Joliet II: Team Kalitta preview

NHRA's Team Kalitta revitalized and ready to return to winning ways in Chicago Joliet, Ill., (Sept. 27, 2005) - After an unexpected, but nevertheless refreshing, weekend off because of the threat of Hurricane Rita in Texas, Team Kalitta and the...

NHRA's Team Kalitta revitalized and ready to return to winning ways in Chicago

Joliet, Ill., (Sept. 27, 2005) - After an unexpected, but nevertheless refreshing, weekend off because of the threat of Hurricane Rita in Texas, Team Kalitta and the balance of the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series blow into Joliet, Ill., this weekend, Sept. 29-Oct. 3, for the Ameriquest Mortgage NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway, just south of Chicago.

Top Fuel championship contender Doug Kalitta, driver of the Mac Tools dragster, leads his Kalitta Motorsports teammates "Aussie Dave" Grubnic, driver of the Zantrex-3 Top Fuel dragster, and cousin Scott Kalitta, driver of the Mac Tools/Jesse James Top Fuel dragster, into this weekend's earth-rumbling, quarter-mile nitro racing in the Windy City before returning to Dallas next weekend to make-up the missed event at Texas Motorplex.

Entering the event in Chicago, Doug sits in third place in POWERade championship points, 105 behind leader Tony Schumacher and five points behind second place holder Larry Dixon. Doug held the lead for over half of the 2005 season before Schumacher recently took over after the Indianapolis event two events ago. Doug now looks to regain his earlier winning stride and get back to the top of the points heap after winning only two elimination rounds in the previous three events.

"We've been struggling lately, and it could not have come at a worse time," Doug said. "There are now only 16 rounds left to potentially make up ground in the points, so we have to be sharp. I think the weekend off was helpful. It certainly gave me time to reflect on our season so far and get even more focused on completing our final goal.

"Of course, I still think we have a very good shot at winning the championship. These next few races, including Chicago, are at some tracks that we have done very well at in the past. We've just got to put the past few races behind us and move ahead. It sounds easy, but sometimes it is hard to do. I've seen how fortunes can quickly turn in our sport, so we're going to keep battling and try to put ourselves in the best position we can to win."

Doug's competitive history at Route 66 Raceway is impressive. He won the fall race in 2002 and the spring event in 2004. He has won the low qualifier award twice, at the single event of 1999 and the fall running in 2003. In May of 2004, Doug became the quickest man ever to traverse a paved quarter-mile when at Route 66 Raceway he clocked a jaw-dropping and event-winning 4.420-second pass in the final round. The mark established a new track record and remains the quickest in NHRA history.

Two-time Top Fuel championship points runner-up (2003-2004) Doug, 41, is an eight-year Top Fuel veteran and former USAC National Sprint Car Champion (1994). He owns 24 NHRA national event trophies. His wins so far in 2005 were in Gainesville, Fla., Bristol, Tenn., Atlanta, Sonoma and Brainerd. His five wins in 2005 is a career-best mark for the Ann Arbor, Mich., resident.

Grubnic has also fared well at the "stadium of drag racing". The native Australian and affable fan-favorite was the No. 1 qualifier in the spring of 2004 and he set the track record for speed, 333.58 mph, in the fall event last year.

"Chicago is great track," Grubnic said. "We always see big numbers there because the track is really good and the weather is usually conducive to nitro racing.

"Right now, we're trying to win races no matter where the track is. There are four left and I want to win them all. My Zantrex-3 team has done a fantastic job all year and I want to find a way to reward them for all their hard work.

"We're also are in a heated battle for the final guaranteed spot in the Budweiser Shootout, so we need qualify well too. We won it last year. We certainly want the chance to defend our title."

Eight Top Fuel qualifiers will race for a $100,000 prize in the Budweiser Shootout, a special event during the second Las Vegas NHRA event, coming up October 22. The Shootout field is restricted to eight racers based on qualifying points earned at the NHRA national events completed since the previous year's Shootout. The top seven points earners are guaranteed a spot in the show; the eighth position will be determined by lottery from the eighth through 15th qualifiers.

Grubnic is currently locked-in in sixth position, but he is only five points ahead of No. 7 Cory McClenathan and only 15 ahead of teammate and No. 8 holder Scott Kalitta with just two events remaining to earn points.

Grubnic, 43, won the Budweiser Shootout last fall in Las Vegas. He made history May 29th in Topeka, Kans., by becoming the first non-North American to win an NHRA Top Fuel national event. The win in Topeka was Grubnic's first in his 11-year career. The Ennis, Mont., resident is currently fourth in championship points, 311 from the lead.

Scott won the spring race in Chicago in June of this year in impressive fashion. In his four elimination rounds, he ran consistent, winning times of 4.54, 4.52, 4.55 and 4.51 sec. with each lap over 325 mph including a quarter-final round triumph over cousin Doug.

"We ran great here earlier this year," Scott said. "Hopefully we can get tuned-up and run that great again this time.

"Jim (Oberhofer, co-crew chief) and my dad (team owner and crew chief Connie Kalitta) will go back and look at the notes and see what we did then and try to repeat that as much as possible this time. I've heard that the weather is supposed to be really good this weekend, so I'm looking forward to getting out on the track and seeing what we can do."

Scott also won the opening event of the 2005 season in Pomona, Calif., in February. He has 18 (17 Top Fuel, 1 Funny Car) NHRA national event victories in his 24-year career. The Snead Island, Fla., resident is currently ninth in championship points.

The Ameriquest Mortgage NHRA Nationals begins Friday, Sept. 30, for the Top Fuel class with two qualifying sessions at 5:00 p.m. (CT) and 7:30 p.m. Two more qualifying sessions follow on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. The top sixteen qualified cars will race Sunday in final eliminations beginning at 11:00 a.m.

All times and dates subject to change.

The Ameriquest Mortgage NHRA Nationals is the 20th of 23 national events in the 2005 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

About Kalitta Motorsports

Based in Ypsilanti, Michigan, Kalitta Motorsports is the only full-time three-car Top Fuel drag racing team in the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) POWERade Drag Racing Series. The racing operation was started in 1959 by now legendary drag racer and team owner Connie "the Bounty Hunter" Kalitta. His son Scott Kalitta drives the Mac Tools/Jesse James dragster. Scott's cousin, Connie's nephew, Doug Kalitta drives the flagship dragster for Mac Tools. Native Australian David Grubnic drives the third dragster under the banner of Zantrex-3.

Connie serves as crew chief for all three Team Kalitta entries. He is assisted by co-crew chiefs Rahn Tobler (Mac Tools dragster), Jim Oberhofer (Mac Tools/Jesse James dragster), Jon Oberhofer (Zantrex-3 dragster) and consultant Larry Meyer.

Team Kalitta race cars made seven straight NHRA national event final-round appearances (Las Vegas 1, Bristol, Atlanta, Columbus, Topeka, Chicago 1 and Englishtown) in 2005. Team Kalitta cars have made 11 total final-round appearances with eight wins (Doug - 5, Scott - 2, Grubnic - 1) so far in 2005. Doug was runner-up in Las Vegas 1 and Columbus. Grubnic was runner-up in Englishtown.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , David Grubnic , Cory McClenathan , Scott Kalitta , Jim Oberhofer , Jesse James