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Doug Kalitta Claims 50th-Career Win at Pep Boys NHRA Nationals

Doug Kalitta was the No. 3 qualifier at the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals; it was his 10th-top-four qualifying effort of the season. During the Friday evening session, Kalitta raced to a 3.696-second elapsed time at 331.45 mph for his best qualifying attempt.

As the Mac Tools dragster completed its 3.748-second qualifying run at 332.10 mph in the final qualifying session Saturday afternoon, the right-rear tire shredded damaging the rear wing and the chassis forcing the team to run its backup car for final eliminations. The Mac Tools team, with help from the Kalitta Air Careers team, worked late into Saturday night to prepare the backup car. Unlike the primary car, the backup car does not have a canopy so Kalitta drove the car with an open cockpit for the first time this season.

Kalitta claimed the 50th win of his legendary career when he won the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway. Kalitta defeated Josh Hart in the first round before rain caused a three-hour delay. After the delay, he defeated, his teammate, Shawn Langdon, and Leah Pruett to advance to the final round of eliminations. Pruett had a quicker elapsed time in the semifinal run, but Kalitta left the starting line first and advanced to the final round just before rain returned forcing the delay of the remaining rounds until Monday morning.

Kalitta faced Steve Torrence in an epic final round, and the Mac Tools Toyota team was up to the challenge making a brilliant 3.662-second pass at 336.90 mph – the fastest speed of the entire weekend and the fastest speed of Kalitta’s career. Kalitta also posted the quickest elapsed time of the weekend when he defeated Josh Hart in the opening round of eliminations. Kalitta’s eliminations elapsed times were 3.658, 3.692, 3.684 and 3.662 seconds in the final round – all within .034 seconds. 

“That was a huge day for us; it’s been a while since we’d won – I don’t know why it’s been so long, but it was obviously a great effort by my team with the car running in the 60s yesterday and today,” said Kalitta. “I definitely couldn’t do this without Connie’s (Kalitta, team owner) support; he’s definitely a pioneer out here. He comes to all these races and is still enjoying it. He’s definitely my hero when it comes to drag racing, and it’s cool to see how excited he was for me to get this win today so that was definitely one of the highlights of the day; he has always had my back. I love and appreciate that guy so much.

“Getting a win with Alan Johnson (co-crew chief) has been huge on my list. Can’t thank Brian Husen (co-crew chief), Mac Tools, Toyota and all of the distributors with Mac Tools enough for continuing to support this effort. It’s a great way to start the Countdown to the Championship. Apparently, this (backup) car wanted to get off the trailer and prove what it could do. I’m really fortunate to have the guys build a car like this.”

Kalitta jumped three spots in points and leaves Reading in third place in the NHRA Top Fuel point standings. He trails points leader Steve Torrence by 26 points and second-place Justin Ashley by 19 points; he leads fourth-place Leah Pruett by 28 points.

“We’ve been trying our hardest to get that monkey off our back and get that 50th win, and now we can get all that stress of trying to get to the winner’s circle behind us, settle in and concentrate on the next five (playoff) races,” he continued. “Getting this victory, that’s been big on my list. It was a great job for my team and I’m real proud of their effort. To run like that and go in the 60s in the final, it shows their talent, and I couldn’t be happier. I love running here (at Maple Grove Raceway), and my guys worked their tails off.”

This story was originally published on September 19, 2023. Drag Illustrated

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