TOPEKA, Kansas (May 18, 2016) – Kalitta Motorsports’ preview the NHRA Kansas Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka in Topeka, Kansas. This is the eighth race of 24 in the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello NHRA season.
Kalitta tries for a career first
Doug Kalitta, driver of the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster, heads into Topeka officially on a hot streak. Kalitta has qualified in the top two in five of the first seven events.
However, in the last two races he has experienced even more Sunday success. Kalitta, who defeated Steve Torrence in the Houston final round on a holeshot, started on pole for the second time this season in Atlanta. Kalitta then defeated Terry Haddock, Tony Schumacher and defending Top Fuel champion Antron Brown to set-up a historic final round race with his teammate J.R. Todd, but nobody had any idea how historic this race was about to be.
In the first all-Team Kalitta Top Fuel final since Kalitta defeated Hillary Will in Memphis of 2006, Kalitta and Todd would cross the line in a dead heat, separated by less than .0001 of a second or about a half-inch in what has been dubbed across the country as the closest drag race in history. It was his second consecutive victory, something he achieved for the first time in ten years.
Kalitta, who claimed the points lead by 64 over Brown, now goes to Topeka trying for a career-first: his third straight win. Topeka is a great place to try to achieve that as Heartland Park has been incredibly kind to Team Kalitta over the years. Kalitta owns one win, a victory in 2006. However, his late cousin Scott is still the track record holder by a large margin. His six victories are four more than his closest rival, while Kalitta Motorsports has led four different drivers to Top Fuel wins at the facility.
“What a run,” said Kalitta, who has four final round appearances in just seven 2016 events. “These Mac Tools guys are working so hard and are focused on the big goal. We have had no mistakes and I have so much confidence in them. I am incredibly excited to race this weekend and see if we can continue this run.”
Todd ready for next step
J.R. Todd, driver of the SealMaster Top Fuel dragster, had his best race of the season in Atlanta. Achieving a class-best six bonus points in qualifying, Todd qualified in the top three for the second time this season. Todd started his day by defeating Kyle Wurtzel in the first round, Brittany Force and Shawn Langdon to set up the incredible race against his teammate, Doug Kalitta.
Despite missing out on his first Wally of the season by less than an inch, Todd is incredibly confident coming into Topeka, which marks the one-third mark of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing season. His SealMaster ride had seven consecutive stellar passes, recording the low run of the round three times.
“My SealMaster guys were on it in Atlanta,” said Todd. “I am excited that we get to race back-to-back and hopefully we can take that next step into the winner’s circle in Topeka. It has been a great track for Team Kalitta and I would like to add my name to the list of winners.”
Todd has been very close to winning at Heartland Park Topeka in the past. In 2007, he defeated now teammate Doug Kalitta on his way to a final round race against friend Brandon Bernstein where he came up just short in receiving his sixth career win.
Todd, who now owns eight race wins and 14 finals, is in his third career Topeka start with Kalitta Motorsports. Last season, he qualified fourth and lost another close race to his teammate Doug Kalitta in the second round.
Worsham plans for 2016 breakthrough
Del Worsham, driver of the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car, is definitely seeing similarities with his 2015 season.
Worsham advanced to the second round in Atlanta, but ended up losing a close race to eventual race winner Matt Hagan. Worsham’s combined reaction time and elapsed time would have defeated every other competitor in the quarterfinal round.
“We know we are good and so close to earning our first 2016 win,” said Worsham. “I would love to pickup my first Topeka win this weekend and lock up the TRAXXAS shootout spot as well.”
Topeka is one of just four races that Worsham has yet to see the winner’s circle in his incredible career. (Epping, Brainerd and Reading are the other three tracks.) However, Worsham got very close last season. He defeated teammate Alexis DeJoria and Tim Wilkerson in the first two rounds before losing in a tire-smoking battle with Jack Beckman.
Worsham, who moved up to sixth in the point standings in Atlanta, is looking for his 31st career win which would move him to seventh all-time in the Funny Car ranks.
DeJoria desires Kansas rebound
Alexis DeJoria, driver of the Tequila Patrón Toyota Camry Funny Car, is coming off another solid effort, but desires a Topeka rebound after an early start in the second round ended her day before she would have liked.
DeJoria did retain her third straight top five qualifying effort in Atlanta as her Toyota Camry entry ran five consecutive solid passes to instill confidence as the series goes to its eighth event. Last season, DeJoria earned a top half starting spot in Topeka but was defeated in the opening stanza by her teammate Worsham.
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About Kalitta Motorsports:
Based in Ypsilanti, Mich., Kalitta Motorsports is a Top Fuel and Funny Car drag racing team in the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. The team was founded and is owned by drag racing icon Connie “the Bounty Hunter” Kalitta. For more than 50 years, Connie has been involved in the sport as a driver, tuner, and an owner. Kalitta Motorsports is one of the most successful teams in the history of auto racing with six world championships and over 100 national event titles in five different professional drag racing sanctioning bodies since it was established by Connie in 1959.
Team Kalitta is the home of the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car World Champions, Del Worsham. He drives the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car. Alexis DeJoria pilots the Tequila Patrón Toyota Camry Funny Car. J.R. Todd drives the SealMaster Top Fuel dragster while Connie’s nephew, Doug Kalitta, pilots the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster. Connie serves as head tuner for all Team Kalitta entries. He is assisted by co-crew chiefs Jon Oberhofer and Nick Boninfante on the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car, Tommy DeLago and Glen Huszar on the Tequila Patrón Toyota Camry Funny Car, Rob Flynn on the SealMaster Top Fuel dragster and Jim Oberhofer on the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster.
Associate sponsors on Kalitta Motorsports’ race cars include ARP, AutoDesk CAM, Champion, Cogistics, Darton Sleeves, DHL, Justice Brothers, Kalitta Air, Mac Tools, Optima Batteries, Phoenix Fuel Converter, Red Line Oil, SealMaster, Summit Racing Equipment, Technicoat Companies, Tequila Patrón, TMS Titanium, Toyota and Ziebart.