Kalitta qualifies No. 1 at Mac Tools Gatornationals; Makes quarterfinal appearance. Gainesville, Fla., Mar. 16, 2003 -- Doug Kalitta became only the fourth Top Fuel dragster driver in NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series history to qualify No. 1 for...
Kalitta qualifies No. 1 at Mac Tools Gatornationals; Makes quarterfinal appearance.
Gainesville, Fla., Mar. 16, 2003 -- Doug Kalitta became only the fourth Top Fuel dragster driver in NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series history to qualify No. 1 for the first three national events of a season. Kalitta's 4.535-second lap in the final qualifying session of the Mac Tools Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway put him in the top spot of the quickest Top Fuel field ever.
When eliminations began Sunday, Kalitta and his Mac Tools/Kalitta Motorsports dragster team were hoping to turn their dominating, season-long qualifying performances into their first event win of 2003. Unfortunately, a mid-track loss of traction in the second round versus John Smith squelched those hopes.
In the first round of eliminations, Kalitta brought the Mac Tools dragster to the starting line against drag racing legend Shirley Muldowney. Kalitta powered down the quarter-mile with a round-best 4.548-second, 323.62 mph run, but Muldowney's red light, foul start handed Kalitta the win prematurely.
"Facing Shirley is always tough," said Kalitta. "She is such a strong competitor, so we knew we needed to make a great run. We will take the win anyway we can get it. Connie (Kalitta, crew chief), Jim (Oberhofer, co-crew chief) and our Mac Tools team did an awesome job preparing our, so I am fairly certain we would have gotten the win without her red light."
Between rounds one and two, the overcast skies gave way to sunshine and increased the track temperature by 12 degrees. The extra heat made the racetrack a bit more slippery and that proved to be the downfall for the tire-smoking Mac Tools dragster in round two.
"We need to get a better handle on our hot weather tune-up," said Oberhofer. "We backed our car down just a smidge from the first round because of the heat, but we still just had too much for the track. We are staying to test here tomorrow, and that is something we are going to work on. Hopefully we will see some things to fix and be better next time on a hotter track."
"We still had a great weekend at the Mac Tools Gatornationals. There was a huge crowd of Mac Tools distributors, regional managers and corporate staff there cheering us on all weekend. It's always great when you are the home team. That's what we feel like at a Mac Tools event."