NHRA's Kalitta Motorsports heads to St. Louis with heavy hearts Madison, Ill., June 21, 2005 - Sunday, June 27, 2004, at the Sears Craftsman NHRA Nationals at Gateway Int'l Raceway in Madison, Ill., just over the Mississippi River and east of ...
NHRA's Kalitta Motorsports heads to St. Louis with heavy hearts
Madison, Ill., June 21, 2005 - Sunday, June 27, 2004, at the Sears Craftsman NHRA Nationals at Gateway Int'l Raceway in Madison, Ill., just over the Mississippi River and east of downtown St. Louis, Kalitta Motorsports, the NHRA's only full-time, three-car Top Fuel dragster team of drivers Doug Kalitta, Scott Kalitta and "Aussie Dave" Grubnic, collectively had the best day at the races that the team, founded by drag racing icon Connie "the Bounty Hunter" Kalitta, had ever had in its 45-year history.
On that day, all three Kalitta Motorsports' dragsters reached the semifinals, and Doug and Grubnic raced for the event title in the final round. Doug won the race and took over the Top Fuel championship points lead for the first time in his career, but there were no high-fives on the starting line and no celebration that Sunday night after the race like as would have been expected because a competitor and friend lost his life earlier that day.
One year later, the loss of Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell still haunts the motorsports community-at-large. He was a young, vibrant soul with a big heart and an even bigger future. His life ended after a high-speed accident on a paved quarter-mile drag strip, a place that in any big city or small town can be sanctuary for racers and fans alike, but after Russell's death, statistics became sanctimonious, irrelevant numbers on a screen or on a page, win lights were reduced to merely small flashes of illumination and a timeslip took on a new meaning as time away from the race track became more precious as each second passes.
Scott Kalitta, who was racing against Russell in the second round of eliminations when the accident occurred just past the finish line, recently commented about the tragic loss of Russell on behalf of Kalitta Motorsports.
"We still think about Darrell everyday," Scott said. "You just never think something like what happened will ever happen, but it does. The nature of our jobs as race cars drivers is dangerous. Does that help us grieve? No. It only helps us cope with the loss.
"Besides being a great Top Fuel driver, Darrell was an outstanding man and one of the best ambassadors that drag racing has ever had. We will never replace him, but we will all strive to keep our memories of him fresh in our minds and strive to live up to the legacy he left behind."
The Sears Craftsman NHRA Nationals begins Friday, June 14, for the Top Fuel class with two qualifying sessions. Two more qualifying sessions follow on Saturday. The top sixteen qualified cars will race Sunday in final eliminations.
The Sears Craftsman NHRA Nationals is the 12th of 23 national events in the 2005 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.