Doug Kalitta and Mac Tools Looking for Third Win at Heartland NHRA Nationals
Doug Kalitta and the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster continue to be one of the toughest and most consistent race cars on the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Last weekend’s semifinal finish at the Route 66 NHRA Nationals was further proof the team will be tough the rest of the season and well into the Countdown. As the No. 5 qualifier Kalitta and the Mac Tools team established in qualifying they had a handle on a tricky race track after facing a wide variety of weather conditions.
“We kind of qualified in all sorts of conditions going into race day,” said Kalitta. “We had a couple of night time sessions because of weather on Saturday but we were ready for race day. We went some rounds and I just got aggressive in the semifinals against Mike Salinas on the starting line or who knows how we would have finished up.”
Three years ago Kalitta drove the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster into the winner’s circle at Heartland Park for his second win in Kansas. It was the ninth Top Fuel win for Team Kalitta in Kansas. The late Scott Kalitta dominated Top Fuel at Heartland Park picking up six wins from 1993-1997 when the track hosted multiple NHRA national events. David Grubnic secured a Top Fuel win in 2012 for Team Kalitta.
“We have had a great history winning in Top Fuel at Heartland Park Topeka,” said Kalitta. “My cousin Scott was awesome at Heartland Park in the 90s. He won four years in a row in one stretch. I have been to five final rounds and we would definitely like to get another win there.”
With another Top Fuel win, his third, Kalitta would move into sole position as the No. 2 all-time Top Fuel winner at Heartland Park Topeka behind his cousin Scott. The veteran driver is also closing in on a major career milestone. The Heartland Park NHRA Nationals will be his 499th career race and during that career the Michigan based driver has picked up 45 Top Fuel victories.
2018 Heartland NHRA Nationals Highlights: Qualified No. 8; Beat Scott Palmer; Lost to Clay Millican
Last Event Recap (2019 Route 66 NHRA Nationals): Chicago: Qual. No. 5; Beat Shawn Reed, Pat Dakin; Lost to Mike Salinas
Quotable: Kalitta on heading to Topeka: “This Mac Tools team is ready for Topeka. We had a good run going in Chicago. This is a race car that can win races and we just need a few things to go our way. Heartland Park is a great place to get a win streak started.”
Career Stats: 498 events, 491 starts, 665 round wins, 45 wins, 97 finals, 49 no. 1 qualifiers
Winternationals: Qual. No. 7, WINNER; Beat Scott Palmer, Billy Torrence, Terry McMillen and Steve Torrence
Arizona Nationals: Qual. No. 5, Beat Jim Maroney; Lost to Jordan Vandergriff
Gatornationals: Qual. No. 11, Beat Terry McMillen, Steve Torrence; Lost to Clay Millican
Las Vegas1: Qual. No. 7, Beat Terry McMillen and Steve Chrisman; Beat Steve Torrent and Richie Crampton; Lost to Mike Salinas and Brittany Force
Houston: Qual. No. 8, Beat Terry McMillen; Lost to Brittany Force
Charlotte1: Qual. No. 4; Beat Richie Crampton and Lex Joon; Lost to Clay Millican and Leah Pritchett
Atlanta: Qual. No. 3; Lost to Shawn Reed
Richmond: Qual. No. 5; Lost to Scott Palmer
Chicago: Qual. No. 5; Beat Shawn Reed, Pat Dakin; Lost to Mike Salinas
Noteworthy: With another Top Fuel win, his third, Kalitta would move into sole position as the No. 2 all-time Top Fuel winner at Heartland Park Topeka
J.R. Todd and DHL Toyota Camry Looking for Breakthrough Win in Kansas
With three final round appearances and win at the Las Vegas Nationals reigning Funny Car champion J.R. Todd is doing his best to prepare for another Mello Yello Funny Car championship. The driver of the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car has maintained his position near the top of the Mello Yello points all season. Last weekend in Chicago Todd, the No. 6 qualifier, was upset by fellow Funny Car world champion John Force in the first round. It was a loss that Todd will put behind him but not forget.
“You have to be ready to race everyone in this class,” said Todd. “You can’t take anyone for granted no matter where they are qualified. I knew he would be tough and we just let one get away from us. I will do a better job the next time but the biggest positive is we have a fantastic race car.”
In the opening round of Chicago Todd’s Toyota Camry Funny Car posted an elapsed time of 3.938 seconds which was the second quickest run of the session and ultimately the second quickest run of the entire day of eliminations. That kind of performance on race day has the nine-time Funny Car national event winner eager to get to Kansas.
“Team Kalitta has had a lot of success at Heartland Park in Top Fuel,” said Todd. “I would love to break through in Funny Car. The exciting thing is my DHL Camry is running well and so is my teammate (Shawn Langdon). That is a great combination when we can share info between the teams. Also TRD has been amazing in giving us data we can use. We are heading into the summer months and we have race cars that can run in any condition I feel.”
Just two races ago Todd was on the verge of picking up his second win of 2019 with a runner-up finish in Richmond. Now heading into his second race of a four races in four weekends schedule Todd is focused on creating some long work days on Sunday.
“No one is going to give me another Mello Yello championship during the month of June. We can get ourselves ready to defend our championship during the Countdown with strong runs now. The key is be consistent and then really come out swinging at Indy and over the last six races. I love all these DHL Toyota crew guys and (crew chiefs) Todd (Smith) and Jon (Oberhofer) are busting their asses to give me a great race car. I just want to do my best for them and all our sponsors,” added Todd.
2018 Heartland Park NHRA Nationals Highlights: Qualified No. 4; Beat Dale Creasy Jr., Jack Beckman; Lost to Courtney Force
Last Event Recap (2019 Route 66 NHRA Nationals): Qual. No. 6; Lost to John Force
Quotable: J.R. Todd on racing at Heartland Park: “Heartland Park is a track where Team Kalitta has had a lot of success in Top Fuel and I would like to get a streak going in Funny Car. We have the team and the race car to get it done.”
Career Stats: 209 events, 201 starts, 223 round wins, 18 wins, 32 finals, 10 no. 1 qualifiers; in Funny Car: 57 events, 57 starts, 9 wins, 12 finals, 74 round wins, 1 no. 1 qualifier
Winternationals: Qual. No. 9; Lost to Bob Tasca III
Arizona Nationals: Qual. No. 5; RUNNER-UP; Beat Terry Haddock, Tommy Johnson Jr., Robert Hight, Lost to Matt Hagan
Gatornationals: Qual. No. 11; Lost to Jack Beckman
Las Vegas1: Qual. No. 4; WINNER; Beat Gary Densham and Jim Campbell in first quad, Matt Hagan and Jeff Diehl in second quad and in the final quad beat Tommy Johnson Jr., Jack Beckman and Tim Wilkerson.
Houston: Qual. No. 4; Beat Jim Campbell; Lost to Robert Hight
Charlotte1: Qual. No. 8; Beat Bob Tasca III and Bob Glibertson; Lost to Shawn Langdon and Robert Hight
Atlanta: Qual. No. 2; Beat Jim Campbell; Lost to Tommy Johnson Jr.
Richmond: Qual. No. 4; RUNNER-UP; Beat Bob Tasca III, Shawn Langdon, Jonnie Lindberg; Lost to Ron Capps
Chicago: Qual. No. 6; Lost to John Force
Strong Performance Has Langdon and Global Electronic Technology Team Ready for Kansas
Heading into the second race of four-in-a-row stretch Funny Car driver Shawn Langdon is putting the memory of a tough finish at the Route 66 NHRA Nationals behind him. The second year Funny Car driver easily escaped serious injury, thanks to a variety of safety features in his Global Electronic Technology Toyota Camry Funny Car, after a significant engine explosion in the first round in Chicago. Langdon was well on his way to the quarterfinals when he gave his 11,000 horsepower Funny Car a quick feathering of the throttle before the engine let go, bursting into flames in front of Langdon.
“It was running good and it was actually on a strong run,” explained Langdon. “I was trying to run a low 3.90 and probably would have been a top three run of the round. It went out there and took the tire off. I got off the gas and as soon as I got back on it the thing boomed on me pretty good. That is the first one I have had like that. I was not expecting that and it blew the body up. It tried to split it in half but luckily these guys at Toyota Racing gave me a safe Camry race car. The tether system did its job of keeping the body on the race car.”
Last week Langdon had his best qualifying effort of the season with a No. 4 starting position. The improvement of qualifying positions has the Carolina National Funny Car winner eager to get back on the race track in Topeka for the Heartland Park NHRA Nationals this weekend.
“We have been running quick in qualifying and that is going to obviously help us on race day,” said Langdon. “I think Del (Worsham) and Nicky (Boninfante) have a great tune-up and these Global Electronic Technology crew guys are giving me a great race car. The past four races we have started from really close to the top of the field. That gives you a lot of confidence.”
Langdon has tasted victory at Heartland Park Topeka winning the Top Fuel title in 2013. A Funny Car win would make Langdon the only driver to win at the historic track in both Nitro Mello Yello categories. Last year he raced to a semifinal finish in his first Funny Car race at the historic facility.
“I won at Heartland Park a few years ago in Top Fuel and it would be cool to get a Funny Car win at that track too. This Funny Car class is incredibly tough. You have to get four quality round wins to get a Wally. That is also what makes it so fun. You know you have to bring your best effort to the starting line every run,” added Langdon.
In the five days between Chicago and Topeka the Team Kalitta fabrication and machine shop will be busy. Yesterday they took delivery of another Global Electronic Technology Toyota Camry Funny Car body. They are also evaluating the damaged chassis from Langdon’s first round explosion to make sure it is sound for continued use in competition. All the activity has Langdon appreciative of the team behind him.
“I really appreciate everyone behind the scenes and all the hundreds of hours they put in to give us all fast and safe race cars. We are going to get our other body out for Topeka,” explained Langdon at the end of the day on Sunday in Chicago. “We have another body that is being put together as we speak. It was a big enough explosion that we are going to put the chassis on the jig and make sure it didn’t bend any of the frame rails. The guys are actually leaving (Sunday night) to go back to the shop to get the chassis on the jig (on Monday) and make sure everything is straight. We just don’t want any problems when we go to Topeka.”
2018 Heartland NHRA Nationals Highlights: Qualified No. 10; Beat Ron Capps, Jonnie Lindberg; Lost to Robert Hight
Last Event Recap (2019 Route 66 NHRA Nationals): Qual. No. 4; Lost to Jeff Arend
Quotable: Langdon on experiencing first significant motor explosion in Chicago: “It is what it is. You can’t put a motor behind you in a Funny Car. I want to race Funny Cars and I am really starting to like them. That run definitely got my attention but I will be ready to get back inside this Global Electronic Technology Funny Car in Topeka.”
Career Stats: 241 events, 238 starts, 270 round wins, 15 wins, 31 finals, 18 no. 1 qualifiers; in Funny Car 33 events, 33 starts, 20 round wins, 1 wins, 1 finals, 0 no. 1 qualifiers
Winternationals: Qual. No. 6; Beat Jim Campbell; Lost to Tommy Johnson Jr.
Arizona Nationals: Qual. No. 7; Beat Cruz Pedregon; Lost to Matt Hagan
Gatornationals: Qual. No. 10; Lost to Cruz Pedregon
Las Vegas1: Qual. No. 8; Lost to Tim Wilkseron and Jeff Diehl
Houston: Qual. No. 10; Beat Cruz Pedregon; Lost to Ron Capps
Charlotte1: Qual 5; WINNER; Beat Jeff Diehl and Terry Haddock; Beat J.R. Todd and Tommy Johnson Jr; Beat Robert Hight, John Force and Matt Hagan
Atlanta: Qual. No. 6; Lost to Ron Capps
Richmond: Qual. No. 5; Beat Tim Wilkerson; Lost to J.R. Todd
Chicago: Qual. No. 4; Lost to Jeff Arend
Noteworthy: Langdon became just the 17th racer to win in both Top Fuel and Funny Car when he picked up his first Funny Car win in Charlotte.
Hunting for Second Win in Topeka has Richie Crampton and DHL Team Focused
Richie Crampton has recent experience with success at Heartland Park Topeka, site of this weekend’s NHRA National event. In 2015 Crampton raced to victory besting Kyle Wurtzel, Spencer Massey, Brittany Force and multi-time world champion Larry Dixon to pick up his lone win in Kansas. This weekend at the Heartland Park NHRA Nationals, Crampton will be piloting his DHL Top Fuel dragster at the historic track in search of his second win of 2019.
“We picked up that win at the Gatornationals in March and since then we just haven’t hit the right combination on race day. We have been competitive and quick but we just need to get a little better which is why we do this. Every run you learn something and you have to put it all together on race day.”
For a driver like Crampton who also puts in many hours at the shop putting race cars together seeing the on track success keeps him motivated. Last weekend the team struggled in qualifying and made a solid run in the final session to get qualified as the No. 11 Top Fuel dragster out of over 20 on the property. The team looked at the data and race car’s performance and they put together a winning combination for a tough first round opponent.
“We knew it was going to be a tough first-round draw against Austin Prock and the JFR team,” said Crampton. “They’re just as hungry for round wins as we are. It felt good to turn on the win light. Connie (Kalitta) and Kurt Elliott tuned a great race car for me and we were able to get down there first.”
In the second round Crampton ran into the most dominating Top Fuel dragster on the tour right now. Facing the reigning world champ and winner of the last three races the DHL team knew they needed to step up against Steve Torrence.
“In the second round, we knew we’d have to aim high and we just smoked the tires early,” said Crampton. “All in all, it was another good day at the office for this DHL Toyota team. We knew it was going to be a tough race day no matter what. We had a pretty stacked side of the ladder. But there’s really no easy side anymore. Now we’ll just focus on trying to get some more round wins next week in Topeka.”
2018 Heartland Park NHRA Nationals Highlights: Qualified No. 10; Lost to Brittany Force
Last Event Recap (2019 Route 66 NHRA Nationals): Qual. 11: Beat Austin Prock; Lost to Steve Torrence
Quotable: Crampton on heading to Topeka: “That is a fast race track. I have had some success there but I would definitely like to pick up my second win at Heartland Park and my second win of 2019 this weekend.”
Career Stats: 112 events, 111 starts, 94 round wins, 9 wins, 11 finals, 5 no. 1 qualifiers
Winternationals: Qual. No. 6, Lost to Terry McMillen round one
Arizona Nationals: Qual. No. 15, Lost to Terry McMillen round one
Gatornationals: Qual. No. 12, WINNER, Beat Antron Brown, Leah Pritchett, TJ Zizzo and Clay Millican
Las Vegas1: Qual. No. 6, Beat Scott Palmer, Cameron Ferre; Lost to Doug Kalitta and Brittany Force
Houston: Qual. No. 13; Lost to Clay Millican
Charlotte1: Qual. 12; Lost to Doug Kalitta and Leah Pritchett
Atlanta: Qual. 7; Lost to Scott Palmer
Richmond: Qual. 7; Lost to Austin Prock
Chicago: Qual. 11: Beat Austin Prock; Lost to Steve Torrence