Scott Kalitta takes runner-up finish in Dallas; runs fastest speed in NHRA history Ennis, Tex., Oct. 12, 2003 -- Reaching his first final round since 1999, Scott Kalitta and his Mac Tools/Jesse James Top Fuel dragster team posted their best...
Scott Kalitta takes runner-up finish in Dallas; runs fastest speed in NHRA history
Ennis, Tex., Oct. 12, 2003 -- Reaching his first final round since 1999, Scott Kalitta and his Mac Tools/Jesse James Top Fuel dragster team posted their best result of the 2003 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series season with a runner-up finish at the 18th annual O'Reilly Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Tex., just south of Dallas. The event is Scott's fifth since returning from retirement at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in August at Indianapolis.
As eliminations began on Sunday, both Scott and his Kalitta Motorsports teammate Doug Kalitta were in the unusual positions of being underdogs. Scott qualified in the No. 9 spot (4.630 seconds), giving up lane choice to his round one opponent David Grubnic. Nine-time pole winner in 2003 Doug qualified 16th (4.800 seconds) in the 16-car field to set up a first round match up with No.1 qualifier Tony Schumacher.
Team Kalitta was ready for the challenge. First, Scott (4.631 seconds, 317.12 mph) easily defeated Grubnic (5.608 seconds, 165.99 mph). Then, his cousin and defending event champion Doug (4.483 seconds, 330.63 mph) pulled off the biggest upset of the opening round by impressively knocking out Schumacher (5.251 seconds, 186.95 mph) to put the pole sitter on his trailer. By winning their respective races, one of Team Kalitta's drivers was guaranteed to make a semi-final round appearance as they would face each other in round two, with Doug choosing his lane.
In the highlight of round two, Doug rolled his bright red Mac Tools dragster to the starting line to face his teammate Scott, driver of the spider web-decaled, red and black Mac Tools/Jesse James dragster. It would be the first time the two have raced against one another this season. Doug (6.694 seconds, 123.93 mph) experienced traction problems that facilitated engine problems to give the round win to a flawless run by Scott (4.507 seconds, 333.95 mph). Scott's speed of 333.95 mph is the fastest in NHRA history, but Doug still holds the official speed record at 333.00 mph.
Scott faced off against Jim Head in semi-final action. Head's 4.650-second, 315.34 mph pass was strong, but not enough to beat another almost-perfect run by Scott and the Mac Tools/Jesse James team of 4.520 seconds at 329.67 mph.
In the finals, Scott, with 14 career NHRA national event wins, met Kenny Bernstein to race for the trophy. In a classic battle between the two veterans who have each won national events in Funny Car and Top Fuel, Scott's racecar lost traction early from its huge Goodyear rear tires to allow Bernstein to get his only victory in a final round against Scott in four attempts.
"We wanted the win," said Scott, "We are disappointed but at the same time excited to reach our first final round in the Mac Tools/Jesse James dragster. It was great to run the fastest run in history too. I am sure Doug and his Mac Tools team will want to get that title back in the last two races. (Doug's 333.19 mph run in Houston earlier this year had been the fastest) My dad (Connie Kalitta, owner and crew chief) is making tons of power in both cars. Both cars have great crews, so the future of Kalitta Motorsports looks incredible."
Doug remains in second place in championship points (Larry Dixon clinched the championship at the event) with events remaining in Las Vegas, Nev., and Pomona, Calif., to close out the 2003 season. Scott is 18th in NHRA POWERade Top Fuel championship points in his abbreviated season.