Team Kalitta enters the NHRA Midwest Nationals with all three teams in championship contention. Doug Kalitta and the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster and Shawn Langdon in the DHL Top Fuel dragster are battling for the top spot while J.R. Todd in the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car continues to climb the point standings.
Doug Kalitta and Mac Tools Top Fuel Dragster Look To Dominate in St. Louis
Doug Kalitta and the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster will be looking for their fourth win at World Wide Technology Raceway this weekend at the NHRA Midwest Nationals. Kalitta is currently tied with Gary Scelzi in second place on the most Top Fuel wins list at the famed race track in the shadows of the St. Louis skyline. This weekend will be a critical race for Kalitta and the Mac Tools team with only four races remaining and the battle for the Top Fuel Mello Yello world championship tightening up.
“We had a tough weekend in Florida but we put that race behind us and are focusing on St. Louis,” said Kalitta, a 48-time Top Fuel winner. “We have had some good races at this track and we have great data. The weather should be cooler so that will be a big change for all the teams. Florida was one of the hottest races we competed in.”
This year Kalitta started the season with a strong start continuing his winning ways at the Auto Club Raceway in Pomona. A win at the season opening Winternationals followed by a runner-up finish at the Arizona Nationals had the perennial championship contender in the driver’s seat just as the season was shut down by the pandemic. When the season restarted Kalitta once again raced to the final round but the last four races have seen Kalitta reach just one semifinal.
“There isn’t anything wrong with our Mac Tools dragster,” said Kalitta. “We have had some tough match-ups and just some bad luck. I am looking forward to these last four races because we have had have success down the stretch before. I have an amazing group of guys behind me and a ton of sponsor support from companies like Toyota, TRD, Mobil 1 and NGK Spark Plugs that really give us an edge I believe.”
Last year Kalitta narrowly missed his first Top Fuel championship coming up two points short. With four races remaining he is just 22 points out of the lead. The final race of the season will feature 30 points per round so the Top Fuel championship is very much in reach. A strong showing in St. Louis could vault the Mac Tools team right back into the lead.
“No one is going to win the championship this weekend or at the Texas races. I think it will come down to the last race of the season again. I have a lot of confidence and we are putting all our energy into getting that Top Fuel world championship for this Mac Tools and Kalitta Motorsports team,” summed up Kalitta.
Last Event Recap (2020 NHRA Gatornationals): Qual. No. 6; Lost to Terry McMillen
2019 NHRA Midwest Nationals Recap: Qual. No. 10; Beat Richie Crampton; Lost to Billy Torrence
Quotable: Doug Kalitta on back to back races: “I am glad we will be back on track this weekend in St. Louis. We have run well there and I know this Mac Tools dragster will be ready.”
Career Stats: 520 events, 513 starts, 704 round wins, 48 wins, 104 finals, 50 No. 1 qualifiers
Winternationals: Qual. No. 5; WINNER; Beat Brandon Welch, Justin Ashley, Brittany Force and Austin Prock
Arizona Nationals: Qual. No. 8; RUNNER-UP; Beat Shawn Reed, Brittany Force and Antron Brown; Lost to Steve Torrence
Indy1 NHRA Nationals: Qual. No. 2; RUNNER-UP; Beat Lex Joon, Leah Pruett and Antron Brown; Lost to Billy Torrence
Indy2 NHRA Nationals: Qual. No. 6; Beat Doug Foley; Lost to Justin Ashley
Indy3 NHRA Nationals: Qual. No. 12; Beat Cory McClenathan, Clay Millican; Lost to Terry McMillen
U.S. Nationals: Qual. No. 5; Beat Pat Dakin; Lost to Justin Ashley
Gatornationals: Qual. No. 6; Lost to Terry McMillen
Shawn Langdon Racing for Back to Back St. Louis Wins
Last year Shawn Langdon became just the second driver in NHRA Midwest Nationals history to win the event in both the Top Fuel and Funny Car classes. Langdon narrowly edged teammate J.R. Todd in the final round to add a Funny Car title to the Top Fuel win he captured in 2016. This year with the power of the DHL Kalitta Air Top Fuel dragster behind him he will see if he can up the ante and win back to back Midwest Nationals titles in two different classes.
“It was great to get that win last year in the Funny Car but I would definitely like to add a second Top Fuel win this season,” said Langdon. “I am glad to be heading back to a race track right away after the Gatornationals with this DHL Kalitta Air dragster.”
Over Labor Day weekend Langdon and the DHL Top Fuel dragster got a breakout win at the prestigious NHRA U.S. Nationals and last weekend at the historic Gatornationals Langdon raced to the quarterfinals. Competing in two iconic events in a row was a unique experience especially with the chance to do what no one had done before capture consecutive wins at the career defining races.
“We were gunning for that Gatornationals win and we had a streak going since the DHL Kalitta Air dragster had won the previous two years,” said Langdon. “We were decent in qualifying and got a good win the first round. The rest of the day didn’t go our way but we think we have a really good shot in St. Louis. I am glad we are racing back to back since it helps keep you focused.”
This is just the second time this season that NHRA national events have fallen on two consecutive weekends due to the rescheduling and reshuffling of the season schedule. The first time was the restart of the season in early July in Indianapolis so this will be the first time racing at two different facilities since last season.
“I didn’t mind racing at Indy since I live there but it is nice to get out in front of fans in different parts of the country. The fans in Florida were really excited to get to see some racing and I know they will have a great crowd at St. Louis. That facility is really nice and Chris Blair and his staff do a great job,” added Langdon.
The DHL dragster is currently No. 6 in the point standings and with four races remaining the team is definitely in the championship picture.
Last Event Recap (2020 NHRA Gatornationals): Qual. No. 7; Beat Justin Ashley; Lost to Billy Torrence
2020 NHRA Midwest Nationals Recap: In Funny Car – Qual. No. 10; WINNER; Beat to Tommy Johnson Jr., Jim Campbell, Bob Tasca III and J.R. Todd
Quotable: Shawn Langdon on back to back races: “This is just the second time we have raced back to back weekends so it will be good to stay in a racing groove. We are trying to build some momentum off our U.S. Nationals win and we didn’t have the kind of Gatornationals we wanted. I am looking forward to getting back to St. Louis to see if I can get another win there.”
Career Stats: 263 events, 260 starts, 294 round wins, 17 wins, 34 finals, 19 No. 1 qualifiers; in Top Fuel 215 events, 212 starts, 15 wins, 31 finals, 255 round wins, 19 No. 1 qualifiers
Winternationals: Qual. No. 4; Lost to Justin Ashley
Arizona Nationals: Qual. No. 7; Beat Clay Millican; Lost to Steve Torrence
Indy1 NHRA Nationals: Qual. No. 8; Beat Justin Ashley; Lost to Steve Torrence
Indy2 NHRA Nationals: Qual. No. 3; Lost to Justin Ashley
Indy3 NHRA Nationals: Qual. No. 14; Lost to Leah Pruett
U.S. Nationals: Qual. No. 1; WINNER; Beat Joey Haas, Cory McClenathan, Justin Ashley and Leah Pruett
Gatornationals: Qual. No. 7; Beat Justin Ashley; Lost to Billy Torrence
DHL And J.R. Todd Want Four Win Lights This Year in St. Louis
With four races left J.R. Todd and the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car team will need to make a serious move this weekend at the NHRA Midwest Nationals. Sitting in the No. 7 spot he is just 66 points out of fourth place in the standings. A solid weekend could equate to a major points move and a shot at another Funny Car world championship. The DHL Camry team has gotten on a winning streak like this before and over the past month they have shown they have a race car that can go rounds.
“When we won the championship in 2018 we closed out the season with a lot of wins and final rounds,” said Todd. “Ironically St. Louis wasn’t a part of that streak but we went to the finals there last season. I have a lot of confidence looking ahead to this weekend.”
This season has seen Todd and the DHL Toyota Camry team dig deep to stay in the Funny Car title conversation. Todd has raced to two finals but has not been able to break through for that signature win. The final round at the U.S. Nationals is a race that continues to motivate Todd as the season heads into the final stretch.
“You don’t get that many chances to win the U.S. Nationals,” said Todd. “I have been fortunate to get two wins there but you always want more. I feel like we had the car to win that race and things just didn’t go our way. I definitely want to get more U.S. Nationals wins but right now I know we have a great race car and I want to get a streak started in St. Louis.”
World Wide Technology Raceway in St. Louis is one of the closer races for Todd who lives outside of Indianapolis so it has a home track feel for the 2018 Funny Car world champion. He also has a lot of respect for the track management team and the facility as a whole.
“(General Manager) Chris Blair and his staff do an awesome job and that track feels like a home track to me. Any race track you can drive to you know you want to do well. I don’t want to let any opportunities slip away and we are still in this Mello Yello championship battle. Don’t count the Yella Fellas out,” added Todd.
Last Event Recap (2020 NHRA Gatornationals): Qual. No. 7; Lost to Tommy Johnson Jr.
2019 NHRA Midwest Nationals Recap: Qual. No. 8; RUNNER-UP; Beat Jack Beckman, John Force, Robert Hight; Lost to Shawn Langdon
Quotable: J.R. Todd on racing back to back: “This DHL team has been on a pretty good leading up to the last race. We lost a close race at the Gatornationals and we want to get back to our long race days. We had a good race in St. Louis last year and we would like to get those kinds of results again.”
Career Stats: 231 events, 223 starts, 246 round wins, 18 wins, 35 finals, 12 No. 1 qualifiers; in Funny Car 79 events, 79 starts, 9 wins, 15 finals, 98 round wins, 3 No. 1 qualifiers
Winternationals: Qual. No. 8; Lost to Time Wilkerson
Arizona Nationals: Qual. No. 9; Lost to Ron Capps
Indy1 NHRA Nationals: Qual. No. 4; Beat Alex Miladinovich, Alexis DeJoria; Lost to Tommy Johnson Jr.
Indy2 NHRA Nationals: Qual. No. 5; Beat Jim Campbell; Lost to Matt Hagan
Indy3 NHRA Nationals: Qual. No. 5; RUNNER-UP; Beat Mike McIntire, Cruz Pedregon, Paul Lee; Lost to Ron Capps
U.S. Nationals: Qual. No. 8; RUNNER-UP; Beat Blake Alexander, Dale Creasy Jr., and Matt Hagan; Lost to Jack Beckman
Gatornationals: Qual. No. 7; Lost to Tommy Johnson Jr.