitta, named the 1998 Southern California Automobile Association Road to the Future award winner, has shown that the future is now.
"I think we're surprising some people," Kalitta said. "We've been there all season, not just here lately. When you can go to five final rounds in this division, you've accomplished something. If we can keep the same intensity that we had during the western swing, I think we'll be around to fight with everyone else for the championship."
That list includes some of drag racing's biggest hitters. In addition to Kalitta, other top contenders for the championship include leader Mike Dunn, Kenny Bernstein, Joe Amato, Tony Schumacher, two-time defending champ Gary Scelzi and upstart Doug Herbert, among others. Less than 100 points separate the top six in the point standings.
"This competition in Top Fuel this season has been unbelievable," Kalitta said. "It's really tight. The top-10 can change drastically from week to week and really there's not that much separation within the points. Everyone is really close. Mike has led the way all year, but there's a bunch of us that have been right there knocking at the door all along." Kalitta felt certain he would be in a championship contending position when he took over driving duties last season for two-time NHRA Winston Top Fuel champion cousin Scott.
"We've got one of the best teams out here and we're confident that we can hold our own," Kalitta said. "Certainly, Ed (McCulloch, crew chief) knows how to set the car up for all of the different conditions. This team has won a couple of championships in the past and I feel fortunate to be in this situation. I've been lucky to be with championship-caliber teams in all of my racing programs, from USAC sprint cars to NHRA. I won a championship in sprint cars and now the goal is to get one in drag racing."