Top Fuel veteran Doug Kalitta, the newly crowned 2023 NHRA world champion, will begin his 2024 season chasing after the $250,000 Top Fuel title at the inaugural SCAG Power Equipment PRO Superstar Shootout presented by Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage, Feb. 8-10, at Bradenton Motorsports Park. The first-time champion is one of a dozen world champions, record holders, and all-around Top Fuel stars who will compete for the eight spots in the field at the invitation-only event.
With Alan Johnson and Brian Husen calling the shots on his Mac Tools dragster, Kalitta won three of the six races in the 2023 NHRA Countdown to the Championship to secure his first Top Fuel world championship. It came after an incredible 25-year streak of finishing in the top 10 in points, including six runner-up finishes.
“It was a big relief,” Kalitta said of winning the championship. “For all the people that have helped me over the years, hopefully it’s brought some satisfaction to them as well. It’s cool to think back on occasion and know that you checked that one off the list of accomplishments. I’m looking forward to getting back out there and seeing what we can accomplish.”
Before kicking off his title defense at the NHRA Gatornationals, Kalitta will throw down against 11 of the toughest drivers and teams in Top Fuel at the PRO Superstar Shootout. The winner will walk away with $250,000, while total payouts of more than $1.3 million will provide a sizable payday for the other competitors. Kalitta is eying the big prize, of course, so he can reward his team for their efforts.
“Anytime that kind of money is on the line – in anything that you’re doing – you’re hopefully going to rise to the occasion,” said Kalitta, owner and president of Kalitta Charters. “There’s a certain percentage of the prize money that goes to the guys that are working on the car. We’ll definitely be trying to win that thing. It’ll be great to be able to share it with my guys and be able to say you won the first one of these races.”
There are some unique aspects to the inaugural PRO Superstar Shootout, which appeals to Kalitta. The event will begin with one qualifying session on Thursday night, followed by three sessions on Friday. After qualifying, the eight qualified drivers in Top Fuel and Funny Car and the 16 qualified drivers in Pro Stock will draw chips to set the pairings for Saturday eliminations. Additionally, FloRacing will offer exclusive livestreaming coverage of the race, providing on-track coverage and behind-the-scenes access to several teams in the pits. The PRO group, led by Kalitta’s tuner, Alan Johnson, and made up of numerous professional drivers and team owners, developed the PRO Superstar Shootout to try new ideas.
“I’m intrigued to see what some of those items are and I’ll try to help the event and support whatever they come up with,” Kalitta said. “That’s going to be exciting. In the end, we’re just trying to come up with things to maybe incorporate into what we’re doing with the NHRA. We’re trying to work together. We’re hoping there’s something that sticks that’s really cool. That’s the way I see it. Obviously, the prize money they’re putting up – $250,000 to win – is pretty intriguing. There’s a lot of excitement going on there with that event.”
The random chip draws will add an element of unpredictability to the race, but Kalitta realizes any and every matchup will be a tough one.
“With eight cars, and they’re all going to be really competitive cars, I don’t think it really matters who you race, to be honest with you,” Kalitta said. “I’m totally down with the chip draw. It seems appropriate, and it’s different.”
Though Kalitta has never raced at Bradenton Motorsports Park, he does have a sentimental connection to the Bradenton, Fla., area. His cousin, the late Scott Kalitta, lived in nearby Snead Island, and his widow, Kathy, and sons Colin and Corey still live in the area. Scott, the son of Kalitta Motorsports team owner Connie Kalitta, was the Funny Car runner-up at the 1988 IHRA Super Nationals at Bradenton.
“It’s my cousin’s hometown track, so to be able to be in his backyard at this event will be cool,” Kalitta said. “My grandparents used to spend the winters in Bradenton, so it’s one of those places I would go to when I was younger to hang out for a week or so with my grandparents. I guess it has some history with me. It should be fun. I’m looking forward to it.”
The inaugural SCAG Power Equipment PRO Superstar Shootout presented by JHG will also feature $250,000-to-win Funny Car and $125,000-to-win Pro Stock, as well as sportsman racing, live music, a vendor village, and more. Tickets are now on sale at https://bit.ly/scagpro. Fans at home can tune in to the official FloRacing livestream at https://flosports.link/3t04gHk.