Bristol: Doug Kalitta from cockpit to welder

Top Fueler Doug Kalitta climbs from cockpit to work as welder on his 330-mph race car in Bristol BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 29, 2006) - After traversing the quarter-mile drag strip at Bristol Dragway with a 4.647-second, 326.95-mph blast in Friday ...

Top Fueler Doug Kalitta climbs from cockpit to work as welder on his 330-mph race car in Bristol

BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 29, 2006) - After traversing the quarter-mile drag strip at Bristol Dragway with a 4.647-second, 326.95-mph blast in Friday night's second qualifying session for the O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, Doug Kalitta, driver of the bright red Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster, saw a shower of sparks spew from underneath his 7,000 horsepower mount as slowed his dragster to a stop at the end of the paved race track.

Toward the end of the shutdown area at the northern end of Thunder Valley, Kalitta's 300-inch wheelbase race car began to bounce as he tried to bring it to a halt. In doing so, the bottom metal frame rails of the car's Attac chassis were scraped in a couple of places near the center of the dragster as the coarse asphalt transformed into a pseudo-grinder. The chrome-moly, a lightweight, high-strength specialty steel, tubing that constructs the chassis is only approximately 1/16 of an inch thick, so any loss of material obviously causes a concern for the dragster's durability and consequently, and most importantly, the safety of the driver.

In this rather unique case, driver Kalitta is an accomplished welder and was up to the task last night of helping his Mac Tools team repair and reinforce his nitro-powered rail. Kalitta donned a welder's helmet and took up the torch to weld c-shaped, half-pipe metal band aids to both of the damaged underside spots.

Kalitta was raised around welding. His father, Doug Sr., owns a welding supply shop in Kalitta's hometown of Mt. Clemens, Mich. The NHRA Top Fuel veteran has been welding since he was old enough to safely do so as a child. He has impressed his fusion peers in the past by welding the sharp edges of two razor blades together and by placing two welding beads down the length of a single razor's sharp edge.

"I got on the brakes pretty hard down there," Kalitta said. "I probably inadvertently caused it to bounce a little more than it normally would have. I hadn't done any welding in a while, so it was a good chance for me to get back in practice and to help my guys fix what I probably caused in the first place."

Kalitta, a 41-year old resident of Ann Arbor, Mich., is a two-time Top Fuel championship points runner-up (2003-2004). He has 24 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series national event victories in his nine-year drag racing career. He also holds the time slip for the quickest run in NHRA history, 4.420 sec., Chicago 1 - 2004. In 1998, Kalitta was the Auto Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award winner for NHRA rookie excellence, and he's a former USAC National Sprint Car Champion (1994).

-km-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Kalitta