READING, Pa. (Sept. 18, 2023) – After the rain went away, Doug Kalitta stayed to play and earned a long awaited victory in front of the Pennsylvania drag racing faithful.
Kalitta claimed the 50th win of his legendary career when he won the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway. Kalitta defeated Josh Hart in the first round before rain caused a three-hour delay. After the delay, he defeated, his teammate, Shawn Langdon, and Leah Pruett to advance to the final round of eliminations. Pruett had a quicker elapsed time in the semifinal run, but Kalitta left the starting line first and advanced to the final round just before rain returned forcing the delay of the remaining rounds until Monday morning.
Kalitta faced Steve Torrence in an epic final round, and the Mac Tools Toyota team was up to the challenge making a brilliant 3.662-second pass at 336.90 mph – the fastest speed of the entire weekend and the fastest speed of Kalitta’s career. Kalitta also posted the quickest elapsed time of the weekend when he defeated Josh Hart in the opening round of eliminations. Kalitta’s eliminations elapsed times were 3.658, 3.692, 3.684 and 3.662 seconds in the final round – all within .034 seconds.
All of this was after a wild ride in the final round of qualifying which forced Kalitta to go his backup car. That didn’t stop the veteran, who made the fastest run of his career in the final round to get the memorable victory. He also jumped to third in points to kick off the Countdown to the Championship in style.
“This is huge. To get that monkey off my back and get that 50th win, now we can concentrate on the next five (playoff) races,” Kalitta said. “Getting this victory, that’s been big on my list. It was a great job for my team and I’m real proud of their effort. To run like that and go in the 60s in the final, it shows their talent and I couldn’t be happier. I love running here and my guys worked their tails off. It never hurts to have a thrash and I’m just really proud of this team.”
Torrence took over the points lead with his fifth trip to the finals this year and 86th overall. He beat Mike Salinas, Antron Brown and Tony Schumacher and now leads Justin Ashley by seven points.
Kalitta jumped three spots in points and leaves Reading in third place in the NHRA Top Fuel point standings. He trails points leader Steve Torrence by 26 points and second-place Justin Ashley by 19 points; he leads fourth-place Leah Pruett by 28 points.
“That was a huge day for us; it’s been a while since we’d won – I don’t know why it’s been so long, but it was obviously a great effort by my team with the car running in the 60s yesterday and today. I definitely couldn’t do this without Connie’s (Kalitta, team owner) support; he’s definitely a pioneer out here. He comes to all these races and is still enjoying it. He’s definitely my hero when it comes to drag racing, and it’s cool to see how excited he was for me to get this win today so that was definitely one of the highlights of the day; he has always had my back. I love and appreciate that guy so much.
“Getting a win with Alan Johnson (co-crew chief) has been huge on my list. Can’t thank Brian Husen (co-crew chief), Mac Tools, Toyota and all of the distributors with Mac Tools enough for continuing to support this effort. It’s a great way to start the Countdown to the Championship. Apparently, this (backup) car wanted to get off the trailer and prove what it could do. I'm really fortunate to have the guys build a car like this." Kalitta added.
The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series continues its NHRA Countdown to the Championship next weekend at zMAX Dragway with the betway NHRA Carolina Nationals Sept. 22-24.
Qualifying Recap: Doug Kalitta was the No. 3 qualifier at the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals; it was his 10th-top four qualifying effort of the season. During the Friday-evening session, Kalitta raced to a 3.696-second elapsed time at 331.45 mph for his best qualifying attempt.
As the Mac Tools dragster completed its 3.748-second qualifying run at 332.10 mph in the final qualifying session Saturday afternoon, the right-rear tire shredded damaging the rear wing and the chassis forcing the team to run its backup car for final eliminations. The Mac Tools team, with help from the Kalitta Air Careers team, worked late into Saturday night to prepare the backup car. Unlike the primary car, the backup car does not have a canopy so Kalitta drove the car with an open cockpit for the first time this season.
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Photo's: NHRA | RPM | Kalitta Motorsports PR
Content: NHRA | Kalitta Motorsports (Rob Goodman)