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Reigning Top Fuel Champion Doug Kalitta Wins Inaugural PRO Superstar Shootout

Kalitta Motorsports photo

Doug Kalitta picked up right where he left off in November when he won both the In ‘n Out Burger NHRA Finals and the 2023 NHRA Top Fuel championship. After qualifying second at the inaugural SCAG Power Equipment PRO Superstar Shootout in his Applied Innovation dragster, Kalitta blasted through the eight-car field to win the special event and its $250,000 winner’s prize Saturday night in Bradenton, Fla.

Following pre-season testing at Bradenton Motorsports Park, the PRO Superstar Shootout was a special event with an eight-car field hosted, planned and implemented by the Professional Racers Organization (PRO), a trade consortium comprised of NHRA team owners and drivers. Kalitta will begin defense of his championship when the 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series begins March 8-10, 2024, at the Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla. 

Kalitta defeated Justin Ashley in the first round after both cars lost traction. In a rematch of the November final round in Pomona, Calif., the 2023 champion defeated Leah Pruett with a 3.709-second effort at 330.63 mph. In the final round, Kalitta left the starting line before No. 1 qualifier Clay Millican and never looked back blasting to the finish line with a 3.706-second pass at 325.14 mph to turn on the win light and claim the $250,000 prize.

“Wow we’re all just really happy,” Kalitta said. “Making the eight-car field was tough, and Clay’s car was running really well. I knew my Applied Innovation car was good through testing so it was just a matter of putting it all together. Now, as a longtime team owner and driver, to see this event come to fruition and then to get into the eight-car field, which was like a knife fight in the phone booth, was just really cool.

“The first thing that I thought of when we won this thing was how proud Don Schumacher would be of the PRO group putting this together. We’ve never really seen this kind of money, and the whole deal was pretty cool. I know a lot of people worked really hard to make this happen.”

“It’s really great for Doug, but it’s also great for these crew guys who worked all winter long to maintain this thing,” Kalitta crew chief Alan Johnson said. “There are things we had to change to be able to come out at the first event, run well and win. It is just a testament to how good a job they did over the winter.”

Kalitta captured his first NHRA Top Fuel title last year winning three of the six races that comprise the Countdown to the Championship NHRA Playoffs. It came after an amazing string of 25-consecutive top-10 season points finishes including six runner-up showings in the final season standings.

This story was originally published on February 12, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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