Kalitta Motorsports Top Fuel dragster team sets strategies for success as NHRA rolls into Bristol's Thunder Valley Bristol, Tenn., April 26, 2005 - Last year's running of final eliminations at the O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at ...
Kalitta Motorsports Top Fuel dragster team sets strategies for success as NHRA rolls into Bristol's Thunder Valley
Bristol, Tenn., April 26, 2005 - Last year's running of final eliminations at the O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at sonically booming Bristol Dragway, carved in the mountains of Bristol, Tenn., was postponed Sunday by bad weather until Monday. Most of the members of Kalitta Motorsports, the NHRA's only full-time, three-car Top Fuel dragster team, wish the one-day delay would have lasted infinitely because of atypically lackluster performances by the team's triumvirate of 7,000 + horsepower nitro hot rods the next day - Cousins Doug Kalitta and Scott Kalitta made quick departures with first round losses while teammate "Aussie Dave" Grubnic was a little too anxious to race his second-round pairing and red-lit his way to an early exit.
Understandably, the team's collective goal for this weekend's O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, April 29-May 1, is to avenge last season's slights, but each driver has personal reasons motivating his desire to go to the winner's circle in Thunder Valley this year, which hopefully will be set up in its traditional time slot on Sunday.
Coming off a runner-up finish at the previous event in Las Vegas two weeks ago, Doug Kalitta, driver of the bright red Mac Tools flagship Top Fueler, is looking to regain the East Tennessee mountain magic that took him to the winner's circle in Bristol in 2001. In that final round battle, Doug defeated now points leader Tony Schumacher. Doug, who moved up to second in points after his final-round appearance in Las Vegas, wants to keep his upward points trend climbing in Thunder Valley.
"We just keep moving up in points," Doug said. "Considering that after the first two races we were ninth in points, (Doug lost in the first round of the first two national events of 2005) and now we're second, just shows you how tough this team is even when everyone started counting us out. We're within striking distance of the lead now, so we need to stay focused and keep going rounds. We're all out here to win races, but the championship is what we're all after in the end."
Two-time Top Fuel championship points runner-up (2003-2004) Doug, 40, is an eight-year Top Fuel veteran and former USAC National Sprint Car Champion (1994). He won the Mac Tools NHRA Gatornationals last month in Gainesville, Fla. He has 20 NHRA national event victories and holds the time slips for the quickest (4.420 sec., Chicago 1 - 2004) and the fastest (335.57 mph, Las Vegas 1 - 2004) runs in NHRA history. He is now merely 60 points behind leader Schumacher in the quest for the 2005 Top Fuel championship.
Unlike his cousin, two-time Top Fuel World Champion (1994-1995) Scott Kalitta, driver of the multi-colored striped Mac Tools/Jesse James dragster, who won the opening event of the 2005 NHRA season in Pomona, Calif., in February, has seen his fortunes fade lately. Scott has dropped from the points lead to eighth place. The 24-year drag racing veteran is not worried yet though. He knows how to win championships and knows what he and his team must do to get back on the winning track.
"We need to do better," Scott deadpanned. "We lost in the first round in Las Vegas, and that was a real eye-opener that we need to get this car fixed right away. Sometimes these race cars can be stubborn. That's fine when you're winning, but when you're not, it can be awful. We've got some quirky things going on with our car right now, but we'll keep knocking and banging until something works. It's the nature of drag racing. We'll get it figured out.
"Our immediate goal is to go some rounds and get back in the top five in points. Then, we'll start talking about going for the lead again. We're only 23 points out of fifth and 132 off the lead. It's not over yet. We can get there."
Scott, 43, has 17 (16 Top Fuel, 1 Funny Car) NHRA national event victories. His career-best elapsed time is 4.455 sec., and his career-best speed is 333.95 mph.
Team Kalitta driver and native Australian Grubnic, 42, made the semifinals in Bristol in 2002, his best showing in Thunder Valley to date. He has made semi-final appearances in three out of five events so far this season (Pomona 1, Phoenix and Las Vegas 1). Grubnic is hoping to add to his round-win tally in Bristol and to make sure that last year's false step does not make a repeat performance.
"No red light for me this year," Grubnic said. "All I want to see are win lights at the end of the track.
"It's like that saying they have in baseball - If you don't get thrown out at home plate every so often, you're not playing hard enough.
"I was a bit anxious on the starting line last year and got caught, but sometimes you have to go for it. No worries mate."
The always-affable Grubnic, who won the $100,000 Budweiser Shootout special event last fall in Las Vegas, drives a striking black and electric blue flame-decorated rail under the banner of Zantrex-3. He is in his second year with Kalitta Motorsports after joining the team in January, 2004. He has made seven final-round appearances in his 11-year career but has yet to score his first NHRA national event win. His career-best elapsed time is 4.448 sec., and his career-best speed is 333.58 mph. He is in sixth place in Top Fuel championship points, just one point away from the top five and just 110 from the lead.
Kalitta Motorsports has made three final-round appearances in the first five NHRA national events of 2005.
The O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals begins Friday, April 29, for the Top Fuel class with two qualifying sessions. Two more qualifying sessions follow on Saturday. The top sixteen qualified cars will race Sunday in final eliminations.
The O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals is the sixth of 23 national events in the 2005 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
About Kalitta Motorsports
Based in Ypsilanti, Michigan, Kalitta Motorsports is the only full-time three-car Top Fuel drag racing team in the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) POWERade Drag Racing Series. The racing operation was started in 1959 by now legendary drag racer and team owner Connie "the Bounty Hunter" Kalitta. His son Scott Kalitta drives the Mac Tools/Jesse James dragster. Scott's cousin, Connie's nephew, Doug Kalitta drives the flagship dragster for Mac Tools. Native Australian David Grubnic drives the third dragster under the banner of Zantrex-3.
Connie serves as crew chief for all three Team Kalitta entries. He is assisted by co-crew chiefs Rahn Tobler (Mac Tools dragster), Jim Oberhofer (Mac Tools/Jesse James dragster) and Jon Oberhofer (Zantrex-3 dragster).
Associate sponsors on all three race cars include Red Line Oil, Summit Racing Equipment, Technicoat Companies and Fischer Honda.