YPSILANTI, Mich. (March 5, 2024) – Doug Kalitta, defending champion. That has a nice ring to it. The veteran racer, for the first time in his career, enters the season with the No. 1 on his car as the defending NHRA Top Fuel champion. The 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing season opens this weekend at the Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals set for March 8-10, 2024.

Kalitta won the 2024 title when he won the In ‘n Out Burger NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif., last November. It was his third win of the six-race Countdown to the Championship NHRA Playoffs, and the entire season came down to the final round of the final race. When it was all over, Kalitta was the champion.

“It’s kinda nice,” the three-time Gatornationals winner said. “Obviously, a lot of people are proud we pulled this (championship) off, and it’ll be fun to see the fans at all the places we go and have some fun being the champ coming in. After our (pre-season) testing, I think our Mac Tools car is running well so we’re feeling confident coming into the season.

“We’re hoping to pick up where we left off (last season). That’s what I’m thinking. Fortunately, with all the changes we made on both our dragsters, Alan (crew chief Alan Johnson) is definitely the right guy for the job in tuning these things so we’re fortunate to have him so we can keep our momentum going. The main thing is to have fun and take care of business.”

In the off season, Brian Husen, the Mac Tools team assistant crew chief, was promoted to crew chief of Shawn Langdon’s Kalitta Air Careers Toyota team. Longtime Team Kalitta crew member, Mac Savage, who left the team after the 2015 season, is back as Johnson’s assistant crew chief.

“We hated to lose Brian on the Mac Tools team, but he’s very deserving of the opportunity to run his own car,” Kalitta added. “His relationship with Alan really makes him the perfect guy to run that car and be able to pick Alan’s brain and work together. We want to get both these cars running towards the front and staying there. We’re putting a big focus on making sure we can learn from one another having two cars similar enough to take advantage of having two cars.

“I’m super excited to have Mac Savage back; he was on my car for a number of years, and he’s a helluva mechanic. I’m sure he and Alan will work together really well so I don’t think we’ll miss a lick with Brian moving over to run the Kalitta Air Careers car. I’m super excited to have the opportunity to work with Shawn again, too.”

While the ultimate goal is to repeat as champion this season, in-season goals are attainable more quickly starting with this weekend’s $130,000 Pep Boys All-Star Callout specialty race for which Kalitta is seeded second among the eight eligible drivers. Kallita’s average qualifying position last season was second best in Top Fuel, and that distinction earned his place in the field.

During the event news conference on Saturday, March 9, opening pairings will be determined when the four higher-seeded drivers “call out” their opponents. As the second seed, Kalitta will be the second to call out his opponent. After the first round during Saturday’s first qualifying round, the driver with the lowest elapsed time of the four remaining drivers will “call out” his or her semifinal opponent with the semifinals contested during Saturday’s final qualifying round. The two remaining drivers will race for the title and its $80,000 prize in a special pairing late Saturday afternoon. The question for the 52-time race winner is which driver to call out as his opponent.

 “They’re all tough,” Kalitta said. “I think the biggest thing will be to see how everybody’s running up until you have to make that decision. No matter who we pick, it’s gonna be a tough opponent. It’ll be interesting with the eight-car format and a lot of money up for grabs, that’s for sure. Thanks to Pep Boys for putting this thing on for us again this year.

“I’m super excited to get this thing going again, and all my guys are super excited. We’ve already tested and plan to test again this week if the conditions are what we need. Starting at the Gators in Florida is a fan favorite. It’s always good to race in Florida down in Don Garlits country – he’s pretty much the man for Florida drag racing.”

But before qualifying opens Friday, the sport will pause for inductions into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame Thursday night. Kalitta’s late cousin, two-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Scott Kalitta who died in a 2008 racing accident, will be inducted.

“We’re really looking forward to that,” Kalitta said. “I think we have three tables so 30 of us will be there to honor Scott and have some fun with it. It’ll be interesting to see the whole thing; I’ve heard a lot about what they do with the inductions. Some very deserving people are being inducted so it’ll be fun to sit there and kind of hang out. Scott has a lot of history with Don Garlits growing up with Connie and Don racing together when Scott was kicking around. It should be pretty special for Don as well. Scott would definitely be proud to be in there so I’m glad, however the voting happened, that he ended up with this opportunity.”

Race Information:

Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals

Gainesville Raceway, Gainesville, Fla.

TV Schedule:            

  • Qualifying 1: Noon-12:30 p.m. Saturday, March 9 on FS2
  • Pep Boys Top Fuel All-Star Callout: 7-8:30 p.m. Saturday, March 9 on FS1
  • Qualifying 2: 8:30-10:30 a.m. Sunday, March 10 on FS1
  • Finals Rounds 1 & 2: 10:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. on FS1
  • Finals: 9-10:30 p.m. Sunday, March 10 on FS1

2023 NHRA Gatornationals Highlights: Qualified third; defeated Spencer Massey and Antron Brown before losing to Steve Torrence in the semifinals

Career Stats: 587 events, 767 round wins, 52 wins, 112 final rounds, 53 No. 1 qualifiers


YPSILANTI, Mich. (March 5, 2024) – When 2013 NHRA Top Fuel champion Shawn Langdon eases the Kalitta Air Careers dragster to the starting line for his first qualifying attempt of the 2024 season, he’ll do so with a new crew chief, a revamped race team and a car that’s similar to the one his teammate drives. The 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing season begins with the Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals set for historic Gainesville Raceway March 8-10, 2024 in Gainesville, Fla.

Brian Husen joins Langdon’s team as crew chief for the first time in his career, and it’s a reunion of sorts from when the two worked together at Alan Johnson Racing where Langdon won the 2013 NHRA Top Fuel championship. Husen comes to the Kalitta Air Careers Toyota team following two seasons as Crew Chief Alan Johnson’s assistant on Doug Kalitta’s Mac Tools team that won the 2023 NHRA Top Fuel title. The changes to his team have Langdon energized, to say the least, entering the new season.

“I’m definitely looking forward to this new year,” Langdon said. “We had a couple really trying years so going into this year and bringing in a couple new guys and having Brian Husen lead the way on our Kalitta Air Careers team changes everything. I’m really excited for Brian to have the opportunity to get his shot at being crew chief. He’s very, very talented, and I’ve had a lot of respect for him since I worked with him at Alan Johnson Racing 10 years ago. I’m just really excited for him to get the opportunity to show what he can do.”

“I love Shawn,” Husen said. “He’s a racer – he loves what he does. He’s just easy to get along with; he’s interested in how the car’s set up and what to expect. I couldn’t ask for a better situation; there’s a lot of great drivers out there, but I have a relationship with Shawn. We’re friends – it’s gonna be fun to race together and win together.”

“Brian just has the racer mindset; he’s as good as it gets,” Langdon added. “Working under AJ (Alan Johnson) for so many years, he learned from the best. One of the things I’ve missed from the Alan Johnson Racing days was working with AJ and Brian on race day strategy – who we’re running, what lane we’re in, what they’re trying to run and looking at who our opponent is. ‘Do we have an advantage with the car or do we feel like we need to rely on what I can do on the starting line a little bit? Are we in a bad lane, and they tell me they need me? Or do they tell me we have a great race car – don’t screw it up?’ I really enjoy the mental challenge of race-day strategy, and I’m really looking forward to getting back to that.”

The Mira Loma, Calif., native won’t have to wait long. In addition to his first race with Husen this weekend, he’s the No. 7 seed in the Pep Boys All-Star Callout, a special event for which drivers qualify based on their qualifying positions during the previous season.

During the event news conference on Saturday, March 9, opening pairings will be determined when the four higher-seeded drivers “call out” their opponents. As the seventh seed, Langdon won’t pick his opponent – he’ll be one of the four drivers who is called out. After the first round during Saturday’s first qualifying round, the driver with the lowest elapsed time of the four remaining drivers will “call out” his semifinal opponent with the semifinals contested during Saturday’s final qualifying round. The two remaining drivers will race for the title and its $80,000 prize in a special pairing late Saturday afternoon.

With a new crew chief and a revamped race team sporting a Kalitta Air Careers dragster set up just like Kalitta’s Mac Tools entry, it will be Langdon’s job to capitalize on his opportunity. The pressure’s on.

“That’s how I want it,” Langdon added. “I love racing with pressure; I thrive off of it; I embrace it. I love the feeling of pulling to the starting line in those kind of ‘do or die’ situations – ‘it comes down to this one run; this is it, and it’s up to you. We’re giving you the best race car; now it’s your job to get it done.’ I really thrive off that. Mentally, I feel like I really prepare myself for those situations so I’m looking forward to potentially having those opportunities again.”

2023 NHRA Gatornationals Highlights: Qualified 11th; lost to Antron Brown in the first round.

Career Stats: 330 events, 345 round wins, 17 wins, 38 final rounds, 19 No. 1 qualifiers


YPSILANTI, Mich. (March 5, 2024) – One year ago at the season’s opening race, 2018 NHRA Top Fuel champion J.R. Todd posted a runner-up finish in his DHL GR Supra Funny Car, and while the pre-season goal is always championship No. 2, the first aspiration is one more round win and a race win to kick off the new year. The 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing season begins at the Amalie Oil Gatornationals set for March 8-10, 2024 at historic Gainesville Raceway in Florida.

Todd won in Sonoma last summer, but despite three additional final-round appearances, the wine country win was his sole 2023 triumph. With Gatornationals success one year ago, useful pre-season testing as well as the energy and excitement of the new season could propel Todd and his DHL team to the Gatornationals winner’s circle.

“It would be great to come out and win Gainesville – we’ve done it in the past (in 2021),” Todd said. “We went to the final round last year so hopefully we can go back to last year’s notes and pick up on that performance this weekend. We’re definitely trying some different parts and pieces in pre-season testing. We didn’t get to try everything we wanted to try in Bradenton (pre-season testing in Bradenton, Fla.) so we’re going to test Tuesday and Wednesday before we race in Gainesville. Hopefully, that brings us some good results heading into the race.

“It’s definitely nice to shake the rust off in pre-season testing so you don’t have that kind of nervous, anxious feeling at the first race of the season. It kind of makes everything smoother when you get in the car and hit the gas for that first qualifying session, and you hope you can make a good, clean, solid pass in that first run so you can go to work on the race day setup. The nerves and anxiousness are out of the way so we can focus on the mission at hand.”

And the mission at hand is winning more races and contending for a championship. Todd finished eighth in points following each of the last two seasons, and since winning the 2018 NHRA Funny Car title, he finished sixth, seventh or eighth each year. That’s solid but nowhere near what the DHL team expects of itself.

“It was great to get a race win last year, but we want more,” Todd added. “This team deserves more and expects more. At the end of the day, we need to work on our consistency and win more races throughout the year. That’s where we’ve been struggling the last handful of seasons. When it comes down to playoff time, we kind of fumble so one of our goals is being better when it counts most.”

The first race of the season is the perfect time to take the first step towards a successful season, and the Gatornationals would be a special time and place to get it started.

“The Gaters is kinda like one of the majors for us to borrow a golf term,” the 20-time race winner said. “It’s a big one; the Gatornationals is always kinda like the East Coast version of the Winternationals because it draws a lot of people from the Northeast and the Midwest – we had sellout crowds last year. We were lucky enough to win it a few years ago – anytime you can win a race like that and put your name next to the guys like Big Daddy, Snake and all those greats that won that race in the past, it’s pretty special.”

2023 NHRA Gatornationals Highlights: Qualified 6th; defeated Blake Alexander, Robert Hight and Chad Green before losing to Matt Hagan in the final.

Funny Car Career Stats: 298 events, 325 round wins, 20 wins, 45 final rounds, 14 No. 1 qualifiers