Memphis: Kalitta hopes to move up standings

MEMPHIS, Oct. 5, 2000 - Doug Kalitta will never be accused of being boisterous. Quiet by nature, the driver of the MGM Grand Top Fuel dragster - owned and tuned by his uncle Connie Kalitta - prefers to let his actions on the racetrack...

MEMPHIS, Oct. 5, 2000 - Doug Kalitta will never be accused of being boisterous. Quiet by nature, the driver of the MGM Grand Top Fuel dragster - owned and tuned by his uncle Connie Kalitta - prefers to let his actions on the racetrack speak for him. Doug Kalitta's performances recently, therefore, would make him, well, boisterous. In the last seven events, Kalitta has won twice and finished second twice. He's also qualified first once, second three times and third once. His wins have come at Sonoma, Calif. (over Larry Dixon) and Englishtown, N.J. (over Gary Scelzi in the completion of a race postponed from May 21). His runner-up runs came at Seattle (to Scelzi), Brainerd, Minn. (to Tony Schumacher) and Topeka, Kan. (to Scelzi). He also added a victory in March at Gainesville, Fla., over Schumacher to give him three wins in six finals this year. Those showings bring smiles to Kalitta's face but, like any race car driver, second isn't first place. "Connie had the car running very well at Topeka (last Sunday)," Doug said, "and it would've been nice to get Scelzi. But we didn't." The Kalittas will have another chance to add to Doug's victory total - he now has five - beginning Friday during the AutoZone Nationals at Memphis Motorsports Park. Kalitta, in fifth place with 1193 points, has climbed in the NHRA Winston Series standings, thanks to his recent showings. But, he concedes, he doesn't have a chance to catch Scelzi (currently in first place with 1548 points) or Schumacher (second at 1499). There is an outside opportunity he could overhaul third-place Dixon (1348). "That would take a lot of good racing luck on our part and none on Dixon's because his lead is about eight rounds of racing and we only have four races (16 rounds) to go," said Kalitta, from Ypsilanti, Mich. "So we'll concentrate on finishing ahead of (Joe) Amato and (Kenny) Bernstein." Amato is fourth, 31 points ahead of Kalitta, while sixth-place Bernstein is 38 behind Kalitta.

Kalitta, however, just may be a big headache for both Scelzi and Schumacher as they battle for the championship.

While Kalitta came up painfully short against Scelzi at Topeka, losing with a 4.676-second time at 303.16 mph to a winning 4.672 at 303.64 mph, he provided a little assist to the current point leader by out-running Schumacher in the semifinals (4.651 at 302.69 to 4.692 at 303.78).

"It seems like we've raced them a lot lately," commented Kalitta. "They seem to be the ones at the top of the ladder, so you feel good any time you can beat Tony or Gary.

"With the cool weather predicted for the weekend, everybody will hunting for the right tune-up," he continued. "Everybody on our team - from Connie to Rick Fisher from Ypsilanti Suburban - has been doing a great job. Connie had the car running very consistently last weekend and I know that's what he'll be shooting for this weekend."

The MGM Grand dragster qualified third (4.612 seconds) at Topeka and added consistent runs during eliminations - 4.632 to oust Paul Romine, 4.624 over Dixon, 4.651 over Schumacher and the 4.676 against Scelzi.

Elapsed times like that Sunday at Memphis Motorsports Park just might put Kalitta in the final round - maybe even the winner's circle.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Paul Romine , Larry Dixon , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Connie Kalitta