Kalitta Motorsports News
Team Kalitta started the season with a dominant Funny Car win by J.R. Todd and a runner-up finish by Shawn Langdon in Top Fuel at the Gatornationals. Doug Kalitta raced to the quarterfinals. The team enters the second race of the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season with title hopes for Funny Car driver J.R. Todd and the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car team as well as Doug Kalitta and Shawn Langdon in the Top Fuel ranks, racing the Mac Tools and DHL/Kalitta Air dragsters, respectively.
Points Leader J.R. Todd Looks To Continue Winning Ways in Las Vegas
Funny Car point leader J.R. Todd is looking forward to getting back to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for a variety of reasons. The Gatornationals winner has a great history of success at the NHRA Vegas Four-Wide Nationals. The race was skipped last season due to the pandemic but Todd had won the previous two four-wide races and will be looking for his third win in the desert this weekend at the unique event. No one has raced four-wide in over a year but Todd feels the playing field will be relatively level once race cars like his DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car hit the track.
“Everyone is in the same boat really,” said Todd. “I try and do the same thing and not worry about the fact there are a couple more race cars on the track. You want to get off the line quick and keep it straight. The Four-Wide Nationals does offer a different variable which is cool. You have to pay more attention and really listen to your crew chief or crew guys when they are telling you who is in the other lanes. I know it will be interesting for sure. We will have a lot of Funny Cars and it has been a while since we raced.”
Nearly 20 Funny Cars will be vying for one of the coveted 16 qualifying positions this weekend. The field will be stacked with veteran teams and a handful of rookies or new teams on the tour. The variety of other drivers doesn’t offer any distraction to Todd and his DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car team.
“I have had success in Las Vegas because I think (crew chiefs) Todd (Smith) and Jon O (Oberhofer) have a good handle on their tune-up,” said Todd. “We won this race the last time we were here and it was a team effort. We had a good race car and I was doing a decent job driving. I am ready to get back to racing especially coming off a win like the Gatornationals. You just want to get back to the track right away. I don’t care if it is four-wide or two-wide it has been a long time between races and I am excited to be heading back to a race track.”
Todd’s history at The Strip is impressive whether there are four or two cars on the track. He has two wins in the four-wide format as well as a runner-up finish in 2018 at the fall event when he won the Funny Car championship. Prior to his move to Funny Car Todd picked up a couple No. 1 qualifiers racing Top Fuel and was runner-up at the Fall Vegas race three times 2016, 2014 and 2006 in a dragster.
“This is a cool place to race whether it is in my DHL Camry Funny Car or a Top Fuel dragster,” said Todd. “I have been racing here for a long time and I am glad we are getting the chance to get this four-wide race in. I know the guys running the track have been doing a lot of work to make sure this race happens and everyone at Kalitta Motorsports really appreciates it.”
2019 NHRA Vegas Four-Wide Highlights (event not contested in 2020): WINNER; Qual. No. 4; Beat Gary Densham and Jim Campbell, beat Matt Hagan and Jeff Diehl, beat Tommy Johnson Jr., Jack Beckman and Tim Wilkerson
Last Event Recap (2021 NHRA Gatornationals: WINNER; Qual. No. 6; Beat Blake Alexander, Tim Wilkerson, Cruz Pedregon and Robert Hight
Career Stats: 236 events, 228 starts, 254 round wins, 19 wins, 36 finals, 12 No. 1 qualifiers; in Funny Car: 84 events, 84 starts, 10 wins, 16 finals, 106 round wins, 3 No. 1 qualifiers
Gatornationals: WINNER; Qual. No. 6; Beat Blake Alexander, Tim Wilkerson, Cruz Pedregon and Robert Hight
Vegas Four-Wide Win Priority for Shawn Langdon and DHL Top Fuel Team
The last time Shawn Langdon wheeled a Top Fuel dragster to the starting line was three years ago but the 2013 NHRA Top Fuel champion isn’t worried about getting back into the four-wide groove. Last year four-wide racing was a casualty of the pandemic and the previous two seasons Langdon was battling it out in the Funny Car category. This weekend at the NHRA Vegas Four-Wide Nationals Langdon and his DHL/Kalitta Air Top Fuel team will be looking to add a Top Fuel four-wide win to his resume.
“I am glad to be getting back to racing,” said Langdon. “This was a long lay-off but I am looking forward to getting back to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Four-Wide Nationals. I like four-wide racing because it is different. There are some guys that I think it bothers but I am fine with it. I don’t change anything when I am inside the race car.”
Langdon picked up his first career Funny Car win at the Charlotte Four-Wide Nationals in 2019 and followed that up with another Funny Car win later that season in St. Louis. There isn’t much the reigning U.S. Nationals champion hasn’t done behind the wheel of a race car. He hasn’t picked up a four-wide Top Fuel victory and that is definitely on his mind heading into race weekend considering he had a strong car at the season opening Gatornationals.
“We got off to a good start in Gainesville and I know this DHL dragster will keep running good,” said Langdon. “You always feel better when you get off to a good start. Vegas is a track I would definitely like to pick up a win just like any track on the tour. We were runners-up at the last race and we will be trying to get the win this weekend for sure.”
In Florida last month Langdon drove his DHL dragster to his 32nd career final round on the strength of consistent runs and timely driving. During the Four-Wide Nationals the team will need that combination to have success on Sunday. Three qualifying runs will lead up to race day and then Langdon just needs to be a top two finisher in each of the first two rounds to have a shot at winning his first four-wide Top Fuel race.
“We want to make good qualifying runs for sure and also share info with Doug Kalitta’s team since there will be one lane we won’t get to make a pass in,” said Langdon. “I am glad we have some great teammates and crew chiefs. This Kalitta Motorsports team does a good job or working together to get the job done.”
2019 NHRA Vegas Four-Wide Highlights (event not contested in 2020): In Funny Car: Qual. No. 8; Lost to Tim Wilkerson and Jeff Diehl
Last Event Recap (2021 NHRA Gatornationals: RUNNER-UP; Qual. No. 6; Beat Doug Foley, Leah Pruett, Antron Brown; Lost to Josh Hart
Career Stats: 268 events, 265 starts, 300 round wins, 17 wins, 35 finals, 19 No. 1 qualifiers; in Top Fuel: 220 events, 217 starts, 15 wins, 32 finals, 261 round wins, 19 No. 1 qualifiers
Gatornationals: RUNNER-UP; Qual. No. 6; Beat Doug Foley, Leah Pruett, Antron Brown; Lost to Josh Hart
Doug Kalitta Dialed in For First Las Vegas Four-Wide Nationals Win
Doug Kalitta and the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster team will roll into The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend looking for one more round win as they tackle four-wide racing for the first time in 2021. It has been over a year since any NHRA teams have made runs in the unique four-wide format and for Kalitta who raced to a quarterfinal finish at the season opening Gatornationals the Vegas race will be a welcome challenge. The veteran driver has raced to the final quad on three occasions including the 2014 Vegas Nationals but he has never been first to the stripe. In all three races Kalitta grabbed runner-up honors.
“I have come close a couple times in the four-wide races but you never know what can happen when you get four race cars on the track at the same time,” said Kalitta, who has one win at The Strip. “There is a lot going on for sure. I just try and do my regular routine. Not much changes other than you have a couple more race cars out there. I know my crew chief Rob Flynn and Troy Fasching have a good Las Vegas tune-up so we will see what happens.”
In 2019 Kalitta was runner-up at the last Four-Wide National event contested in Charlotte. The pandemic cancelled both four-wide races in 2020. His previous successes in the unique format include the runner-up finish in Las Vegas in 2014 and another runner-up in Charlotte in 2010. The four-wide race gives drivers and teams the benefit advancing to the next round if they are either first or second to the finish line in each of the first two rounds or quads. The final quad sets up the winner, runner-up and semifinalists.
“You have to pay attention when you are getting staged and remember what lane you are in,” said Kalitta. “You just have to run your race and know that if you smoke the tires you need to try and recover because you don’t know what could be happening in the other lanes. It makes it exciting for the fans for sure.”
The past three seasons Kalitta won the season opening Winternationals, traditionally contested at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona. The revised schedule for 2021 started the season at the historic Gatornationals nearly a month ago and has teams racing in Las Vegas this weekend and then on to Atlanta in two weeks. Kalitta’s streak of winning the first race was broken with a quarterfinal finish in Florida but the championship contending team is focused on the long term season results.
“We have had good luck starting the season with wins at the Winternationals. We will get back to Pomona at some point hopefully and we’ll see how it goes. We had a great race car at the Gatornationals and I have a lot of confidence in this Mac Tools team,” added Kalitta.
2019 NHRA Vegas Four-Wide Highlights (event not contested in 2020): Qual. No. 7; Beat Terry McMillen and Steve Chrisman, beat Steve Torrence and Richie Crampton, Lost to Mike Salinas and Brittany Force
Last Event Recap (2021 NHRA Gatornationals: Qual. No. 4; Beat Arthur Allen; Lost to Justin Ashley
Career Stats: 525 events, 518 starts, 712 round wins, 49 wins, 105 finals, 50 No. 1 qualifiers
Gatornationals: Qual. No. 4; Beat Arthur Allen; Lost to Justin Ashley
YPSILANTI, MI (April 1, 2021) – Hall of Fame driver and team owner Connie “The Bounty Hunter” Kalitta will return from retirement for a one-race winner-take-all Funny Car exhibition showdown against Don Schumacher during the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The epic race is tentatively scheduled to take place before the first qualifying session of the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series event in two weeks.
On Friday, April 16, just before the NHRA’s Camping World competitors take to the track for the first round of qualifying for the Vegas 1 event, Kalitta and Schumacher will strap into nitro Funny Cars and line up to make a pass down the renowned Vegas dragstrip. The Hall-of-Fame owners will be piloting machines prepared by their race teams, and their modern-day Funny Car bodies will be wrapped to reflect their favorite liveries with Kalitta racing a special Bounty Hunter designed Toyota Camry Funny Car. They will make one pass only, and the winner will be rewarded with bragging rights.
While it has been nearly seven decades combined since Kalitta and Schumacher traded in their firesuits for dress slacks, the NHRA mainstays feel confident in their ability to successfully defeat their opponent in the opposite lane. Kalitta, who stepped out of the seat in 1998, and Schumacher, who retired from driving in 1974, made practice runs and renewed their competition licenses in a closed test session last month. The former champion drivers opted to partake in the highly-anticipated one-off race as a way to thank the NHRA’s loyal fanbase for weathering the turbulent 2020 season.
“I am doing this for the fans and everyone that has supported Kalitta Motorsports over the years, especially last season,” said Kalitta, owner of Kalitta Motorsports, and crew chief for Shawn Langdon last year’s US Nationals Top Fuel champion. “Don and I have battled each other for decades and I jumped at the chance to kick his butt in a Funny Car. I have been talking with my Funny Car drivers and they have given me some great tips. I know I will be able to get the job done in Vegas and I am looking forward to racing this Toyota Camry Funny Car to another win.”
“We know the fans will get a kick out of this, and this is our way of saying ‘Thank You’ for sticking with us during the tough season we all endured last year,” said Schumacher, owner of Don Schumacher Racing. “Never in a million years did I think I’d get back behind the wheel of one of these nitro-breathing machines, but here we are. Connie and I have enjoyed kicking each other’s butts with our race teams all these years, and now we’ll get to go head-to-head on the starting line for the first time and really settle the score, and I have no doubt my Dodge Charger will come out on top.”
Kalitta and Schumacher are expected to exceed the 330-mph benchmark during the exhibition event, and their 11,000-horsepower floppers will be tuned by their respective organizations’ braintrust of Funny Car crew chiefs. Both are hoping to reset their career-best E.T.s by clocking runs in the low 4.0/high 3.9-second zone, and if you’re still reading this, now is probably a great time to say Happy April Fool’s Day, and let you know that Kalitta and Schumacher will be leaving the driving to their current roster of skilled nitro pilots.
Today's win marked J.R. Todd’s first-ever Gatornationals victory and gave him a sweep of the NHRA “Grand Slam” of the four biggest races in the sport – the Winternationals, the Gatornationals, the U.S. Nationals and the NHRA Finals. He also won the 2018 Funny Car world championship. This was his 19th career NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series victory and his 10th in a Funny Car since moving to the series in 2017. He becomes just the 18th driver in history to win 10 Nitro Funny Car events.
“It was nice to put our DHL Toyota Camry in the winner’s circle,” said Todd. “Our goal every week is to show up and win. 2021 is a new year and it’s a good way to start off the season with a win here at one of the biggest races of the year. Now we need to ride that momentum as long as we can. This is one you want to check off the list when you see the schedule whether it’s the first race or the third race. It’s the first time this has ever been the first race of the season and I guess we’re the points leader until we get out west.”
Getting the Gatornationals win secured his place in history as a “Grand Slam” NHRA event winner.
“To be able to win all the majors that are on the schedule, that’s pretty awesome,” said Todd. “This is Don Garlits country. When you think of the Gatornationals you think of all the legends of the sport that have done well here. Connie (team owner Kalitta) has won this race and I lost my really good friend Eric Medlen here, so it’s a pretty special event for me. For whatever reason, I’ve always had terrible luck here in the past. It’s nice to finally turn that around for the DHL Toyota guys.”
Today’s win was the third for a Kalitta Motorsports Nitro entry in the last four Gatornationals. Richie Crampton previously won in Top Fuel in 2018 and 2019. For the 2018 Funny Car world champion this weekend and the start of the 2021 NHRA season are steps back towards normalcy that disappeared just over a year ago prior to this race.
“The crowd today looked more like a normal crowd that we’re used to seeing in Gainesville,” said Todd. “I hope this is a sign of things to come in the future so we can run all of the events on the schedule and we can get fans back in the stands because they are the ones that make this happen. I have a lot of friends from my hometown of Lawrenceburg, Indiana, that came down here and it felt great to put our DHL Toyota into the winner’s circle in front of them.”
In the first round Todd had to race Blake Alexander and the Jim Head tuned Funny Car. Todd set the tone for his day with a dominant 3.933 second run dramatically quicker than his best qualifying effort and one of the strongest runs of the first round.
In the quarterfinals Todd outran veteran driver Tim Wilkerson and set himself up with lane choice over two-time Funny Car champion Cruz Pedregon. In the quarterfinal race with Wilkerson Todd grabbed a starting line advantage and never trailed in the race posting a winning time of 3.940 seconds.
The semifinal race against Pedregon continued to show how well the DHL Toyota Camry was dialed in to track conditions and optimal performance. As the No. 6 qualifier he was facing the No. 7 qualifier in the semis and Todd took the win with a 3.970 pass.
The final round against Robert Hight was a race Gatornationals fans will be talking about for years to come. Todd took a starting line advantage but almost immediately his Goodyears overpowered the track. Luckily, Todd did not panic and right after he experienced his issue Hight also lost traction. Todd was able to gather control of his DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car and he mashed on the throttle repeatedly to get his race car to hook up and he blast to victory.
“It was a little warm and the sun was on the track and at this place, the later in the day with the sun out, the track can just get hot and nasty,” said Todd. “That was definitely the case in the final. The starting line wasn’t as good as it was early and we both blew the tires off. I thought for sure that he was going to be driving away from us. I never saw him and just rolled back onto the throttle and was able to go all the way down with it and turn on the win light. It’s pretty special to do here in Gainesville.”
It was a classic pedalfest and Todd’s skill behind the wheel was once again evident on the race track.
“My first Funny Car win came on a pedalfest at Sonoma back in 2017. We don’t get a lot of practice to do that. It just comes with seat time. It was more lucky than anything,” added Todd.
J.R. Todd on defeating Robert Hight in John Force Racing’s return to racing: “Everybody out there in Funny Car is tough, but in my opinion, Robert Hight is the best driver in the category and that team sets the benchmark for the rest of us. When you beat them in the final round, you feel like you really accomplished something.”
Qualified: No. 6 (3.955 sec., 325.61 mph)
Bonus points: 0
Driver Qual R/T ET MPH
J.R. Todd 6 .077 3.933 327.35 (W)
Blake Alexander 11 .073 4.032 318.99
Driver Qual R/T ET MPH
J.R. Todd 6 .074 3.940 320.05 (W)
Tim Wilkerson 3 .085 3.977 325.53
Driver Qual R/T ET MPH
J.R. Todd 6 .082 3.970 322.58 (W)
Cruz Pedregon 7 .081 4.781 171.03
Driver Qual R/T ET MPH
J.R. Todd 6 .075 5.184 286.38 (W)
Robert Hight 4 .085 6.591 144.41
Shawn Langdon and DHL Top Fuel Team Runners-Up at Gatornationals
Shawn Langdon and the DHL Kalitta Air Top Fuel dragster team had a strong performance at the 52ndannual NHRA Gatornationals. The 2020 U.S. Nationals champion qualified No. 6 and carried confidence into the first round at the historic national event. The championship winning driver was looking for his first Gatornationals win and the final piece to his own NHRA “”Grand Slam.” Langdon already captured career wins at the Winternationals and Auto Club Finals along with his two Top Fuel Indy wins.
His quest began with a strong win over journeyman Doug Foley in the first round. Langdon took advantage of improved weather conditions due to an earlier than usual start time. He jumped off the starting line with a .049 reaction time and lit up the scoreboard with a winning time of 3.752 seconds. Foley was right with Langdon posting a 3.801 second run in a losing effort.
In the quarterfinals Langdon faced a tough opponent in Leah Pruett. In a very close race Langdon took his second win light with a strong 3.764 elapsed time on a rapidly warming track. The DHL Kalitta Air Top Fuel dragster was showing a consistency that could pave the way to victory.
The semifinal race was another tough race facing three-time Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown. Langdon grabbed a slight starting line advantage and never trailed in the race. It was his 300th round win and advanced him to his first Gatornationals final round.
After watching his teammate J.R. Todd win his first Gatornationals Funny Car title Langdon was poised to contribute to the first Kalitta Motorsports double up win. This was the 16th opportunity to get a Top Fuel and Funny Car win at the same event. In a close race Langdon came up just short to rookie Josh Hart in the final. At 600 feet his Top Fuel dragster hazed the tires and allowed Hart to drive past him for the win.
"We had a great car all day. I felt like we were going to get the win,” said Langdon. “I think we just had a little too much in the final. Congrats to Josh Hart. I can't say enough about this DHL team. We were looking for that double up win. I am very happy for J.R. and his DHL Funny Car team. This was a great day for Kalitta Motorsports. We are leaving the Gatornationals No. 1 in Funny Car and No. 2 in Top Fuel."
Langdon will leave the Gatornationals No. 2 in the Camping World Top Fuel point standings.
Langdon on opening 2021 season: “This was a great first event. There was a good crowd and the racing was very competitive. This DHL Kalitta Air Top Fuel dragster performed very well and I am excited about the start of the season.”
Qualified: No. 6 (3.749 sec., 323.89 mph)
Bonus points: 0Race Details:First Round
Driver Qual R/T ET MPH
Shawn Langdon 6 .049 3.752 320.36 (W)
Doug Foley 11 .080 3.801 322.38
Driver Qual R/T ET MPH
Shawn Langdon 6 .065 3.764 317.79 (W)
Leah Pruett 3 .054 3.887 294.05
Driver Qual R/T ET MPH
Shawn Langdon 6 .056 3.821 318.39 (W)
Antron Brown 10 .062 4.450 182.96
Driver Qual R/T ET MPH
Shawn Langdon 6 .068 4.244 219.08
Josh Hart 8 .026 3.826 323.66 (W)
Doug Kalitta and Mac Tools Race to Gatornationals Quarterfinals
Doug Kalitta was looking for his fourth season-opening victory today at the 52nd annual NHRA Gatornationals. The previous three seasons Kalitta and the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster have captured wins at the Wintenationals in Pomona, California. No driver other than Kalitta has achieved that feat and he was looking to extend his success this season on the east coast.
His qualifying performance showed that he was in a strong position to win his fourth Gatornationals title as he entered the race in the No. 4 qualifying position. The championship runner-up earned four qualifying bonus points for his efforts. Right off the trailer Kalitta posted the second quickest runs of the first and second qualifying sessions.
In the opening round Kalitta took out Arthur Allen with a solid 3.746 second pass to advance to a second round race against Justin Ashley. Kalitta was giving up lane choice to the 2020 Rookie of the Year but his team felt good about their chances.
In the quarterfinal round Kalitta and Ashley staged and as the Christmas Tree flashed the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster leapt off the starting line first. As Kalitta accelerated his dragster immediately overpowered the starting line and Kalitta was forced to watch Ashley race to the round win.
"I am not sure what happened in the second round,” said Kalitta. “This Mac Tools Toyota dragster was so consistent all weekend. I am excited about getting the season started and we were trying to keep that season-opening win streak alive. We will get back in the shop and figure out the issue. We are leaving the Gators in the Top Ten and we will be ready to go for the next race.”
Kalitta will head to the next race sitting No. 7 in the Top Fuel point standings.
Doug Kalitta on season opening at Gatornationals: “This is Don Garlits’ home track and there is so much history here. I would have liked to have won this race for a fourth time but our Mac Tools dragster is running strong and that will keep us going to the next race.”
Qualified: No. 4 (3.746 sec., 320.97 mph)
Bonus points: +4 (2nd quickest of Q1 and Q2)
Driver Qual R/T ET MPH
Doug Kalitta 4 .083 3.746 309.20 (W)
Arthur Allen 13 .136 6.093 102.46
Driver Qual R/T ET MPH
Doug Kalitta 4 .040 7.895 84.83
Justin Ashley 12 .058 3.833 321.81 (W)
Doug Kalitta 4 vs. A. Allen
Shawn Langdon 6 vs. D. Foley
J.R. Todd 6 vs. B. Alexander