Doug Kalitta and his Mac Tools Toyota team are in the thick of the battle for the 2023 NHRA Top Fuel title – right where any competitor would want to be. The 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Season resumes this weekend with the Nevada NHRA Nationals on The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the fifth of six races making up the Countdown to the Championship NHRA Playoffs.
The current top-three contenders for the 2023 Top Fuel title are separated by just 14 points. Kalitta trails points leader Leah Pruett by four points and leads third-place Steve Torrence by nine points with two races remaining in the season. Kalitta won the first two playoff races; Pruett won the last race. Torrence has two final rounds and a semifinal so each of the current top-three contenders is in good form.
Two weeks ago, Kalitta and his Mac Tools Toyota team set the Texas Motorplex track speed record, reaching 336.73 mph during the opening qualifying session. That run eventually made the Michigan driver the No. 2 qualifier continuing the team’s excellent qualifying efforts this season; Kalitta has 13 top-four qualifying efforts this season including each of the last seven races. The Mac Tools team is running well, and Kalitta is enjoying being in the hunt for the 2023 Top Fuel title.
“It feels good, and I feel confident,” Kalitta said. “We’re looking forward to getting to Las Vegas, starting qualifying and seeing what we can make happen on Sunday. Everybody on the Mac Tools team is super excited. I think we’re in a great spot; we just need to do what we do and go rounds. It’s all about executing.”
Kalitta has been in championship contention before; six times, he finished second in points, but this year feels different with championship tuner Alan Johnson on the team. Johnson has 12 NHRA Top Fuel championships with six different drivers. Could it be Doug Kalitta’s year?
“Having Alan Johnson in my corner, and obviously this team I have, definitely brings a whole new element of confidence for sure. He and (co-crew chief Brian Husen) Brian are doing an awesome job tuning the car. The guys are definitely in their groove putting this thing together, and having this team I have with two races to go is a pretty good spot to be in, I think.
“I’m definitely thinking about it (the championship chase). Whenever I’m driving, it’s on my mind – especially when I’m going back and forth to the race shop to check on the boys to see how they’re doing or when I sit down with Connie to work out when we’re leaving so there’s always something going on throughout my day that involves the race team. I wake up in the morning, and I have a practice tree at home so it’s definitely part of my routine. There’s just a lot of positive energy going on with this Mac Tools team.
“We want it; everybody on the team is hungry – I’m not focused on it every moment of every day or anything like that, but it’s important. We don’t need to get too psyched up about this thing; we just need to keep working hard and keep moving forward.”