Doug Kalitta Looking for Continued Success in Topeka
With five final round appearances including two wins at the Menards NHRA Nationals Doug Kalitta is looking to become the second winningest Top Fuel driver in Heartland Motorsports Park history this weekend. The track, aptly named “The House of Speed,” has been a strong facility for Kalitta Motorsports throughout its history. The late Scott Kalitta has the most Top Fuel wins at the event with six which is three times as many as the No. 2 Top Fuel drivers. Beginning this Friday Doug Kalitta will look to power the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster to its first win of the season to go along with two runner-up finishes.
“We are working on our consistency and trying to create as much power as we can without hurting this thing,” said Kalitta. “Everyone on this Mac Tools team is pulling together and we know we have a few races before the U.S. Nationals and the Countdown. It was crazy hot in Pomona and I think it will be plenty warm in Topeka so we will give it our best shot.”
Two weeks ago the Mac Tools team wrapped up one of the most challenging Western Swings in recent memory. The NHRA teams started on the mountainside in Denver, dropped to sea level in Sonoma and then battled track temperatures that soared over 140 degrees in Pomona, which replaced Seattle on the swing schedule. The Winternationals in July was a twist that had Kalitta and his team working overtime to get down the track.
“You look at the conditions in Pomona and no one had really raced on a track that was that hot,” said Kalitta. “We have had hot tracks in Norwalk and Topeka but nothing like two weeks ago in California. I am hoping some of that data can come in handy this weekend. This track can be fast and we are looking forward to putting up some good number in qualifying on Friday night.”
Throughout his history at Heartland Motorsports Park Kalitta has turned on a lot of win lights on race day. His first win at the track came in 2006 and he followed that up ten years later with another win in 2016. Prior to those two victories he had three runner-up finishes in 2004, 2003 and 2000. In the middle of those performances he also picked up his lone No. 1 qualifier in Kansas at the 2005 national event.
“You like coming to tracks where you have had a lot of success even if it was a few years ago,” said Kalitta. “This Mac Tools team is hungry for more wins and this could be a great turn around weekend for us.”
This season Kalitta has raced to two runner-up finishes including a dominant race in Houston at the Springnationals. The team has added quarterfinal finishes and has held its position in the Top Fuel top ten but round wins this weekend would give the Mac Tools team momentum going into the home stretch of the regular season.
“Drag racing gives you an opportunity to win every time you get on the track,” said Kalitta. “I know what this Mac Tools team is capable of and we showed that earlier in the season. We can get back on track and really be in contention for this championship pretty quickly.”
2019 NHRA Menards Nationals Highlights (event not contested in 2020): Qual. No. 5; Beat Leah Pruett; Lost to Antron Brown
Last Event Recap (2021 NHRA Winternationals): Qual. No. 6; Lost to Clay Millican
Career Stats: 534 events, 527 starts, 721 round wins, 49 wins, 107 finals, 50 No. 1 qualifiers
Gatornationals: Qual. No. 4; Beat Arthur Allen; Lost to Justin Ashley
Las Vegas1: RUNNER-UP; Qual. No. 3; Beat Troy Buff and Rob Passey, Beat Shawn Langdon and Leah Pruett; Lost to Steve Torrence
Atlanta: Qual. No. 9; Lost to Antron Brown
Charlotte1: Qual. No. 12; Beat Josh Hart, Billy Torrence, Kyle Wurtzel; Lost to Brittany Force, Josh Hart
Houston: RUNNER-UP; Qual. No. 9; Beat Brittany Force, Antron Brown, Shawn Langdon; Lost to Steve Torrence
Epping: Qual. No. 5; Beat Shawn Langdon, Lost to Mike Salinas
Norwalk: Qual. No. 11; Lost to Antron Brown
Denver: Qual. No. 4; Lost to Leah Pruett
Sonoma: Qual. No. 8; Beat Mike Salinas; Lost to Steve Torrence
Pomona1: Qual. No. 6; Lost to Clay Millican
Todd Looking to Make More Moves In Topeka
Getting back to the race track a week after racing to his third final round of the season has J.R. Todd excited and motivated. The DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car team blew through a tough race day of opponents at the NHRA Winternationals and developed what the team feels is a strong hot weather tune up that could serve them well at Heartland Motorsports Park this weekend. With track temperatures hitting over 140 degrees in Pomona the Todd Smith and Jon Oberhofer tuned Funny Car navigated both lanes on race day to set Todd up for a strong final round performance.
“I felt very confident going into the race that we had a race car that could run in the heat,” said Todd, “I don’t think anyone has seen a track that hot and for us to make solid runs on race day was a huge testament to these Yella Fellas on the DHL team.”
Todd opened the season with a win at the Gatornationals and followed it up with a runner-up finish at the Charlotte Four-Wide Nationals. His DHL Toyota Camry has one of the best race day records experiencing only on first round loss all season. That kind of race day performance has Todd in the thick of one of the tightest Funny Car point battles in the past few years. Less than three rounds of racing separate Todd who is sixth place from the top spot in the category.
“You look at the point standings and it could not be any tighter when you think about it,” said Todd. “We have had nine races and the top six drivers are only 57 points apart. One good weekend can jump you right to the top. I like our chances in Topeka as well as Brainerd and for sure Indy. These last three regular season races can set us up for a strong run in the Countdown for sure.”
In 2007 Todd raced to the final round in Top Fuel at the NHRA Topeka Nationals. The last time the event was contested in 2019 Todd secured his second career No. 1 qualifier. The 2018 Funny Car champion now has four career No. 1s in Funny Car including one from this season’s Southern Nationals.
2019 NHRA Menards Nationals Highlights (event not contested in 2020): Qual. No. 1; Beat Bye; Lost to Robert Hight
Last Event Recap (2021 NHRA Winternationals): RUNNER-UP; Qual. No. 7; Beat Jeff Diehl, Robert Hight, Jim Campbell; Lost to Ron Capps
Career Stats: 245 events, 237 starts, 266 round wins, 19 wins, 38 finals, 13 No. 1 qualifiers; in Funny Car: 93 events, 93 starts, 10 wins, 18 finals, 118 round wins, 4 No. 1 qualifiers
Gatornationals: WINNER; Qual. No. 6; Beat Blake Alexander, Tim Wilkerson, Cruz Pedregon and Robert Hight
Las Vegas1: Qual. No. 9; Beat Cruz Pedregon and Jonnie Lindberg; Lost to Ron Capps and Bob Tasca III
Atlanta: Qual. No. 1; Beat Alexis DeJoria, bye; Lost to John Force
Charlotte1: RUNNER-UP; Qual. No.4; Beat Terry Haddock, Jim Campbell, Tim Wilkerson; Beat Mike McIntire, Terry Haddock; Lost to John Force, Beat Cruz Pedregon, Alexis DeJoria
Houston: Qual. No. 8; Beat John Force; Lost to Bob Tasca III
Epping: Qual. No. 9; Beat Cruz Pedregon, Lost to John Force
Norwalk: Qual. No. 9; Beat Mike McIntire, Lost to Ron Capps
Denver: Qual. No. 7; Lost to Bob Tasca III
Sonoma: Qual. No. 12; Beat John Force; Lost to Robert Hight
Pomona1: RUNNER-UP; Qual. No. 7; Beat Jeff Diehl, Robert Hight, Jim Campbell; Lost to Ron Capps
Langdon and DHL Ready To Make Noise at Heartland Motorsports Park
With three races remaining in the NHRA regular season Shawn Langdon and the DHL Kalitta Air Top Fuel team are in control of their destiny in the Top Fuel standings. The 2013 Top Fuel champion will be returning to Heartland Motorsports Park back behind the wheel of a Top Fuel dragster for the first time in three years. This season Langdon and his DHL team have been working on consistency and preparing for the seven race Countdown which will begin right after the historic U.S. Nationals. The two races preceding that event including this weekend’s NHRA Topeka Nationals will be excellent opportunities to build momentum.
“We fought through a tough Western Swing and now we have a couple races to get ready for the U.S. Nationals and the Countdown,” said Langdon. “It was good to have a weekend off after three in a row but I am ready to get back on track this weekend in Topeka. You can put up some good numbers there and I know the fans will be ready to see us.”
Last year the event was not contested but the passion of the Kansas area fans will return in full strength this weekend. The competition has been very strong in Top Fuel with multiple winners and a tight point battle near the top of the leader board. Langdon is currently fifth in points just a little over three rounds out of fourth place. Exiting the U.S. Nationals the points will be reset and all the top ten teams compacted together for the final seven races.
“The regular season is important, but your goal at the beginning of the year is to get into the Countdown and give yourself a shot at the championship,” said Langdon. “We are on track to do just that. Anyone can win the championship once the Countdown starts but I definitely want to be in the top half of the top ten going in. I have a lot of confidence in this DHL Top Fuel team that we can do just that.”
Langdon opened the season with a runner-up finish at the Gatornationals and has shown flashes of dominance over the next nine races. Back to back quarterfinal finishes in Sonoma and Pomona, California have given the team some direction and with hot track conditions potentially coming back into play at Heartland Motorsports Park this weekend Langdon knows he could have a quick race car.
“Every time I get into this DHL Kalitta Air Top Fuel dragster I know Connie Kalitta and Kurt Elliott are giving me a race car that could go to the No. 1 spot or win the round,” said Langdon. “I just need to do my job to work with the team and give us all a chance to win. This is a total team effort and I am excited to be getting to Topeka to see what we can do.”
The reigning U.S. Nationals winner won the Menard NHRA Nationals in 2013 from the No. 1 qualifier position and then followed it up with a runner-up finish in 2014. This weekend qualifying will begin on Friday night with two more sessions on Saturday. Final eliminations will begin on Sunday at 11 a.m. with the race being televised on a Fox national broadcast.
2019 NHRA Menards Nationals Highlights (event not contested in 2020): In Funny Car – Qual. No. 8; Lost to Robert Hight
Last Event Recap (2021 NHRA Winternationals): Qual. No. 5; Beat Jim Maroney; Lost to Antron Brown
Career Stats: 277 events, 274 starts, 307 round wins, 17 wins, 35 finals, 19 No. 1 qualifiers; in Top Fuel: 229 events, 226 starts, 15 wins, 32 finals, 268 round wins, 19 No. 1 qualifiers
Gatornationals: RUNNER-UP; Qual. No. 6; Beat Doug Foley, Leah Pruett, Antron Brown; Lost to Josh Hart
Las Vegas1: Qual. No. 6; Beat Troy Buff and Rob Passey; Lost to Doug Kalitta and Steve Torrence
Atlanta: Qual. No. 11; Beat Leah Pruett, Mike Salinas; Lost to Steve Torrence
Charlotte1: Qual. No. 11; Lost to Antron Brown and Krista Baldwin
Houston: Qual. No. 7; Beat Josh Hart, Justin Ashley; Lost to Doug Kalitta
Epping: Qual. No. 8; Lost to Doug Kalitta
Norwalk: Qual. No. 16; Lost to Steve Torrence
Denver: Qual. No. 8; Lost to Clay Millican
Sonoma: Qual. No. 9; Beat Clay Millican; Lost to Antron Brown
Pomona1: Qual. No. 5; Beat Jim Maroney; Lost to Antron Brown