Reading: Kalitta Motorsports preview

NHRA's Team Kalitta rolls to Reading with different agendas but common goals Reading, Penn., (Sept. 13, 2005) - NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Top Fuel championship contender Doug Kalitta, driver of the Mac Tools dragster, leads his Kalitta ...

NHRA's Team Kalitta rolls to Reading with different agendas but common goals

Reading, Penn., (Sept. 13, 2005) - NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Top Fuel championship contender Doug Kalitta, driver of the Mac Tools dragster, leads his Kalitta Motorsports teammates "Aussie Dave" Grubnic, driver of the Zantrex-3 Top Fuel dragster, and cousin Scott Kalitta, driver of the Mac Tools/Jesse James Top Fuel dragster, into southeastern Pennsylvania this weekend for some ground-shaking quarter-mile racing in the Keystone State at Maple Grove Raceway at the Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals, Sept. 15-18.

Entering the event in Reading, Doug sits in second place in POWERade championship points, 40 behind leader Tony Schumacher. Doug held the lead going into the previous event in Indianapolis, but relinquished the top spot when he was retired with a red-light foul start in the second round of eliminations against Grubnic. Doug and Schumacher have transposed the lead four times amongst themselves so far in 2005.

"This thing is really getting a bit nerve-wracking," Kalitta said of his points battle with the reigning champ. "We only have a handful of races to go and it's very close. [Larry] Dixon is right there too (Dixon is in third place, 79 pts. from the lead).

"I would really like to get a couple of more wins before the season is through, and I think we are more than capable of doing that, but mainly, I hope we can stay consistent and win rounds. If we can make semis or better in these last five races, we'll be right there in contention, but we have to stay on top of our game as a team at all times and stay focused on our individual tasks. That definitely includes me."

Doug was the 2002 event winner at Maple Grove Raceway and the No. 1 qualifier there last season. He also holds the timeslip for the quickest run in NHRA history (4.420 sec. - Chicago 1, 2004).

Two-time Top Fuel championship points runner-up (2003-2004) Doug, 41, is an eight-year Top Fuel veteran and former USAC National Sprint Car Champion (1994). He owns 24 NHRA national event trophies. His wins so far in 2005 were in Gainesville, Fla., Bristol, Tenn., Atlanta, Sonoma and Brainerd. His five wins in 2005 is a career-best mark for the Ann Arbor, Mich., resident.

Grubnic and Scott have different points considerations on their minds heading into Maple Grove Raceway. The veteran teammates are currently tied for sixth place (2,675) in Budweiser Shootout points with eighth place dweller Cory McClenathan only 15 points behind them.

Eight Top Fuel qualifiers will race for a $100,000 prize in the Budweiser Shootout, a special event during the second Las Vegas NHRA event, coming up October 22. The Shootout field is restricted to eight racers based on qualifying points earned at the NHRA national events completed since the previous year's Shootout. The top seven points earners are guaranteed a spot in the show; the eighth position will be determined by lottery from the eighth through 15th qualifiers, so it is important for Grubnic and Scott to remain in the top seven to guarantee their spots in the big money show.

"Getting that guaranteed position is very important to us," Grubnic said. "We certainly don't want to take our chances with the luck of the draw to get into it.

"Our Zantrex-3 team has struggled lately in qualifying (No. 11 and No. 13 at the previous two events). That is uncharacteristic for this team, so I'm sure we'll get back to getting up higher in the (qualifying) ladder. Hopefully, that will start with a low qualifier award this weekend in Reading."

Scott mirrored his teammate's intentions, "We just need to qualify better. There are only three races left before [Las] Vegas, so we need to go for it. We need to go for it in qualifying and on race day and try to win a couple more Wallys (trophies) before the year ends."

Native Australian Grubnic, 43, won the Budweiser Shootout last fall in Las Vegas. He made history May 29th in Topeka, Kans., by becoming the first non-North American to win an NHRA Top Fuel national event. The win in Topeka was Grubnic's first in his 11-year career. The Ennis, Mont., resident is currently fourth in championship points, 243 from the lead.

Two-time Top Fuel World Champion and Doug's cousin Scott, 43, won the event in Reading during his consecutive championship runs in 1994 and '95.

Scott won the opening event of the 2005 season in Pomona, Calif., in February, and took the Top Fuel trophy in Joliet, Ill., in early June. He has 18 (17 Top Fuel, 1 Funny Car) NHRA national event victories in his 24-year career. The Snead Island, Fla., resident is currently ninth in championship points.

The Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals begins Friday, Sept. 16, for the Top Fuel class with two qualifying sessions at 3:00 p.m. (ET) and 6 p.m. Two more qualifying sessions follow on Saturday at noon and 3:00 p.m. The top sixteen qualified cars will race Sunday in final eliminations beginning at 11:00 a.m.

The Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals is the 19th of 23 national events in the 2005 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Cory McClenathan , Scott Kalitta , Jesse James