Joliet: Kalitta Motorsports preview

Team Kalitta raring to go racing at record-setting Route 66 Raceway JOLIET, Ill., (June 5, 2007) -- This weekend, June 7-10, the powerful four-car, nitro-fueled drag racing outfit of Kalitta Motorsports travels to record-setting Route 66 Raceway...

Team Kalitta raring to go racing at record-setting Route 66 Raceway

JOLIET, Ill., (June 5, 2007) -- This weekend, June 7-10, the powerful four-car, nitro-fueled drag racing outfit of Kalitta Motorsports travels to record-setting Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill., just a few miles southwest of the Chicago city limits, for the Torco Racing Fuels Route 66 NHRA Nationals. In the decade that the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series has been competing at the state-of-the-art racing facility, Team Kalitta drivers have enjoyed numerous successes at one of the favorite stops on the 23-event NHRA tour.

Doug Kalitta, a 42-year old resident of Ann Arbor, Mich., and his Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster have enjoyed the most success in Joliet. Doug is the defending event champion and has three career wins at Route 66 Raceway (2004, and the fall event of 2002). In 2004, Doug guided his Mac Tools rocket on wheels to the quickest lap in history with a jaw-dropping 4.420-second blast in the final round.

"Yeah, Joliet has been great to us," Doug said. "We really like racing there for obvious reasons. It's a great track with an equally nice facility.

"We saw some good things from our car in Topeka (previous event). We made the quickest lap of the first round (4.549 sec.), and we fixed some problems that have been hurting us so far this year so we're feeling good about heading to Joliet."

Since winning the NHRA's equivalent of Rookie of the Year, the Automobile Club of Southern California's Road to the Future Award, after the 1998 drag racing season, Doug has driven his dragster to 29 Top Fuel national event titles, which already ties him for sixth in career wins for the sport's quickest and fastest class. In the past four NHRA seasons, Doug has solidified his place among the best Top Fuel pilots of all-time. Last season was arguably the best of his straight-line career. He won a career-high five national events in 2006 and led the POWERade points for almost the entire second half of the season. After finishing just 14 points shy of his first NHRA championship, Doug garnered his third career runner-up points finish in 2006. He was also points runner-up in 2003 and 2004.

Doug's Top Fuel teammate and native Australian Dave Grubnic, driver of the Zantrex-3 dragster, holds the track record for speed at Route 66 Raceway, 333.58 mph. He and his team are hoping to capitalize on the momentum they built with a semi-final showing in Topeka, his third semi-final of 2007.

"Racing in Joliet is great and nerve wracking at the same time," Grubnic, a 44-year old resident of Ennis, Mont., said. "The track is so good you can't wait to get out there and see what you can do, but everyone else is champing at the bit to get out there, too. We always see some incredible runs there from all the cars, so you know that you have to make no mistakes or you'll be in trouble. The level of competition is amplified even more in Joliet."

In early 2004, Grubnic, a 44-year old resident of Ennis, Mont., was hired to drive for Kalitta Motorsports. Since joining Team Kalitta, Grubnic has posted consecutive top-five championship points finishes. In the fall of 2004, he won the lucrative and coveted Budweiser Shootout in Las Vegas, becoming only the fourth driver in the special event's history to win its $100,000 prize in his first attempt. His only other event victory came at the 2006 running of the famed Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla.

Doug's cousin Scott Kalitta, driver of the DHL Toyota Solara Funny Car, has also visited the winner's circle at Route 66 Raceway. In 2005, Scott, a 45-year old resident of Palmetto, Fla., won the Top Fuel title in Joliet with an impressive romp through final eliminations with four consistently low 4.5-second laps. This year he and his Nitro Funny Car team are hoping for a breakthrough win in their "flopper".

"Joliet would a great place to get our first win in our DHL car," Scott said. "We keep getting better every week, so we're confident we'll pick up a win very soon. Our car ran good in Topeka, and we're hoping to keep building on our consistency and giving ourselves a better shot at winning rounds. It's one thing to lose by just getting beat by a better car, but it's really frustrating to go out there and beat yourself by smoking the tires. We haven't been doing that too much lately, so hopefully we've turned that corner."

Scott returned to the Funny Car class last season after many successful years at the helm of a Top Fuel dragster. He won the NHRA Top Fuel World Championship in 1994 and 1995 as well as 17 NHRA national event trophies, but got his first professional NHRA national event win under the carbon fiber canopy of a Funny Car in Houston in 1989.

Hillary Will, driver of the Kalitta Motorsports-managed, Ken Black-owned KB Racing, LLC Top Fueler, was defeated in round one of eliminations last year in Joliet in her rookie appearance at Route 66 Raceway when she had a foul start against J.R. Todd.

-credit: km

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Kalitta , Scott Kalitta , Hillary Will , J.R. Todd , Ken Black