Doug Kalitta’s title hopes enjoyed a nice bump two weeks ago when the Mac Tools Toyota team jumped two spots to sixth place in the season standings putting Kalitta within striking distance of the points lead entering the first playoff race. The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series resumes this weekend with race one of the six-race Countdown to the Championship NHRA Playoffs, the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals Sept. 15-17 in Reading, Pa.
One year ago, Kalitta started the Countdown in ninth place in points – this year, he starts sixth. Two weeks ago, Kalitta’s up-and-down season continued with a semifinal showing at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. In his first-round win over Spencer Massey, Kalitta posted the quickest and fastest run of the entire event with a 3.692-second run at 336.49 mph. He qualified in the top four at nine races this season including six of the last seven. The momentum from some terrific performance, the Indianapolis semifinal and two West coast final-round appearances have this team poised for a strong start in the first of six races that make up the Countdown to the Championship.
“It’s been pretty exciting for sure, and Alan’s super stoked, too,” Kalitta said. “All my guys and (co-crew chiefs Alan Johnson and Brian Husen) Alan and Brian, we all feel very positive that we can get this done if we keep doing what we’re doing. The timing is good with a lot of the positive energy and things that are hopefully coming to play here. We just gotta get out there on a Sunday and go rounds – that’s what we have to focus on, and hopefully a win or two will happen along the way – that’ll be great for Mac Tools, Toyota, Revchem, SealMaster and everyone else that helps us get it done.”
Following the points reset at the end of the regular season and the addition of the Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge bonus points, Kalitta trails points leader Justin Ashley by only 75 points, but this team needs consistent efforts that go deep into eliminations to take advantage of the points reset.
“There’s a lot of good-running cars in Top Fuel and a lot of close competition,” the 49-time race winner said. “We definitely need to have more points at the end of race day than most of the other teams as we work through these last six races. It’s very doable. The cool conditions work for our setup; we saw some of that at Indy with our night qualifying and that first round on Monday, and the cool weather is another thing Alan commented on, too.
“Winning this first race (of the Countdown) would be a good motivator, but at the end of the day, we have six races to get there so they’re all gonna require you to go rounds. Going out first round is something we’ll definitely try to avoid. It’s gonna be good – as long as we work together and have fun, it should all come together.”