Finals Broadcast: 9:30-11:30 p.m. eastern Monday, Sept. 18 on FS1
Qualifying: Doug Kalitta was the No. 3 qualifier at the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals; it was his 10th-top four qualifying effort of the season. During the Friday-evening session, Kalitta raced to a 3.696-second elapsed time at 331.45 mph for his best qualifying attempt.
As the Mac Tools dragster completed its 3.748-second qualifying run at 332.10 mph in the final qualifying session Saturday afternoon, the right-rear tire shredded damaging the rear wing and the chassis forcing the team to run its backup car for final eliminations. The Mac Tools team, with help from the Kalitta Air Careers team, worked late into Saturday night to prepare the backup car. Unlike the primary car, the backup car does not have a canopy so Kalitta drove the car with an open cockpit for the first time this season.
Eliminations: Kalitta claimed the 50th win of his legendary career when he won the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway. Kalitta defeated Josh Hart in the first round before rain caused a three-hour delay. After the delay, he defeated, his teammate, Shawn Langdon, and Leah Pruett to advance to the final round of eliminations. Pruett had a quicker elapsed time in the semifinal run, but Kalitta left the starting line first and advanced to the final round just before rain returned forcing the delay of the remaining rounds until Monday morning.
Kalitta faced Steve Torrence in an epic final round, and the Mac Tools Toyota team was up to the challenge making a brilliant 3.662-second pass at 336.90 mph – the fastest speed of the entire weekend and the fastest speed of Kalitta’s career. Kalitta also posted the quickest elapsed time of the weekend when he defeated Josh Hart in the opening round of eliminations. Kalitta’s eliminations elapsed times were 3.658, 3.692, 3.684 and 3.662 seconds in the final round – all within .034 seconds.
Unofficial Point Standings: Kalitta jumped three spots in points and leaves Reading in third place in the NHRA Top Fuel point standings. He trails points leader Steve Torrence by 26 points and second-place Justin Ashley by 19 points; he leads fourth-place Leah Pruett by 28 points.
Kalitta on Reading: “That was a huge day for us; it’s been a while since we’d won – I don’t know why it’s been so long, but it was obviously a great effort by my team with the car running in the 60s yesterday and today. I definitely couldn’t do this without Connie’s (Kalitta, team owner) support; he’s definitely a pioneer out here. He comes to all these races and is still enjoying it. He’s definitely my hero when it comes to drag racing, and it’s cool to see how excited he was for me to get this win today so that was definitely one of the highlights of the day; he has always had my back. I love and appreciate that guy so much.
“Getting a win with Alan Johnson (co-crew chief) has been huge on my list. Can’t thank Brian Husen (co-crew chief), Mac Tools, Toyota and all of the distributors with Mac Tools enough for continuing to support this effort. It’s a great way to start the Countdown to the Championship. Apparently, this (backup) car wanted to get off the trailer and prove what it could do. I’m really fortunate to have the guys build a car like this.
“We’ve been trying our hardest to get that monkey off our back and get that 50th win, and now we can get all that stress of trying to get to the winner’s circle behind us, settle in and concentrate on the next five (playoff) races. Getting this victory, that’s been big on my list. It was a great job for my team and I’m real proud of their effort. To run like that and go in the 60s in the final, it shows their talent, and I couldn’t be happier. I love running here (at Maple Grove Raceway), and my guys worked their tails off.”
Shawn Langdon, Kalitta Air Careers Top Fuel Dragster
Qualifying: Shawn Langdon was the No. 6 qualifier at the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals; Langdon made his best qualifying attempt in the opening session Friday evening when he made a 3.728-second run at 331.12 mph. The elapsed times of Langdon’s four qualifying attempts were all within .046 seconds showing impressive consistency for the Kalitta Air Careers team.
Eliminations: Langdon defeated Dan Mercier before losing to his teammate, Doug Kalitta, in the second round. Langdon’s 3.733-second pass was good but not good enough to beat Kalitta’s 3.692-second effort at 329.58 mph. The elapsed times on Langdon’s six Reading runs were all within .046 seconds
Unofficial Point Standings: Langdon leaves Reading in 11th place in the NHRA Top Fuel point standings. He trails 10th-place Clay Millican by two points and leads 12th-place Josh Hart by 17 points.
Langdon on Reading: “The Kalitta Air Careers Toyota team did a really good job this weekend,” Langdon said. “It’s kind of one of those ‘small victories’ things for Kalitta Air, Revchem and Future Energy Solutions. We made six excellent runs – six top-five runs every run down the track. We made a lot of changes because we left Indy (U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis two weeks ago) feeling like we didn’t have much of a chance to win in the Countdown.
“After leaving Reading, even though we lost a great race to Doug in the second round, I feel as good about our Kalitta Air Careers team as I’ve felt in the last two or three years. We made six good, clean runs this weekend with big speeds; the parts looked great after the runs so we weren’t hurting anything, and like I told all my guys, ‘you give me this car at the last five races, I promise you we’ll contend for the Championship.”
J.R. Todd, DHL Funny Car
Qualifying: J.R. Todd was the No. 11 qualifier at the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals. His best qualifying attempt came during the Friday-evening session when the DHL GR Supra reached the finish line in 3.923 seconds at 327.90 mph.
Eliminations: Todd raced Matt Hagan in the first round and ran a solid 3.930-second run at 332.75 mph, but it was not enough to beat Hagan’s 3.875-second effort. Todd’s run would have beaten four of the eight first-round winners, but that’s small consolation for the first-round loss. It was the first time the DHL GR Supra team lost in the opening round since June 11 in Bristol, Tenn.
Unofficial Point Standings: With the first-round loss, Todd dropped two spots in points. He leaves Reading in seventh place in the NHRA Funny Car point standings. He trails sixth-place Alexia DeJoria by 10 points and leads eighth-place Tim Wilkerson by 14 points.
Todd on Reading: “We backed ourselves into a corner starting with where we qualified, and getting a first-round draw like Matt Hagan, one of the favorites to win the championship, is definitely not ideal. Going out first round is something you can’t afford to do in the Countdown, but if you’re going to, the first race is the time to do it. From here on out, we’re pretty much in a must-win situation if we’re going to win the Championship for everyone that supports us like DHL, Revchem, SealMaster and Kalitta Air.”
Next Race: Team Kalitta will be back in action Sept. 22-24, 2023 at the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals in Concord, N.C. For additional information, please visit www.nhra.com. For additional information on Kalitta Motorsports, please visit www.teamkalitta.com.