Phoenix: Kalitta Motorsports preview

Team Kalitta hope to carry winning momentum into Phoenix for NHRA's second event of 2005 Chandler, Ariz., Feb. 21, 2005 - Two-time NHRA Top Fuel World Champion (1994-1995) Scott Kalitta, driver of Kalitta Motorsports' Mac Tools/Jesse James Top...

Team Kalitta hope to carry winning momentum into Phoenix for NHRA's second event of 2005

Chandler, Ariz., Feb. 21, 2005 - Two-time NHRA Top Fuel World Champion (1994-1995) Scott Kalitta, driver of Kalitta Motorsports' Mac Tools/Jesse James Top Fuel dragster, started his quest for his third championship title in fine style by winning the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series' season-opener in Pomona, Calif., almost two weeks ago.

This weekend Scott and his Kalitta Motorsports teammates "Aussie Dave" Grubnic and Doug Kalitta will each try their veteran driving skills on the quarter-mile at Firebird Int'l Raceway in Chandler, Ariz., just outside Phoenix, at the Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals, Feb. 25-27.

The win in Pomona was the 17th of Scott's 24-year career. Scott, who celebrated his 43rd birthday Sat., Feb. 19, became the first Kalitta to win Pomona's Winternationals since his legendary father Connie "the Bounty Hunter" Kalitta won the race in 1967. Connie currently serves as team owner and chief tuner for all three Kalitta Motorsports 7,000 + horsepower, nitro-powered dragsters.

"That was a huge win for this team," Scott said. "I can't overstate that. We struggled last season with getting our race car consistent. To begin the season with a win and to get there by running all of eliminations in the 40's (4.4 seconds elapsed times), could not have been any better for us. We definitely sent a statement to our competitors that we're back and we're ready to play hard ball.

"I've never won the Phoenix race, so hopefully we can carry our momentum from Pomona into this race and have a great finish."

By running elapsed times of 4.498 sec., 4.471, 4.455 (a career best) and 4.487 in his multi-colored striped rail at the Winternationals, Scott became the first racer ever to run all four elimination rounds in the 4.4 second-range. Scott enters the Phoenix event 1st in championship points.

Scott's Kalitta teammate Dave Grubnic, driver of the black and blue flame-adorned Zantrex-3 Top Fueler, also started off his 2005 campaign with a strong showing - a semi-final finish at the Winternationals. Native Australian Grubnic, 42, also posted his best ever E.T. with a stunning 4.448-sec. lap in the first round of eliminations at the first event.

"That's a good way to get things going," Grubnic said. "I wish we could've gotten the win for our Zantrex-3 guys, but I'm happy for Scott and our whole Kalitta Motorsports team.

"This year is going to be really exciting. There are so many teams out there with the potential to put up a big number at any given time. It's the most competitive group of race cars that I can ever remember in Top Fuel. We just had the quickest qualified field ever in Pomona, so it's impressive to me that we made the semifinals and had a great chance to win. That's all because of the strength of our entire team, not just one car or one driver, but all of our cars, drivers, crew chiefs, crews and so on."

The Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals in Phoenix will be the 145th NHRA event of Grubnic's career. The affable Aussie is now in his second season with Kalitta Motorsports. He began his racing career in the United States in 1995. Before then, the NHRA fan-favorite served as a regional representative for automobile manufacturer Ford Motor Company in Australia. Grubnic enters the Phoenix event 3rd in championship points.

Mac Tools flagship fueler driver Doug Kalitta, 40, is hoping for a change of fortunes in Phoenix this weekend. The two-time NHRA Top Fuel championship points runner-up (2003-2004) did not start his 2005 season as planned with a disappointing first round holeshot loss in Pomona.

"Well, it's not how we wanted to start the new year. That's for sure," Doug said. "Our Mac Tools car was running really strong all weekend, but it just wasn't meant to be. I'm confident we'll be okay from here on out. Unfortunately, it was a driver mistake in Pomona. I wish I could do it all over again, but I can't. We have a great team and great sponsors and everything will be fine. I'm looking forward to Phoenix and getting back on the right track."

Doug won the event in Phoenix in 2001 and was runner-up in last year's running. He will be vying for the 20th Top Fuel event win of his eight-year drag racing career. Before drag racing, Doug had an aspiring career in open-wheel racing. He won the USAC National Sprint Car Championship in 1994 and followed it with runner-up finishes the next two years. He enters the Phoenix event tied for 9th in Top Fuel championship points.

The Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals begins Friday 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 Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals is the second of 23 national events in the 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) and Jon Oberhofer (Zantrex-3 dragster).

Associate sponsors on all three race cars include Red Line Oil, Summit Racing Equipment, Technicoat Companies and Fischer Honda.

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Kalitta , David Grubnic , Scott Kalitta , Jim Oberhofer , Jesse James