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Doug Kalitta, J.R. Todd Reach NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals Final Round; Shawn Langdon Makes Quarterfinal Showing

Doug Kalitta was the No. 14 qualifier at the Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals. Kalitta had his quickest pass of qualifying on Friday night when the Mark III Benefits dragster reached the finish line in 3.937 seconds at 311.77 mph.

Kalitta defeated three-time champion Antron Brown, five-time champion Steve Torrence and two-time champion Brittany Force before finishing runner-up to eight-time champion Tony Schumacher in the finals. In what was a rematch of the New England Nationals finals from just a week ago, Kalitta and Schumacher would pedal their way to the Bristol Dragway finish line. Kalitta would make a 4.890-second run at 150.06 mph to come up short to Schumacher’s 4.236 at 259.41.

It was Kalitta’s third final round appearance of the season, 115th of his career and his first runner-up finish of 2024.

When Kalitta advanced to the semifinals, he earned a spot in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge in two weeks in Richmond Virginia. During Saturday’s qualifying sessions in Richmond, the drivers who reached the semifinals in Bristol will re-run the semifinals and final earning additional purse and championship bonus points. 

Kalitta leaves Bristol in first place in the NHRA Top Fuel point standings. His second-round win pushed him past Justin Ashley by  

“It was great to make it to another final with this Mark III employee benefits dragster,” said Kalitta. “Can’t thank everyone from Mark III enough for stepping up and jumping on board with our program, really wish we could have got the win for them at their first race in the sport. We are going to continue to build and do it again at Richmond, all three of the Kalitta cars are running strong right now and it’s a big testimate to everyone’s hard work.”

J.R. Todd was the No. 11 qualifier at the Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley nationals. During the Friday night session, Todd made his best pass of qualifying at 4.092 seconds and 268.92 mph.

Todd and the DHL Toyota team beat Terry Haddock, Ron Capps and John Force before reaching the final round and coming up short to Austin Prock in the finals. Todd would leave the starting line first but crossed the finish line in 4.022 seconds at 313.66 mph to be bettered by Prock’s 3.989 at 312.42.

Todd has now reached at least the semifinals seven times in the first eight races of the NHRA season. It was his second final round of the season, first runner-up finish.

When Todd advanced to the semifinals, he earned a spot in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge in two weeks in Richmond Virginia. During Saturday’s qualifying sessions in Richmond, the drivers who reached the semifinals in Bristol will re-run the semifinals and final earning additional purse and championship bonus points. 

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Todd leaves Bristol in third place in the NHRA Funny Car point standings. He has a 12-point lead on reigning world champion Matt Hagan in fourth and is 45 points behind John Force in second.

“It was definitely a good way to rebound after qualifying. After qualifying, our ladder was not ideal,” said Todd. “Kind of got your back up against the wall and don’t have lane choice in the first round. But it didn’t seem to really matter the way the weather changed today compared to the way it was all weekend. Really proud of these DHL Toyota guys for digging deep, giving me a consistent car. I was just a tick behind those guys all day long. We had some struggles spinning down track and dropping cylinders and what have you. It did it again in the finals. Came up a little short in the final round against those guys (Austin Prock). They have the best car out here right now. But we’re going to the later rounds every week and that’s what you need to do to stay in the hunt.”

Shawn Langdon was the No. 4 qualifier at the Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals. It was his third-straight No. 4 qualifier. His best pass came in the Friday evening session when he reached the finish line at 3.810 seconds and 323.74 mph.  

Langdon defeated Shawn Reed before coming up short to eight-time Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher in the quarterfinals. The pair both left the starting line in .061 seconds and were identical at the 660-foot mark, but Langdon would slow to cross the finish line at only 300.86 mph in 3.835 seconds. Schumacher would get the win with a 3.815-second pass at 324.05 mph.   

Langdon leaves Bristol in third place in the NHRA Top Fuel point standings. He trails second place Justin Ashley by 26 points and leads Steve Torrence in fourth by 61.

“This Kalitta Air Careers team had a pretty good weekend for the conditions,” said Langdon. “The track was just really tricky, and the bumps are still there and there’s a big bump at 700 feet, but that’s something we all had to deal with. It was just tricky to be able to navigate around it, especially when the sun was out. First round today, it was cloudy. The track gets so much better when the track temperature goes down and you’re able to make really good runs, but the track temperature has to be under 100 degrees. For second round running Tony, we were trying to go high 3.70s. We just got a little behind it. It hit the bump down there and it spun. The motor shut off at about 900 feet. It would have been close within a couple thousandths had it not, but regardless just kind of a tricky weekend all in all. We’ll just put this weekend behind us. Nothing negative just ready to move onto Virginia.”

Team Kalitta will be back in action June 22-23, 2024, at the Virginia NHRA Nationals in Dinwiddie, Va. For additional information, please visit www.nhra.com.  For additional information on Kalitta Motorsports, please visit www.teamkalitta.com.  

This story was originally published on June 9, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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