J.R. Todd will be looking to defend his 2021 Gatornationals title and Top Fuel Gatornationals finalist Shawn Langdon will be looking to win his first title in Florida. NHRA Arizona Nationals No. 1 qualifier Doug Kalitta will be aiming for his fourth Gatornationals win when the three Kalitta Motorsports race car hit the track. Langdon and Kalitta will also be racing in the $130,000 Pep Boy Allstar Callout race on Saturday.
Doug Kalitta and Mac Tools Racing for Fourth Gatornationals Title
In the history of the Gatornationals only six racers have stood in the winner’s circle three or more times. Top Fuel veteran Doug Kalitta is on that list, but this weekend the driver of the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster would like to join and even more exclusive list as one of only four drivers with four wins at the fabled race Florida race track. The current group of four-time winners includes Hall of Famers Joe Amato, Larry Dixon and Don Garlits. Kalitta collected wins in 2000, 2005 and 2014 at the Gatornationals and the 49-time winner will be looking to add another prestigious victory to his list of accolades.
“Any time you win the Gatornationals it is a huge deal,” said Kalitta. “There is so much history there. This is where the first 300 mile per hour run was made by Kenny Bernstein. You look at the legends that have won here and the list is long. To get a fourth win here would be really special.”
The Mac Tools team will bring performance momentum to the Gatornationals on the heels of their 51st No. 1 qualifying effort two weeks ago at the NHRA Arizona Nationals. Kalitta clocked the quickest run of his career on Friday night of qualifying with a blistering 3.657 second run.
“That 3.65 was a great run and we made some more over the weekend,” said Kalitta. “I have a lot of confidence in (crew chiefs) Alan Johnson and Brian Husen. I know we are on the right track.”
This race weekend will also be the opportunity for Kalitta pick up a win during the Pep Boys Allstar Callout specialty race. By virtue of his No. 1 qualifying effort in Phoenix Kalitta catapulted into the No. 7 qualifier position in the eight-car field racing for a $130,000 total purse with the race winner getting $80,000.
“The Pep Boys race will be exciting for sure,” said Kalitta. “All eight of these cars are tough and the callout element should make it a lot of fun. I am glad Shawn (Langdon) and I have a shot at that $80,000.”
Friday qualifying will begin at 5:30 p.m. and on Saturday there will be two rounds of qualifying on Saturday. The Pep Boys Allstar Callout race will be run in conjunction with qualifying with the two finalists racing for the $80,000 at the end of the day on FOX national broadcast. Final eliminations for the Gatornationals will be contested on Sunday beginning at 11 a.m.
2021 NHRA Gatornationals Highlights: Qual. No. 4, Beat Arthur Allen; Lost to Justin Ashley
Last Event Recap (2022 Arizona Nationals): Qual 1; Lost to Rob Passey
Career Stats: 546 events, 539 starts, 723 round wins, 49 wins, 107 finals, 51 No. 1 qualifiers
Winternationals: Qual. 5; Lost to Tony Schumacher
Arizona Nationals: Qual. 1; Lost to Rob Passey
Shawn Langdon and CMR Top Fuel Team Aiming for Double Win at Gatornationals
The Gatornationals will conclude a swift start to the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series schedule with this weekend’s NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway. Over the course of three of the last four weekends Shawn Langdon and his DHL Kalitta Air Top Fuel team have tested in Phoenix and raced in the first two national events of the season. Langdon will switch liveries this weekend and race a new look CMR Construction & Roofing Top Fuel dragster to kick-off a six-race primary sponsorship relationship with the award-winning national roofing company. Back-to-back races may bother some competitors, but Langdon sees the constant seat time as an advantage to start the season.
“The beginning of the season is tough. You have had two months off and then you make a couple laps in testing and then you go to Pomona,” said Langdon. “Fortunately, this year we went to testing then right to Pomona and then right to Phoenix. I really like the summer months when you are racing almost every weekend. For me as a driver I feel like I am at my best when I am driving week after week. I like getting four weekends at the track in five weeks to start this season. I am feeling really confident.”
That confidence will be on display after he raced to the quarterfinals at the Arizona Nationals and returns to a race where he opened the 2021 season with a runner-up finish. It was the 2013 Top Fuel world champion’s best finish at the Gatornationals and the search for one more win light will begin on Friday with the first round of qualifying.
“It would be awesome to get a win with CMR Construction & Roofing on my dragster since this would be their first race of 2022 as the primary. They are going to be primary for six races so getting off to a strong start would be great. They are going to have a lot of guests at the track over the weekend and it would be great to wind up in the winner’s circle with all of them.”
CMR roofing is also leveraging Kalitta Motorsports VIP Pit-Side hospitality experience to entertain some of their largest customers including West Gate Resorts with members of their senior executive team. Fans will also see West Gate Resorts brand participating as an associate sponsor on Shawn Langdon’s CMR Roofing Top Fuel dragster this weekend.
“We know that West Gate Resorts who are based in Orlando have some avid drag racing fans so what would be better, to come out and see the CMR/West Gate Resorts Top Fuel dragster compete for the win this weekend in Gainesville,” said Steve Soule.
Success on the track is right around the corner as the CMR Construction & Roofing Top Fuel dragster has been making improved runs every time down the track for almost a month. Over the off-season Kalitta Motorsports brought veteran tuner Jason McCulloch onboard to work with Connie Kalitta and Kurt Elliott on Langdon’s race car. The trio of Top Fuel experts led by drag racing legend Kalitta are making positive adjustments every run.
“The car has been running really well through testing, Pomona and Phoenix,” said Langdon. “We had a couple runs where we had some racing gremlins. Those are the kind of things that sometimes happen early in the season when you have a lot of new things going on. We have worked through that very well. Jason McCulloch is a huge addition to our team to work with Connie and Kurt of course. He brings a wealth of knowledge to our team. It has paid big dividends so far this year and we have already made some of our quickest runs over the last couple of years in the first two races.”
Langdon will not only be racing for his first Gatornationals victory, but he will be competing in the inaugural Pep Boys Allstar Callout $130,000 specialty race on Saturday. Eight of the best Top Fuel drivers in the world will be competing for $80,000 first place check. Langdon has experience winning specialty races when he won 2013 Traxxas Top Fuel Nitro Shootout on the way to his first Top Fuel world championship.
2021 NHRA Gatornationals Highlights: RUNNER-UP; Qual. No. 6; Beat Doug Foley, Leah Pruett, Antron Brown; Lost to Josh Hart
Last Event Recap (2022 Arizona Nationals): Qual 7; Beat Antron Brown; Lost to Mike Salinas
Career Stats: 289 events, 286 starts, 311 round wins, 17 wins, 35 finals, 19 No. 1 qualifiers; in Top Fuel: 241 events, 238 starts, 15 wins, 32 finals, 272 round wins, 19 No. 1 qualifiers
Winternationals: Qual 8; Lost to Josh Hart
Arizona Nationals: Qual 7; Beat Antron Brown; Lost to Mike Salinas
Back-to-Back Gatornationals Titles on the Table for J.R. Todd and DHL Funny Car Team
In over five decades of Gatornationals NHRA national events there have been 17 drivers that have picked up a singular win at the first ‘major’ NHRA season. Last year J.R. Todd added his name to that list when he drove his DHL Toyota Funny Car into the winner’s circle. This weekend Todd will be looking to race his new look DHL Toyota GR Supra Funny Car to back-to-back wins at Gainesville Raceway. Four different drivers have won two in a row at the Gators including Ron Capps (2006-07), Ed McCulloch (1989-90), Kenny Bernstein (1984-85) and Frank Hawley (1982-83). Two legends have scored longer streaks with Don Prudhomme winning three years in a row from 1974-76 and John Force dominating with five wins in a row from 1992-96. Getting a second win at the Gatornationals would be a huge statement for Todd and his DHL team.
“You look at the drivers that have gone back-to-back at the Gatornationals and it is a list of legends and Hall of Famers,” said Todd. “Last year’s win was pretty special to start the season with a win and get us off on the right foot. We have the new Supra Funny Car now so it would be cool for its first win on the NHRA tour to be the Gatornationals.”
Last season’s win put Todd into the points lead and he was in title contention for the entire season. Coming down the home stretch leading into the Countdown and through the six race playoffs Todd reached four more final rounds and three more semifinals. The DHL team is working to rebuild that level of consistency with a brand-new race car design.
“This new Toyota GR Supra Funny Car is awesome and only getting better,” said Todd, after the first two NHRA national events. “The team at Toyota Gazoo Racing North America has done a great job on the design and everyone at Kalitta Motorsports had input so we all feel like we are super invested in the success of this Funny Car. It is cool to see the strides we have made over the off-season and where we are going. I think we will see more success this weekend at the Gatornationals.”
Through two races Todd has qualified in the top half of the field twice and raced to the quarterfinals at the season opening Winternationals. Starting the season with three races in four weeks is a positive in Todd’s mind since it gets him right into a racer’s mindset. It also helps keep his DHL Funny Car team in race mode early in the season.
“I love being in my race car and getting to race three weekends out of four to start the season plus a weekend of testing really gets me in the groove,” said Todd. “We are working on a lot of things on the race car so being at the track every weekend is a big plus. This weekend is almost a home game for me since I moved to Florida last year.”
Funny Car qualifying will get underway on Friday afternoon with one session followed by two sessions on Saturday. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday with Todd looking for his 11th Funny Car career victory.
2021 NHRA Gatornationals Highlights: WINNER; Qual. No. 6; Beat Blake Alexander, Tim Wilkerson, Cruz Pedregon and Robert Hight
Last Event Recap (2022 Arizona Nationals): Qual 8; Lost to Alexis DeJoria
Career Stats: 257 events, 249 starts, 282 round wins, 19 wins, 40 finals, 14 No. 1 qualifiers; In Funny Car: 105 events, 105 starts, 10 wins, 20 finals, 134 round wins, 5 No. 1 qualifiers
Winternationals: Qual 8; Beat Bobby Bode; Lost to Ron Capps
Arizona Nationals: Qual 8; Lost to Alexis DeJoria