A first round full of upsets and surprise winners at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals kept Doug Kalitta and the Mac Tools Top Fuel team solidly in the Mello Yello championship picture with two races remaining. After two days of qualifying that saw Kalitta earn three bonus points and make some of the quickest runs in race day conditions the team was confident coming into the first round. They were giving up lane choice as the No. 10 qualifier but after last weekend’s run to the final from the same qualifying position everyone on the team was hopeful.
In the first round Kalitta was racing in the second pair and watched as rookie Jordan Vandergriff defeated Countdown contender Clay Millican. As Kalitta rolled to the starting line he knew facing the other top rookie of 2019, Austin Prock, would be a tough battle for the veteran.
Both dragsters took off and at the hit Kalitta was down on power as one of his eight cylinders was not firing. With a wounded race car Kalitta powered down the track to a 3.812 second pass at 316.15 mph. In the opposite lane Prock posted a track record speed of 334.40 mph and a solid 3.688 second elapsed time. At the time it was a devastating loss for Kalitta.
As the next rounds played out Kalitta could only watch and see how far behind he could potentially fall behind point leader Steve Torrence. In the pair of dragster immediately after Kalitta Mike Salinas, the No. 4 driver in points was ousted and midway through the session journeyman Top Fuel pilot Shawn Reed pulled off the upset of the Countdown stopping Torrence and essentially keeping Kalitta within approximately 30 points of the Top Fuel lead.
“That win by Reed was huge for this Mac Tools team,” said Kalitta. “We were in a tough spot and we really didn’t lose any ground this weekend. I would have loved to have gotten to another final but we dodged a bullet today. We are only 33 points out of the lead with two races left.”
Doug Kalitta on heading to Las Vegas: “We had a tough day today but I am ready to get to Las Vegas. This Mello Yello championship battle is going to be a lot of fun. I am glad these Mac Tools guys are in the fight. We are up to the task for sure.”
Qualified: No. 10 (3.724 sec., 330.63 mph)
Bonus points: +3 (2nd quickest of Q1 and 3rd quickest of Q3)