Dave Grubnic qualifies No. 6 at NHRA event in Phoenix; Top Fuel Teammate Doug Kalitta qualifies No. 7 while teammate Scott Kalitta qualifies No. 16 in Funny Car Chandler, Ariz., (Feb. 25, 2006) -- "Aussie Dave" Grubnic, driver of the black and...
Dave Grubnic qualifies No. 6 at NHRA event in Phoenix; Top Fuel Teammate Doug Kalitta qualifies No. 7 while teammate Scott Kalitta qualifies No. 16 in Funny Car
Chandler, Ariz., (Feb. 25, 2006) -- "Aussie Dave" Grubnic, driver of the black and pink, 7,000 horsepower StriVectin-SD Top Fuel dragster, qualified in the No. 6 position for Sunday's 16-car final eliminations field at the Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals at Firebird Int'l Raceway, Feb. 24-26, in Chandler, Ariz., just outside of Phoenix, to lead the three-car Kalitta Motorsports nitro assault in the desert.
Grubnic's Top Fuel teammate Doug Kalitta enters final eliminations right behind the native Australian in the No. 7 qualifying spot. Former Top Fuel pilot and two-time NHRA Top Fuel World Champion Scott Kalitta qualified his new Kalitta Air nitro Funny Car in the 16th and final qualifying spot to make his first Funny Car final eliminations field since he qualified in both Top Fuel and Funny Car in Dallas in 1990.
Grubnic and his StriVectin-SD crew made their best qualifying effort in four attempts Friday and Saturday of 4.517 sec., 323.74 mph to secure the No. 6 spot. Grubnic will race No. 11 qualifier Doug Foley (4.563 sec., 322.96 mph) in the first round of eliminations.
"We feel much better about our qualifying here than we did last time out in Pomona (Calif.)," Grubnic said. "We qualified 15th in Pomona and just never got a good read on the track there. I think we have a much better handle on it here at Firebird.
"Friday was Connie's (Kalitta, team owner, crew chief and drag racing legend) 68th birthday. I really, really want to win this one for him tomorrow as my gift to him for all that he has done for me."
In early 2003, Grubnic, a 43-year old resident of Ennis, Mont., was hired to drive for Kalitta Motorsports after several years of driving for teams with minimal funding. Since joining Team Kalitta, Grubnic, now in his 12th season as a Top Fuel driver, has posted consecutive top-five championship points finishes. In 2004, he won the lucrative and coveted Budweiser Shootout in Las Vegas, becoming only the fourth driver in the special event's 20-year history to win its $100,000 prize in his first attempt, and he picked up an emotional and long overdue first NHRA national event win in May, 2005 in Topeka, Kans., to become the first non-native North American to win a Top Fuel trophy.
Doug and his Mac Tools dragster team qualified in the No. 7 spot with a lap down the quarter-mile of 4.525 sec., 321.96 mph. Doug will race No. 10 qualifier Morgan Lucas (4.535 sec., 325.77 mph) in the opening round.
"We think our car is a little better than that," Doug said. "We'll just see, but we should have something for them tomorrow."
Doug, a 41-year old resident of Ann Arbor, Mich., is a two-time Top Fuel championship points runner-up (2003-2004) and the 1998 Auto Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award winner for rookie excellence. He has 24 NHRA national event wins. He is now in his ninth season in NHRA Top Fuel drag racing. Before joining the quarter-mile set, Doug raced in open-wheel competition and won the 1994 USAC National Sprint Car Championship.
Scott Kalitta, driving his new Kalitta Air Funny Car flopper, made the show in Phoenix after missing the eliminations field at the season-opening Winternationals two weeks ago. Scott, who has 17 NHRA national event wins in the Top Fuel class but won his first event in Funny Car in Houston in 1989, qualified in the No. 16 position with a 4.988-sec., 306.53-mph run. He will race friend and No. 1 qualifier Eric Medlen (4.707 sec., 321.96 mph) in round one.
"Well, we got in," Scott, a 43-year old resident of Palmetto, Fla., and 25-year drag racing veteran, said. "It certainly wasn't a stellar performance, but at least we get to play on Sunday. It's a big burden lifted off of me and my crew.
"We get to run my buddy Eric (Medlen) in the first round. I really like that kid, but I hope we shock those guys tomorrow and take one away from them. Then, with some good fortune, maybe we can go some rounds."
Rookie Top Fueler Hillary Will, driving the Kalitta Motorsports-managed, Ken Black-owned dragster, qualified in the No. 12 position.