NHRA Route 66 Nationals
Kalitta gets first win of 2004; Scott Kalitta and David Grubnic move up in points
Chicago, Sunday: In his 99th consecutive NHRA national event start, Doug Kalitta, driver of the bright red Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster, piloted his 7,000 + horsepower nitro hot rod to his first win of the 2004 season at the NHRA Route 66 Nationals Sunday at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill., just outside Chicago. The event was the eighth of 23 in the $50 million POWERade Drag Racing Series. It was his third final-round appearance of 2004 (Pomona 1, Phoenix).
After qualifying in the No. 4 position, Kalitta used his uncle Connie "the Bounty Hunter" Kalitta's powerful tune-up to make the quickest lap ever down the quarter mile of 4.420 seconds to defeat Brandon Bernstein in the title round. It was Bernstein's first ever loss after reaching the finals. The win is the 16th of Doug's seven-year career, making him the winningest NHRA driver in Kalitta Motorsports' history. Team owner, crew chief and drag racing legend Connie scored 10 NHRA career event wins, while Doug's cousin and teammate Scott Kalitta, driver of the Mac Tools/Jesse James Top Fuel entry, has won 15 times in his career. Kalitta Air Top Fuel dragster driver "Aussie Dave" Grubnic, in his first season with Team Kalitta, is still looking to get his first NHRA event win.
Doug's best ever 4.420-second run at Route 66 Raceway accompanies his other NHRA best feat of a 335.57-mph mark set in Las Vegas earlier this season.
"Wow," an exuberant Doug said. "We really needed this. This a great win for our whole team and especially all my Mac Tools guys, and Rahn (Tobler, first-year co-crew chief on the Mac Tools dragster) gets his first win with us after making the best run ever. It's just awesome.
"I knew we were going to have to put up a big number against Bernstein, but making that kind of run in the finals is incredible. We went for it and got it. That's a tribute to how good Rahn and Connie and everybody on this whole team is."
Doug defeated defending Top Fuel champ Larry Dixon in round one. It was his fourth time in five attempts taking out Dixon this season. In the second round, Doug got a lucky break when his Mac Tools machine lost traction but got the win after his opponent Cory McClenathan left the starting line too soon and was disqualified. In the semifinals, Doug used an impressive 4.465-second, 332.10-mph run to defeat Scott Weis (4.566, 327.66 mph) to reach his 35th career final round.
Doug's teammate Scott Kalitta in the radically painted and fan-favorite Mac Tools/Jesse James race car defeated Brady Kalivoda in the opening round, but lost to current points leader Tony Schumacher in the second round after almost flipping his rail in a near blow over. Scott had to lift off of the throttle to set his Connie-tuned car back down and could not recover to challenge Schumacher for the win. Scott did however move up from ninth to eighth in championship points. He entered Sunday's final eliminations from the No. 2 qualifying slot.
After qualifying No.1 for the fourth time this season (Phoenix, Gainesville, Atlanta), Kalitta Air Top Fuel dragster pilot David Grubnic, like Scott, also advanced to the quarter-final round and advanced one points position. Grubnic drove his jet black dragster into the second round after defeating Mike Strasburg in round one. In round two, Grubnic, a native of Brisbane, Australia, lost a heart-breaking race to Weis. Grubnic's 4.525-sec. lap was quicker than Weis's 4.545-second run, but Weis left the starting line a little sooner to pick up a hole shot win of about four feet over the likeable Aussie. Grubnic moved from fifth to fourth in Top Fuel points.
Team Kalitta rolls to Chicago
Chicago, pre-race: After a successful weekend for the three-car Kalitta Motorsports Top Fuel dragster team at the previous NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series event in Atlanta, the team now heads north for the NHRA Route 66 Nationals. The eighth event of the 23-event NHRA schedule will roar to life at Route 66 Raceway, just south of Chicago, on Friday for the pro classes.
Cousins Doug Kalitta, driver of the Mac Tools flagship hot rod, and Scott Kalitta, driver of the Mac Tools/Jesse James entry, both reached the semi-final round in Atlanta. Their teammate David Grubnic, driver of the Kalitta Air dragster, was low qualifier for the event after setting an Atlanta Dragway track record (4.469 sec.) in qualifying.
"We turned a corner in Atlanta," two-time Top Fuel champion (1994-1995) Scott Kalitta said. "We've been struggling to get our car down the track all year, but we found some things that needed to be changed. I feel really good about what we accomplished down there and hopefully we have our problems behind us now and can start winning some races."
Scott, 42, has 15 NHRA national event victories in his 23-year career. He is the son of team owner, crew chief and drag racing legend Connie "the Bounty Hunter" Kalitta. Scott moved up to ninth in championship points from 11th after the strong Atlanta showing.
"It was a good weekend for our whole team," 2003 Top Fuel championship runner-up Doug Kalitta said. "It would've been even better if we would have won or made the finals, but it just didn't happen. Still, Kalitta Motorsports had a good event.
"The race track and the facility in Chicago are really great. We ran our 4.42 (seconds, the quickest pass in NHRA history) there last fall, so we know the track is good. Rahn (Tobler, co-crew chief) and Connie (crew chief) will have our Mac Tools car ready to run big numbers again. It should be a lot of fun if the weather cooperates."
Doug, 39, also holds 15 NHRA event trophies. He has been racing for his Uncle Connie since 1998. The veteran airplane pilot and owner/president of Kalitta Charters, an airline services company, in Ypsilanti, Mich., was the 1994 USAC National Sprint Car Champion. Doug also holds the time slip for the fastest run in NHRA history of 335.57 mph (Las Vegas 1, 2004). He is currently third in championship points.
Grubnic's low qualifier in Atlanta was his third of 2004 (Phoenix, Gainesville). "Aussie Dave" piloted his jet black Kalitta Air dragster to the second round in Atlanta. The fan-friendly native Australian is in his first season with Kalitta Motorsports and sits in fifth place in 2004 championship points. Grubnic, 41, has been driving Top Fuel race cars in the United States for 10 years. He has two career final-round appearances.
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