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Reigning NHRA Top Fuel Champion Doug Kalitta Set for Pomona Return

The last time Doug Kalitta and his Mac Tools Toyota team were at In ‘n Out Burger Raceway in Pomona, Calif., they won the race and claimed the 2023 NHRA Top Fuel title in a “winner take all” final round at the season’s final race. Later this week, they return to the site of perhaps the most monumental day in Kalitta’s career. The 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Season resumes March 22-24, 2024 at the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, Calif.

Including the win last November, Kalitta has seven wins in 14 final-round appearances at the historic southern California race track, but none was more special than what happened on that fateful November day. On the final day of the season’s final race in the final round, Kalitta defeated Leah Pruett to clinch the championship. Going back to a place where one has enjoyed success before is always nice, but this time will be a bit more special.

“I always love Pomona and have had good luck there over the years,” Kalitta said. “We pulled off the championship last time we were there, and going back will be really cool actually. I love Pomona – the history of that place – we’re definitely looking forward to it, and we’ll see how we’re running when we get there.

“I think really the whole environment that’s going on with this Mac Tools team is pretty cool – we’re super motivated, and our confidence is really high. That’s the main thing – keeping the confidence up with what we’re doing and everybody keeping their heads down and trying to do their thing regardless of where we are. When you get someplace where you’ve had a lot of success, it always seems like maybe it’s just a little easier to have higher confidence. We’d like to make more memories this weekend!”

Off-season changes have the Mac Tools team looking a touch different this year. Longtime assistant Crew Chief Brian Husen is now Shawn Langdon’s Crew Chief on the Kalitta Air Careers team, and Mac Savage returned to Kalitta Motorsports after several years and is now Alan Johnson’s Assistant Crew Chief on the Mac Tools team. Kalitta enters this week’s race tied with Justin Ashley for sixth place in the NHRA Top Fuel point standings after a second-round showing at the first race. The Mac Tools team is gelling nicely and ready to get back to work this weekend.

“I would say the Mac Tools guys are dialed in really well with the personnel changes we made in the off season; everything’s running real smooth,” Kalitta added. “We had a change with Mac Savage coming in to replace Brian Husen, and Brian’s doing a great job helping Mac get things set the way Alan likes to do it and doing a great job. We’re working hard to make Shawn’s car and my car as similar possible so we can take advantage of having two cars, and we saw that happening in Gainesville (Fla.), so we’re on the right track.”

This story was originally published on March 19, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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