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Top Fuel Reigning Champ Doug Kalitta After Four-Wide Sweep at NHRA 4-Wide Nationals

Doug Kalitta had always enjoyed four-wide racing, even if the results didn’t show ultimate success. But the reigning Top Fuel world champion checked off another milestone victory earlier this month, winning his first career four-wide race.

The standout veteran now has a chance to sweep the pair of unique races for the first time in his stellar career at this weekend’s NHRA 4-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte. It’s the “Bellagio of Dragstrips” and the originator of four-wide racing, which has long been considered one of the wildest spectacles in motorsports.

Kalitta has enjoyed the special spotlight the distinctive four-wide racing has created but had never won a four-wide event until doing so less than two weeks ago at Las Vegas in his 11,000-horsepower Mac Tools dragster. Riding high off that victory, where Kalitta ran low E.T. of each of the three eliminations rounds, the defending world champion is eager to quickly try and get a second victory in as many races in the four-wide format.

“We’re going to try to sweep (the four-wide races),” Kalitta said. “We’ve got some hungry guys on this team and I’m just as hungry as they are, so we’ll see what happens. Charlotte is an incredible facility and we’re looking forward to getting there. Bruton and Marcus (Smith) have put together some great facilities and we’re just fortunate enough to get a chance to race there.”

Austin Prock (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Deric Kramer (Pro Stock) and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) claimed victories in 2023 and this event will again be broadcast on FS1, including eliminations at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday. It is the fifth of 20 races during the 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series season and Kalitta Motorsports couldn’t have asked for a much better start.

Coming off of Kalitta’s first world championship to close out 2023, the team has enjoyed a spectacular 2024 thus far. Top Fuel’s Shawn Langdon and Funny Car’s J.R. Todd both won in Gainesville, giving the team its first-ever double-up, while Kalitta’s victory in Las Vegas gave the team its fourth win already this year. All three drivers are in the top four in points in their respective classes, with Kalitta also earning the No. 1 qualifier spot in Vegas.

His success also ensures he’ll be part of Charlotte’s first Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge event. The specialty race brings competitive racing to Saturday qualifying, putting championship points and a bonus purse on the line.

It gets even more unique in the four-wide format, with eight drivers competing for the bonus race title at zMAX Dragway. One quad includes Tony Stewart, Justin Ashley, Clay Millican and Antron Brown, with Kalitta, Steve Torrence, Brittany Force and Josh Hart making up the other foursome. The two top finishers in each quad will advance to the finals and the final Challenge round will feature a quad of racers running for the bonus purse and championship points.

“We’ve been really hungry to try and pull one of these four-wide wins off and I’ve got to admit, my guys really had my car running well (in Las Vegas),” Kalitta said. “None of this is easy, but Connie has given us some great cars and we’ve put together a heck of a team. We’re real fortunate to have had this success so far this year with all our cars. We’ll try to keep running strong and just trying to make Connie real proud of all of us.”

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Last season, Prock collected his first win from zMAX in Top Fuel, but this season he has hopped into the Funny Car field and is the current points leader against a group that includes reigning champion Matt Hagan, three-time champ Ron Capps, Bob Tasca III, Chad Green, Cruz Pedregon, Gainesville winner J.R. Todd and teammate John Force.

Kramer’s win last season gave him his second Charlotte victory. If he wants to make it three, he’ll need to get past the four-time and reigning Pro Stock champion Erica Enders as well as Dallas Glenn, Cristian Cuadra, and five-time champs Jeg Coughlin and Greg Anderson, who picked up a win at the Charlotte fall race.

Pro Stock Motorcycle phenom Herrera dominated the category last season. His 2023 campaign featured 11 wins, including both Charlotte races. He is already off to a hot start in 2024 with a win at Gainesville, taking on six-time champion Matt Smith, three-time Charlotte winner Steve Johnson, Angie Smith and Hector Arana Jr.

In the Funny Car Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge, one quad includes Capps, Hagan, Todd and Paul Lee, while the other has Prock, Tasca, Alexis DeJoria and Chad Green. The Pro Stock Challenge features Jerry Tucker, Brandon Foster, Glenn and Erica Latino in one group and Enders, J. Coughlin, Anderson and David Cuadra in the other. In PSM, one Challenge quad includes Herrera, John Hall, Johnson and A. Smith, with Marc Ingwersen, M. Smith, Richard Gadson and LE Tonglet making up the other quad.

The NHRA 4-Wide Nationals will also feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, which features some of the sport’s top drivers, as well as the Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage Mountain Motor Pro Stock and the new Holley EFI Factory X category. The Summit Racing Equipment Jr. Drag Racing League Shootout will also take place in Charlotte. Fans can also look forward to the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Autograph Session at the Mission Foods Display and the Toyota Autograph Display, both of which take place on Saturday morning.

All weekend long, fans are invited to the Nitro Alley Stage at zMAX Dragway. The Nitro Alley Stage will be the main entertainment hub in the pits, hosting Nitro School, meet and greets, music and much more. Race fans can enjoy the special pre-race ceremonies that introduce and celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the SealMaster Track Walk. The final experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes, where fans are invited to congratulate the event winners of the NHRA 4-Wide Nationals.

As always, fans also get an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans a chance to see teams in action and service their hot rods between rounds, get autographs and more. Fans can also visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.

NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:30 and 7:00 p.m. ET on Friday, April 26 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, April 27 at 12 and 2:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 12 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 28. Television coverage includes qualifying on FS1 at 11 a.m. ET on Sunday and then eliminations action at 6 p.m. ET to follow.

To purchase tickets to the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, please visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com or call 800-455-3267. For more information about NHRA, visit www.nhra.com.

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This story was originally published on April 22, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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Since 2005, DI has informed, inspired and educated drag racers from every walk of the racing life - weekend warrior and street/strip enthusiasts to pro-level doorslammer and Top Fuel racers. From award-winning writing and photography to binge-worthy videos to electric live events, DI meets hundreds of thousands of racers where they live, creating the moments that create conversations.