Historic Gatornationals perfect location for first Team Kalitta win of season

Del Worsham

Del Worsham

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 15, 2016) – Kalitta Motorsports’ preview the NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway in Gainesville, Fla. This is the third race of 24 in the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello NHRA season.

Todd hopes new rail leads to more Gainesville success

J.R. Todd, driver of the SealMaster Top Fuel dragster, has had a love/hate relationship with Gainesville Raceway in recent years.

Returning for his third consecutive Gatornationals start, Todd has struggled through qualifying the last two seasons, but has turned it on for the day that counts: Sunday, where he has scored back-to-back first round wins.

Last season, Todd started in the 14th position and eliminated his teammate Doug Kalitta in the first round, while in 2014, Todd qualified on the bump and eliminated no.1 qualifier, Shawn Langdon, in his final race prior to joining Team Kalitta. This season, Todd and the SealMaster team look forward to a complete weekend and their first victory of the young season.

“There is definitely a special feel about the Gatornationals,” said Todd, who is debuting a new in-house built chassis at the event. “It is basically our east coast Winternationals, which draws out huge crowds to where it is usually standing room only.”

“Winning the Gatornationals is right at the top of the list with winning Indy and Englishtown.”

Todd, who sits eighth in the Top Fuel standings, is searching for his first Gainesville win.

Worsham plans to deliver after recent success

Del Worsham, driver of the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car and defending 2015 Funny Car champion, is headed back to the location of his first final for Team Kalitta as a driver and a track that holds individual history for Worsham.

In 2013, Worsham was three races into his tenure as the pilot of the DHL Toyota Camry and Jon Oberhofer and Nicky Boninfante tuned Worsham to a near win, defeating Tim Wilkerson, Courtney Force and Robert Hight, before coming up just short against Johnny Gray. Last season, Worsham was strong throughout qualifying to earn the second qualifying spot.

Worsham has his own personal history at Gainesville. In 2011, his second event back in the Top Fuel seat, Worsham drove his way to the event title, defeating all three Don Schumacher Racing drivers (Antron Brown, Spencer Massey and Tony Schumacher) along the way. That win made him the 15th driver to own wins in Top Fuel and Funny Car. He is still the most recent driver to accomplish that feat. That win would be the first of eight on a season that ended with the Top Fuel Championship.

This season, Worsham comes off a second-round Phoenix finish and the DHL team is very excited to get back on track especially at a race that is filled with history and always packs in the fans.

“The Gatornationals is like our east coast kick-off event,” said Worsham. “I have been fortunate enough to claim victory here in both a Funny Car and a Top Fuel machine, and there is nothing more that I want to do than win another Gatornationals trophy.”

Worsham heads into Gainesville in the fourth position in the standings and is one of just six Funny Car drivers with at least one round win in both of the first two NHRA events.

Kalitta’s hopes copy of 2014 season continues through Gatornationals

Doug Kalitta, driver of the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster, is the Top Fuel points leader for the first time since the 2014 season. That season he had an outstanding start with a final round appearance at the Winternationals in Pomona and a semi-final finish in Phoenix, Kalitta turned to the Gatornationals in Gainesville. He left with the win, his third in the historic event.

Back to 2016, Kalitta has had another great start to the new season. His record may sound familiar: a final round effort in Pomona and followed by a semi-final run in Phoenix. Now the Top Fuel points leader returns to Gainesville, where Kalitta hopes the repetition of the 2014 season continues and he leaves with what that season offered: a Wally.

“I am looking forward to Gainesville,” said Kalitta. “I am feeling really good about it. The effort of my Mac Tools guys has been incredible and there is nothing I would rather do than celebrate a win with them. It is about qualifying strong and then going four rounds on Sunday.”

Kalitta has been solid qualifying efforts so far this season. With a class-best 1.5 average qualifying effort through the first two events, Kalitta knows the importance of starting at the front of the field. His race day performance has been strong as well. Since his victory in the special edition Mac Tools Breast Cancer Awareness machine in Las Vegas last October, Kalitta has 11 round wins with four consecutive semi-final finishes or better. Those results have made Kalitta to think about the endgame: a title.

“Connie Kalitta has provided this team with everything we need to succeed. Our new in-house chassis has performed very well, and we have outstanding manufacturer support from Toyota and TRD,” said Kalitta. “Combine that with people that work on this Mac Tools ride who put forth the most effort, and I think we should have a great shot at it.”

The 2014 Gainesville win led to a strong grasp on the points lead; he held to the pinnacle of the Top Fuel points after career-best 16 events. However, the Countdown for the Championship yielded a different ultimate winner. It may be only the third event of the season, but Kalitta knows how important this race could be as he tries to achieve his first NHRA title.

“The title is the goal,” said Kalitta. “Every race is important as we look towards that goal.”

DeJoria’s back at site of first round win

Alexis DeJoria, driver of the Tequila Patrón Toyota Camry Funny Car, was just a rookie in the 2012 season, seven events into her NHRA career. With now-teammate Del Worsham making the tuning decisions, DeJoria qualified a solid tenth, and drew legendary driver John Force in round one. DeJoria was prepared and drove right around Force earning her first career round win.

DeJoria is now heading into fifth Gatornationals coming off a solid first round effort in Phoenix. Although she did not earn the round win, DeJoria had a solid reaction time defeating her opponent off the line and had a solid pass to the stripe. Those numbers give her momentum to earn four more Gatornationals round wins this weekend.

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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.