Commerce: Kalitta Motorsports Saturday summary

Kalitta Motorsports' Top Fuelers qualify No. 2, No. 7 and No. 10 for NHRA event in Atlanta Commerce, Ga., May 14, 2005 -- As persistent deep south heat beat down on the quarter-mile drag strip Saturday at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Ga., just...

Kalitta Motorsports' Top Fuelers qualify No. 2, No. 7 and No. 10 for NHRA event in Atlanta

Commerce, Ga., May 14, 2005 -- As persistent deep south heat beat down on the quarter-mile drag strip Saturday at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Ga., just east of the Atlanta city limits, at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, Kalitta Motorsports' NHRA-only three-car Top Fuel dragster team of "Aussie Dave" Grubnic, Doug Kalitta and Scott Kalitta qualified No. 2, No. 7 and No. 10 respectively for Sunday's final eliminations.

Friday's two qualifying sessions went smoothly and on-schedule, but a mid-afternoon rain shower and a late-afternoon downpour delayed the qualifying action on the track Saturday for over two hours. It was a brief inconvenience and a somewhat welcomed relief from the heat for the enthusiastic crowd on-hand to watch the world's fastest motorsport's two final qualifying sessions.

Grubnic's and Doug's nitro-fueled dragsters made their best qualifying runs in the fourth and final session after the last bout of rain cooled the humid Georgia air and made racing conditions much more favorable. Scott's last effort down the track was made before the rain.

Low qualifier in Atlanta in 2004 Grubnic, driver of the black and electric blue-flamed Zantrex-3 Top Fuel hot rod, qualified No. 2 (4.545 seconds, 327.27 mph). He will race No. 15 qualifier Mitch King in round one of eliminations. He missed being No. 1 qualifier by .004 sec. to Morgan Lucas (4.541 sec.).

"It's a shame we missed being No. 1 by that close," Grubnic said. "It was still a great run for my Zantrex-3 guys. We've been No. 1 by that close or less before, so you have to take the good with the bad. Just like the (eliminations) ladder. If we're lucky enough to get past round one, we have to run one of our teammates in round two. That's not good, but if that does happen, we know a Kalitta car will be in the semifinals and that's always good."

Fifth place championship points holder and native Australian Grubnic, 42, the $100,000 Budweiser Shootout special event winner last fall in Las Vegas, has made seven final-round appearances in his 11-year career but has not yet won an NHRA national event.

Current Top Fuel championship points leader and two-time championship points runner-up (2003-2004) Doug Kalitta, 40, driver of the bright red Mac Tools dragster, qualified No. 7 (4.594 sec., 323.97 mph). He will race No. 10 qualifier, teammate and Cousin Scott Kalitta in round one.

"That 59 (4.594 sec.) was a stout run for us," Doug said. "After the rain, the conditions got a lot better, and Rahn (Tobler, co-crew chief) told me that we should have a strong lap, and we did.

"You look at the ladder these days and there never is an easy round. The competition out here in Top Fuel is just tremendous, but to look at the ladder and see your cousin and teammate lined up against you is never good, unless it's the final round. First of all, it means that one of us will have to lose and go home. Second, we know that they're going to have a strong car, so it's an uneasy feeling, but I'm sure we'll be ready to give them a good battle tomorrow."

Doug, 40, an eight-year Top Fuel veteran and former USAC National Sprint Car Champion (1994), owns 21 NHRA national event trophies. He won the Mac Tools Gatornationals in March in Gainesville, Fla., and the previous national event in Bristol, Tenn., two weeks ago. He leads second place Tony Schumacher by 20 pts. (one round) in championship points.

Two-time Top Fuel World Champion (1994-1995) Scott Kalitta, 43, driver of the colorfully striped and black Mac Tools/Jesse James Top Fuel dragster, qualified No. 10 (4.673 sec., 316.60 mph).

"We weren't bad, but we certainly weren't good," Scott said. "Our car is a quandary right now. If we knew exactly what was wrong, we could fix it, but we're just not sure. It's not responding to the changes we're making and it's frustrating. We're going to try something off-the-wall tomorrow and see what happens. The car doesn't want to leave the starting line like it should so we're probably going to raise the motor a bit and throw a whole lot of primary clutch at it and see what happens.

"We need to have something strong for Doug. We know they'll be really tough to beat. I hope whatever we try on the car works. We're going to need it."

Scott, who won the opening event of the 2005 season in Pomona, Calif., in February, is currently seventh in championship points. He has 17 (16 Top Fuel, 1 Funny Car) NHRA national event victories in his 24-year career.

The Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals is the seventh of 23 national events in the 2005 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Sunday's final eliminations begin with the Top Fuel class at 11:00 a.m.

-km-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Scott Kalitta , Mitch King , Morgan Lucas , Jesse James