Team Kalitta Gainesville test 2008-03-18

Team Kalitta stays for "overtime" to test at Gainesville Raceway YPSILANTI, Mich., (March 19, 2008) -- In a rare four-car showing for all of the Ypsilanti, Michigan-based Kalitta Motorsports nitro-fueled entries, Team Kalitta took the...

Team Kalitta stays for "overtime" to test at Gainesville Raceway

YPSILANTI, Mich., (March 19, 2008) -- In a rare four-car showing for all of the Ypsilanti, Michigan-based Kalitta Motorsports nitro-fueled entries, Team Kalitta took the opportunity yesterday to test and refine the tune-ups of its race cars at Gainesville Raceway after this past weekend's running of the ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla.

The Mac Tools dragster team started "from scratch" Monday in an effort to pinpoint the woes that have followed them since the end of the 2007 season. "We basically took everything off of the car and started over," crew chief Jon Oberhofer said. "It was time to just step back and re-work the whole car."

Doug Kalitta, driver of the "Big Red" Mac Tools machine, and his team have struggled to get their hot rod to perform at the level that has seen them be perennial championship contenders since Doug's inaugural season in 1998, in which he won Rookie of the Year honors. "It's been tough," Doug, a 43-year old resident of Ann Arbor, Mich., said. "We know that our Mac Tools car can be one of the most dominating cars on the tour, so it's definitely been frustrating, but I think we've taken the right steps now to get everything figured out and get back to the level of performance we know we're capable of."

Doug failed to qualify for the 16-car eliminations field in Gainesville after a disappointing best qualifying effort of 4.865 seconds at 295.14 mph. The Mac Tools rail had problems with "dropping holes" (un-firing cylinders) in Gainesville as it has in the other two NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series events prior to the event in the Sunshine State.

Monday, the Mac Tools dragster, helmed by Doug's Team Kalitta teammate, Dave Grubnic, made two laps down the drag strip at Gainesville Raceway, and the team saw a vast improvement in the race car's overhaul. "We've been having some serious problems in our fuel system for one reason or another," Oberhofer continued. "We did not see those problems in testing this time, so that's a big relief. Now, we need to get a few other little bugs worked out and we should be ready to go."

Doug and the Mac Tools team are currently in 14th place in POWERade Top Fuel championship points, 233 points off of the pace of the leader.

Grubnic and his Kalitta Motorsports Top Fuel dragster team utilized their testing time Monday to break in "new pipe". NHRA officials have mandated that starting at the event in Atlanta in late April that all Top Fuel dragsters are built with bigger 1.75-inch chassis tubing with .090-inch wall thickness. The new "fat pipe" is larger than the previously required 1.625-inch tubes with .058-inch wall thickness (heat treated). Grubnic and his team pulled out their new Attac-built chassis yesterday get some valuable computer data on their new car.

"We are quite pleased with what we saw," Grubnic, a 45-year old resident of Ennis, Mont., said. "We made a couple of laps, and everything on the computers looked pretty good. The chassis of the car has so much to do with how the cars are tuned, so it's very important for us to get the new car out and see what we have to work with as far as the tune-up goes, so far, so good.

"Chuck Lett (owner) and everyone at Attac Race Cars always do a great job building our race cars, and this new car looks like it's no exception to that."

Grubnic, a native of Brisbane, Australia, qualified in the lofty No. 2 spot for eliminations in Gainesville, but saw his hopes of winning for a second time (2006) at one of NHRA drag racing's most prestigious events go up in traction-depleting tire smoke soon after he stepped on the throttle in round one of eliminations versus Michael Gunderson. Gunderson got the win light with an unchallenged 4.722-second lap as Grubnic coasted over the finish line in 11.723 seconds. He is now in 5th place (tie) in points, 138 points shy of the lead.

Scott Kalitta, driver of the bright yellow and red DHL Toyota Solara Funny Car, made three testing laps in Gainesville Monday. The DHL team experimented with clutch set-ups and car balance to find more consistency in their hot-weather tune-up.

Scott, a 46-year old resident of Palmetto, Fla., qualified the DHL flopper entry in the No. 9 qualifying slot in Gainesville, but like his teammate Grubnic, he experienced traction problems very early in his first-round duel with Ashley Force. Force got the win light, 13.385 sec., 74.88 mph to 4.984 sec., 290.38 mph.

"We're pretty happy with some of the things we did," Scott said. "That's what testing is all about -- Try new things to see what works and what don't. Our DHL car has been getting more and more consistent this year, but there is still a lot we can do to improve on that. We found some things in testing yesterday that we think will help us as the summer months come around and the racetracks get hotter."

Scott and the DHL team are currently in 10th place in Funny Car championship points, 104 points away from the leader Robert Hight.

KB Racing, LLC Top Fuel dragster pilot Hillary Will, a 27-year old native of Fortuna, Calif., and her team used their testing time on the Gainesville quarter-mile to refine a new engine combination and to test new clutch plates after an outstanding semi-final showing in Florida. It was the team's first visit to the semis since the event in Englishtown, N. J., last June.

Respected businessman Ken Black, the owner of Will's 8,000-horsepower mount, also owns Friction Unlimited, a new company that specializes in the production of clutch discs for high-performance drag racing vehicles. The KB Racing, LLC team took time yesterday to run the new discs and get more data for the engineers at Friction Unlimited to help them perfect their product.

"We're very pleased with the progress of the new Friction Unlimited discs," crew chief Jim Oberhofer said. "We have been using them sporadically all season and there's been a tremendous and ever-evolving improvement in them. Ken and everyone at Friction Unlimited are dedicated to making the best discs they can. We've started running them in competition now, so I think that says a great deal about how much we trust them to perform."

Will is currently in 7th place in championship points, 143 points from 1st place.

-credit: km

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Kalitta , Scott Kalitta , Ashley Force , Michael Gunderson , Jim Oberhofer , Robert Hight , Hillary Will , Ken Black