Doug Kalitta and the Mac Tools Top Fuel team continue to dominate and rewrite the record books. Today Kalitta raced to his fourth consecutive final round and picked up his 700th round win on the way to a runner-up finish at the NHRA National event at Indianapolis. It was the first NHRA National event in over four months but Kalitta and his Mac Tools team did not miss a beat. This was the team’s seventh final round in the past ten races going back to Kalitta’s amazing win at the U.S. Nationals last Labor Day.
“I was happy to get to another final obviously,” said Kalitta. “My Mac Tools Toyota dragster was running really good on that run. Smoked the tired right at the very end. I looked over and there he was. It was just one of those deals. That is drag racing for sure. Super happy to get to the final at this first Indy race and hopefully it is a success for everything that is going on to keep us coming back out. That is all I am hoping for. Hats off to (team owner) Connie (Kalitta) for keeping everything together and getting us through these four months. I think we are all just happy to be back out here. I am super proud of my Mac Tools guys.”
With a revised NHRA schedule that featured only one day of qualifying Kalitta took advantage entering race day as the No. 2 qualifier. In the first round he defeated Lex Joon setting up a tough second round match-up with Leah Pruett.
The quarterfinal race was one of the closest of the day with just four thousandths of a second deciding the win in Kalitta’s favor. His 3.803 was enough to hold off Pruett’s 3.813 second run. The margin of victory was approximately two feet at over 320 mph. It was round win No. 699 for the Michigan based racer and in the semifinals Kalitta would have to defeat fellow Toyota racer and three-time world champ Antron Brown to reach the historic milestone.
Brown’s team had struggled to find a consistent tune-up leading up to race day but over the first two rounds he appeared to be on track. Kalitta and his Mac Tools team were well prepared and when Brown smoked the tires, Kalitta cruised to victory and round win No. 700, a feat only accomplished buy one other Top Fuel driver in history, Tony Schumacher.
“I have to admit I have been very fortunate,” said Kalitta. “Connie has been out here forever and I have had a great opportunity to take advantage of every run down the track. There have been a lot of great people that have supported me to get to that milestone. It was special to get it at Indy too. This is a cool track to do it at.”
“Getting the win at the U.S. Nationals and then getting the 700th here at this track is a big deal. Coasting across the finish line last year it was a miracle we won that race last year. That is drag racing. It was at the biggest track at the biggest race. I will always remember that round win. Running here in Indy is just cool. I grew up racing all these little bull-ring tracks around here and it is just a great racing town with great racing people and fans,” added Kalitta
The final round was a rematch of last year’s U.S. Nationals final round between Kalitta and Billy Torrence. From the start it looked like Kalitta was going to take out the patriarch of the Torrence family with an astounding, .018 reaction time. As the finish line closed in Torrence was welded beside Kalitta and unfortunately tire smoke for the Mac Tools team gave Torrence the stripe by 12 thousandths of a second. It was the closest race of the day and while not another win a strong finish for Kalitta’s team.
“I haven’t been very consistent today on my reaction time,” explained Kalitta. “I have been either really good or middle of the road. You have to keep at it. The reaction times are very critical in Top Fuel and really all the classes. You keep trying your hardest and every now and then you get a little lucky. It was the time to do it and unfortunately we didn’t capitalize on it.”
Kalitta’s performance was even more impressive when you consider he is six weeks removed from minor knee surgery. The Mac Tools wheelman has been dealing with minor knee discomfort and he was finally able to free up his racing and flying schedule to go under the knife. He has been diligently rehabbing in preparation for the return to the track this weekend.
“The knee is feeling good,” said Kalitta. “It has been six weeks since the procedure. It was a pretty minor deal. It was an orthoscopic kind of thing for a meniscus tear and I was a little nervous kind of going into the weekend how it was going to feel. I am going to soften the springs up since they are a little stiff which will also help.”
Doug Kalitta on reaching his seventh final in ten races: “(Crew chief) Rob (Flynn) and (car chief) Troy (Fasching) and all the guys working on this car I am just so proud of them. The thing is just going down the track. We are just fine tuning this thing it seems like. They have been working real hard at it. They are stringing some nice runs together when it counts.”
Qualified: No. 2 (3.804 sec., 316.30 mph)
Bonus points: +1 (3rd quickest of Q1)