Commerce: Kalitta Motorsports final summary

NHRA Top Fueler Doug Kalitta Wins Again in Atlanta; Repeats His Repeat of 2005 COMMERCE, Ga. (May 7, 2006) -- Deja vu...again. For the second consecutive season, Doug Kalitta, driver of the bright red, 7,000 horsepower Mac Tools Top Fuel...

NHRA Top Fueler Doug Kalitta Wins Again in Atlanta; Repeats His Repeat of 2005

COMMERCE, Ga. (May 7, 2006) -- Deja vu...again. For the second consecutive season, Doug Kalitta, driver of the bright red, 7,000 horsepower Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster, won the rain-delayed Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Ga., northeast of downtown Atlanta, Sunday. Doug's 26th career Top Fuel victory also marks the second consecutive season that the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series veteran won consecutive events in Bristol, Tenn., and Atlanta. Just like in 2005, this year's final eliminations at the Atlanta event were delayed by rain.

Doug, the No. 2 qualifier (4.529 seconds, 324.67 mph), and his crew chief Rahn Tobler both proved why they are considered by their peers and fans alike as two of the best in their respective positions Sunday. Tobler tuned the Mac Tools rail to three consecutive 4.4-second quarter-mile laps in eliminations including a season-best 4.469-sec., blast in the final round. Behind the wheel, Doug's average reaction time on the starting line during eliminations was a very impressive 0.054 sec. His opponents averaged 0.084 sec., against him. Doug had a starting line advantage in every round and saved his best, 0.033 sec., for the finals.

In round one, Doug cruised to an easy win over a tire-smoking David Baca, 4.550 sec., 324.20 mph to 8.009 sec., 96.71 mph. In the quarterfinals, Doug faced off against the defending Top Fuel points champion dragster tuned by Alan Johnson. Doug, Tobler and the Mac Tools crew were ready for a colossal battle, but very early traction loss from his opponent let Doug again rocket to the finish line uncontested, 4.473 sec., 325.37 mph to 6.952 sec., 130.35 mph.

In that second-round run, the Mac Tools dragster's parachutes, used to rapidly slow his nitro-fueled race car, became tangled in the dragster's wheelie bar and did not deploy as they should. Doug was unable to slow his car enough with just the brakes as he drove into the pea gravel trap at the very end of Atlanta Dragway. When the car and driver returned to the pits, a tremendous effort by all of the Kalitta Motorsports team members unfolded, including crewmen from Dave Grubnic's, Scott Kalitta's, and Hillary Will's teams there to help clean and repair the battered red race car. They all helped Doug and his team make extremely quick mends and roll to the staring line in the semifinals to race Larry Dixon.

Doug roared past Dixon in the semifinals, 4.483 sec., 328.70 mph to 4.556 sec., 328.78 mph, to set up a final-round duel with the current points leader Melanie Troxel. In the highly anticipated final round, Doug and his team yet again proved their resolve by posting another dominating performance, 4.469 sec., 327.59 mph to 7.234 sec., 133.55 mph.

"What a great effort by Rahn and my guys and our whole Kalitta Motorsports team today," Doug said. "Everything just fell into place. Rahn had the tune-up dead on and I was able to do my job on the line. I can't say enough about the whole effort this weekend. I want to thank all of the other Team Kalitta crews for coming over to help after the second round. I've never seen so many guys working on the same race car before. Without all of their help, we would've had a hard time getting ready for the semis."

Doug moved up one position in POWERade championship points from third to second. He is now only 132 points away from the leader.

Doug, 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 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.

Doug's Kalitta Motorsports Top Fuel teammate and native Australian Dave Grubnic, driver of the StriVectin-SD Top Fuel dragster, qualified for final eliminations in the No. 11 spot (4.600 sec., 324.90 mph). He raced No. 6 qualifier Dixon in round one. Unfortunately, Grubnic ended up on the losing end of a great drag race with the former world champ, 4.545 sec., 322.34 mph to 4.532 sec., 329.34 mph. Grubnic entered the Atlanta event in second place in points. He leaves in third place, 202 points off of the lead.

In early 2004, Grubnic, a 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.

Doug's cousin Scott Kalitta, driving his new Kalitta Air Monte Carlo Funny Car flopper, qualified No. 12 (4.829 sec., 318.47 mph) for Sunday's eliminations. Scott, the son of team owner and drag racing legend Connie Kalitta, raced No. 5 qualifier and defending POWERade points world champion Gary Scelzi in the first round of eliminations. Scott's race car lost traction very early in the run and that allowed Scelzi to charge unchallenged to the finish line for the win, 10.049 sec., 84.86 mph to 4.709 sec., 326.40 mph.

Scott, a 43-year old resident of Palmetto, Fla., and 25-year drag racing veteran, made the switch from Top Fuel to Funny Car this season. Scott has one NHRA national event win in his career in nitro Funny Car and that was at the Houston event in 1989 while driving with a broken left foot. In Top Fuel, Scott scored two world championships (1994-1995) and 17 NHRA national event wins.

Rookie Top Fueler Hillary Will, driving the Kalitta Motorsports-managed, Ken Black-owned dragster, qualified in the No. 5 position. She defeated Scott Weis in round one, but lost to Troxel in the quarterfinals.

The Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals was the 7th of 23 national events in the 2006 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.


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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Scott Weis , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , David Baca , Scott Kalitta , Melanie Troxel , Connie Kalitta , Hillary Will , Ken Black