Bristol: Kalitta wins Mac Tools Thunder Valley Nationals

BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 29) -- Mac Tools Top Fuel driver Doug Kalitta has become the NHRA's first repeat winner of the season after capturing the title of his primary sponsor's biggest race -- the inaugural Mac Tools Thunder Valley Nationals at ...

BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 29) -- Mac Tools Top Fuel driver Doug Kalitta has become the NHRA's first repeat winner of the season after capturing the title of his primary sponsor's biggest race -- the inaugural Mac Tools Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway. Kalitta pounded 1999 series champ Tony Schumacher of Team Army in the finals to take the win in 4.690 seconds at 300.73 mph ahead of Schumacher's 5.056-second lap at 217.14 mph.

"This is a dream come true," said Kalitta, a 36-year-old from Ypsilanti, Mich. "Winning a race at your title sponsor's event with the president of the company, John Aden, and the whole Mac Tools team here cheering us on is pretty special. My first win ever was the best day of my racing career but there's no doubt this is a very close second."

Schumacher wasn't the only former champ Kalitta had to beat to earn a trip down Victory Lane. With his famous uncle Connie "the Bounty Hunter" Kalitta making the tuning calls, Doug also took out reigning three-time Winston champ Gary Scelzi in the quarterfinals with a 4.641-second pass at 309.63 mph against Scelzi's 4.809-second effort at 303.09 mph. Upstarts Rhonda Hartman-Smith and current points leader Larry Dixon also came up short against the powerful Mac Tools dragster.

"The truth is every race today was a real test," Kalitta said. "The competition is so tough in Top Fuel. You feel very fortunate to get a win, any win. There are 10-12 cars out here that could have won today just as easily as we did. I feel very fortunate."

Kalitta's seventh career win propelled him to third place in the Winston championship points standings, just 26 points (or slightly more than one round of elimination action) out of the top spot held by Dixon. It also netted the former USAC Sprint Car champ $40,000.

"It's great to stay up there in the points," said Kalitta. "We want to keep fighting for the series championship. That's been our goal from the beginning and you really need to win races to get there so it's nice to have two in the bank this early in the season."

This was the NHRA's first national event at Bristol Dragway since 1967 when Don "the Snake" Prudhomme won the title of the Thunder Valley Spring Nationals with a 6.92-second run at 222 mph. In the past two seasons the track has hosted a non-points NHRA event called the Winston "No Bull" Showdown, which pitted Top Fuel dragsters against Funny Cars.

"We won earlier this year in Phoenix just a few days after my son Mitchell was born," Kalitta said. "This weekend's race was the first one he's actually been to so he must be our good luck charm. I have a feeling he's going to be coming to quite a few races from here on out."

Elsewhere in the Mac Tools pit, Funny Car driver Al Hofmann drove a special-edition Mac Tools Pontiac Firebird to the 17th runner-up finish of his 35-year drag racing career. Starting the day out of the 16th and final qualifying position, the crafty veteran out-raced No. 1 qualifier Gary Densham of the John Force Racing stable, Whit Bazemore, and 10-time Winston champ Force before falling to another Mac Tools associate driver, Ron Capps, in the final round. Hofmann's best run of the day was a 4.964-second pass at 293.73 mph.

-MacTools-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Al Hofmann , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta