KALITTA KEEPS ROLLING GRABS PROVISIONAL NO. 1 SPOT IN ST. LOUIS
Timing is everything in life and sports, and veteran Top Fuel driver Doug Kalitta’s couldn’t be better.
After a so-so 2023 NHRA regular season, Kalitta has been on a torrid pace in the ever-important six-race Countdown to the Championship.
Kalitta won the first two races in the Countdown – Reading, Pa., and Charlotte, N.C., and vaulted himself into the points lead.
And he’s not taking his foot off the gas.
In his Mac Tools Toyota, Kalitta clocked a 3.709-second run at 331.85 mph to claim the provisional No. 1 qualifying spot Friday night at the Midwest Nationals in St. Louis at World Wide Technology Raceway.
“That was nice, a 3.70,” Kalitta said. “Obviously, everybody’s running really close, and we somehow snuck by them; just hats off to (crew chiefs) Alan (Johnson) and Brian (Husen) and all my guys. They’re really working their tails off on this car, and it’s showing. Obviously, consistency is everything in this sport, and we pulled it off (Friday night).
Kalitta won his 50th and 51st career Top Fuel national events in Reading and Charlotte and wants to add to that total this weekend. This is the first time Kalitta has scored back-to-back wins since 2016, and he has a 63-point lead in the season point standings over Steve Torrence.
After a blown tire following the final qualifying attempt in Reading, the Mac Tools team went to its backup car, which, unlike the primary car, does not have a canopy over the cockpit, and since that time, Kalitta has had eight consecutive round wins.
“We’re all hungry. I always love coming to St. Louis. [World Wide Technology Raceway] is one of the places I used to always come and run my sprint cars over at Granite City and then at this oval here,” Kalitta said. “I just have a lot of great memories here, and it’s just a great racing town. This is really, really a good start for us here for the first qualifying run.”
If Kalitta’s No. 1 holds through Saturday, it would be the 53rd of his career and his second this season as he also was No. 1 in Gainesville, Fla.
Although Kalitta is generally reserved, he did show some emotion when his 3.709-second pass flashed on the scoreboard.
“I was relieved. Maybe that was it,” Kalitta said. “Then, the 3.70, we just squeaked one by which that’s all it takes really. Everybody’s running well, so it was just really fortunate to pull off the low qualifier so far.”
On Saturday, the weather is supposed to get warmer, which Kalitta knows will make things even tougher to post quicker elapsed times.
“The way the temperatures will be, it’ll be a good test for everybody to see if we can all adjust to a little warmer conditions,” Kalitta said. “But there’s plenty of grip out there. I mean, for the first run, the Funny Cars with (Bob) Tasca running a (3).85, I mean, so they definitely are running the track prep, and all the guys are doing good on the track. So, really, hats off to the (NHRA) Safety Safari with prepping this thing (Friday night); it was in good shape.
“Alan (Johnson) and all my guys, they’ve got just a ton of experience, so I’ll just keep my fingers crossed. I am confident we can keep it running.”
Kalitta is chasing his first career Top Fuel world championship – finishing second in 2003-2004, 2006, 2016, 2019 and 2020, and he loves competing in St. Louis, a place he has won at four times in six final round appearances. Kalitta’s St. Louis titles came in 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2020. Only Antron Brown has more Top Fuel wins in St. Louis with five.
“This (St. Louis) is definitely a special place to run, and it’s part of the Countdown, so it’s definitely got to be on somebody’s good list,” Kalitta said. “So, we’re happy to be here.”