Kalitta reaches first final round of 2003; Leaves Las Vegas third in points
Las Vegas, Sunday: The scene Sunday at the NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals on The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was a familiar one for the Mac Tools/Kalitta Motorsports Top Fuel dragster team. For the fourth consecutive national event, they entered final eliminations as low qualifier. Kalitta's top qualifying streak is now just one short of tying the record of five pole positions to begin a season set by Gary Beck in the 1983 Top Fuel campaign. Kalitta's 4.499-second qualifying benchmark also set a new track record.
Since the opening of the 2003 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series season, race fans and Top Fuel competitors alike have witnessed the capability of the Mac Tools racecar to perform at a dominating level. In Las Vegas, Team Kalitta finally was able to consummate their qualifying proficiency with their first trip to the final round this season. Although the title was not in the cards for them this time, the Mac Tools team and their loyal fans know now that event wins are imminent.
"All in all it was a good weekend for the Mac Tools team," Kalitta said. "We are disappointed that we did not get the trophy, but we went rounds and gained some valuable championship points. We have an awesome racecar. We will win soon. Qualifying No. 1 for the first four races is a great accomplishment for our Mac Tools team, but every one of us would trade them all for a win."
In the first round of eliminations, Kalitta's day began with a little luck. The special Kid Rock-themed Mac Tools dragster dropped a cylinder early in the run and struggled down the track on its way to a 4.98-second pass after losing the blower belt near the finish line. However, Kalitta's opponent, Steven Chrisman, had more mechanical problems and conceded the win after posting an 8.98-second attempt. Kalitta then posted consecutive 4.66-second trips down the quarter-mile to defeat Rhonda Hartman-Smith and Brandon Bernstein in rounds two and three respectively. Kalitta's 4.69-second lap was not enough against Larry Dixon's 4.60-second run to claim the final round victory.
The Mac Tools dragster team now turns their attention east for the next NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series national event in Houston, Tex., the O'Reilly Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway Park, April 10-13.
"We are looking forward to Houston now," co-crew chief Jim Oberhofer said. "We are going to stay to test in Las Vegas to work on a few things that should make our Mac Tools dragster even stronger. Houston is a great facility, and we feel confident we can seal the deal there and get our first win of 2003. It would be great to qualify No. 1 again and tie the record, but we want a win bad. That's the only goal our Mac Tools team has right now. Win!"
Kalitta is low qualifier in Las Vegas; No. 1 qualifier streak extends to four
Las Vegas, Saturday: Doug Kalitta became only the second Top Fuel dragster driver in NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series history to qualify No. 1 for the first four national events of a season. Kalitta's 4.499-second blast down The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway during the second qualifying session Friday night at the NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals set the one-off special Kid Rock-themed Mac Tools dragster atop of the 16-car field for eliminations Sunday.
Kalitta's 4.499-second elapsed time also resets the track's record books for the quickest run for a Top Fuel dragster. Kalitta posted a blistering 332.10 mph speed during qualifying as well; placing him just a few ticks below the national speed record of 332.75 mph.
"Our Mac Tools dragster team is incredible," Kalitta noted. "Connie (Kalitta, crew chief), Jim (Oberhofer, co-crew chief) and our entire crew have given me such a great racecar to drive this year. We have been awesome in qualifying, but we want to get some wins now. We would much rather have four wins, but taking all that low-qualifier, bonus money from Budweiser in the first four races is great too."
Kalitta will face Steven Chrisman in the first round of Top Fuel final eliminations
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