The potential of Doug Kalitta’s Top Fuel dragster is unlimited, especially with renowned crew chiefs Alan Johnson and Brian Husen making the tuning calls.
Kalitta’s Mac Tools Kalitta Motorsports machine had glimpses of success in 2022 and began the 2023 season by reaching the semifinals of the season-opening Gatornationals March 12 at Gainesville, Fla.
Kalitta hopes to take the next step into the winner’s circle this weekend at the Arizona Nationals near Phoenix.
He took a baby step toward reaching that goal by snaring the provisional No. 1 qualifying spot with a 3.679-second elapsed time at 330.23 mph lap Friday.
“Earlier in the day, I was sitting there talking to Alan and Brian, and they said they didn’t think it would run a 3.64, but a 3.67, we will probably be able to do that,” Kalitta said. “Then, we go out there and ran a 3.67, and that was pretty cool. My guys have been working their tails off on this thing, and we are super hungry to make it happen. No better place to do it than here. We love coming to Phoenix.”
During Kalitta’s semifinal effort at the Gators, he made a blistering track-record run of 3.646-second pass at 333.82 mph in his first-round win over Spencer Massey, and he would love to keep continue to keep posting those numbers.
“Obviously, with Alan Johnson and Brian (Husen) and all my guys on that Mac Tools car, we have been steadily improving since we started testing, and it has been very encouraging,” Kalitta said. “(In) testing, we ran a couple of 67s shutting it off, so I was like, let’s get racing and make sure we are doing it when it counts. It is pretty exciting for me for us to be able to run like we have been running so far.”
If Kalitta’s No. 1 qualifying position holds, it would be the 52nd of his career. He’s aiming to win his 50th career NHRA national event Wally on Sunday. A year ago, Kalitta finished 10th in the points standings, highlighted by four semifinal efforts.
“Last year was just one of those years where the car, for whatever reason, just wasn’t happy and wasn’t responding to what we were doing,” Kalitta said. “It was a long year. I think all the changes and everything we have made have been paying off. You just have to take it when you can get it and hopefully stay on a nice roll.”
Kalitta acknowledged driving with a canopy has been fun so far.
“It is really nice,” he said. “I tell people it is like closing your sunroof. It is comfortable. It is hard to say aerodynamically what it is doing, but it is quiet.”
When Kalitta advanced to the Gainesville semifinals, he earned a spot in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, a new program that debuts this weekend.
During Saturday’s qualifying sessions, the drivers who reached the semifinals in Gainesville will re-run the semifinals and final, earning additional purse money and bonus points.
Kalitta will race Steve Torrence in Saturday’s first qualifying round, and if he wins, he will race Mike Salinas or Leah Pruett in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty finals during the final qualifying attempt with a chance to win a $10,000 bonus.
“This is a pretty cool deal that they are doing for us,” Kalitta said. “Anytime we get new opportunities with new sponsors, we will definitely do our best to put their name out and win more races for sure.”