Team Kalitta sits third in Funny Car and fifth and seventh in Top Fuel in the point standings. Doug Kalitta will be racing to secure his second Mile-High Nationals Top Fuel title while Shawn Langdon will be looking to stay in the top-tier of the points. J.R. Todd will be looking for Funny Car win number two of 2021
J.R. Todd Looking For Another Win at the Mile-High Nationals
The NHRA Mile-High Nationals begin this weekend and DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car driver J.R. Todd is eager to make a run at history. The 2018 NHRA Funny Car champion has been rewriting the history books as he has developed first as a Top Fuel driver and over the past five seasons as one of the most competitive and successful Funny Car drivers in recent memory. The 10-time Funny Car winner picked up his latest win at the season opening NHRA Gatornationals and this weekend Todd will be looking to join another elite group of drivers. Only two NHRA nitro competitors, Kenny Bernstein and Mike Dunn, have won the Mile-High Nationals in Top Fuel and Funny Car. Todd could add his name to that list by turning on four win lights in his DHL Funny Car on Sunday.
“I am excited to be going back to tracks that we didn’t get a chance to compete at in 2020,” said Todd. “The Western Swing is grueling but I look forward to it. I feel like it challenges the tuners because you go from Denver where you bring out your one time a year mountain tune up then you go to sea level conditions at Sonoma. That is one of my favorite tracks on the tour. It is a tough three race stretch and I don’t want to say it is a make or break point of the year but definitely if you can come out of there with some good momentum that is the right time of year to do it.”
Todd picked up two Top Fuel wins at Bandimere Speedway including a 2006 win his rookie season and then another win in 2014. Only ten Top Fuel drivers have multiple wins at the race track carved into the side of the mountain. The list of drivers who have swept the three races that comprise the Western Swing is even shorter. For Todd the goal of three critical wins in a row is top of mind every season.
“(Sweeping the Western Swing) would be huge,” said Todd. “There have only been a handful of people to do it. I came somewhat close to doing it my rookie year in 2006. I would be happy winning any one of those races. You take the same approach for the swing that we do for every race. We show up trying to win and it getting harder and harder to win out here. It is definitely hard to win three in a row. Anyone that can pull that off I will tip my hat to them. We are going to go out there and try to win as many rounds as we can and rack up as many points as we can.
The higher altitude creates challenges for all the race teams but the thin air is especially tough on the 11,000 horsepower nitro Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars. The drivers can feel the effects during the weekend and even after a three second run to the finish line. Todd doesn’t let the physical and mechanical challenges distract from the main task at hand.
“You can’t treat any race differently. I just go there knowing the conditions will be tough and I try to spend some extra time in the gym leading up to that race,” said Todd. “We want to make sure you are in good shape because it definitely takes a toll on you up on the mountain. I like going back to tracks where I have had success. It would be awesome to win there in a Funny Car. I am looking forward to getting back to that track because the Bandimere family does such a good job promoting we usually have a packed house.”
2019 NHRA Mile High Nationals Highlights (event not contested in 2020): Qual. No. 11; Lost to Matt Hagan
Last Event Recap (2021 NHRA Norwalk Nationals): Qual. No. 9; Beat Mike McIntire, Lost to Ron Capps
Career Stats: 242 events, 234 starts, 262 round wins, 19 wins, 37 finals, 13 No. 1 qualifiers; in Funny Car: 90 events, 90 starts, 10 wins, 17 finals, 114 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
Doug Kalitta Looking to Secure 50th Win at Mile-High Nationals
After almost two years between appearances Doug Kalitta and the Mac Tools Top Fuel team will be making another run at the historic Western Swing starting this weekend at the NHRA Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway. The 2010 Top Fuel national event winner has two runner-up finishes in 2021 and the team is battling at the top of the Top Fuel standings with a grueling three week stretch of races on the horizon.
“The Western Swing will be different this year since we are adding Pomona and not going to Seattle,” said Kalitta, a 49-time Top Fuel national event winner. “All three of those tracks are awesome. Denver is always a little more challenging being at a higher elevation. My Mac Tools guys have a good set-up for all three of those places. I am really looking forward to going out there this year and making something happened.”
The Mac Tools team tested in Indianapolis on Tuesday leading up to the Mile-High Nationals and is full of confidence. The veteran team led by Kalitta and crew chief Rob Flynn know what it takes to get to the winner’s circle and their strong performances at Houston and the Four-Wide Nationals in Las Vegas have shown flashes of success. Winning three races in a row would not be a new experience for Kalitta but getting the sweep of the Western Swing would be a major accomplishment.
“Getting a Western Swing sweep would be awesome. We are more than capable of getting that done. It is a great goal to have going into Denver It would be a huge morale booster for anyone associated with the team for sure,” said Kalitta.
The Mile-High Nationals has a long history of being an NHRA fan-favorite facility. Kalitta has also experienced a long period of success at the track carved into the side of the mountain. HIs win in 2010 was bracketed by final round appearances in 1999, 2001, 2003 and 2009 with his most recent final round in 2018. The six final round appearances make Bandimere Speedway one of Kalitta’s most dominant tracks.
“They run a heck of a show at Bandimere Speedway,” said Kalitta. “The Friday night qualifying is kind of cool because it is late. It is interesting to run on the side of the mountain with the thinner air. You have to get your race car stopped a little quicker. The chutes don’t hit as hard. It is just a great track to race at, the fans are incredible and they have a hell of a set-up for anyone that has experienced it.
The perennial championship contender also has two No. 1 qualifiers at the Mile-High Nationals in 2002 and 2006. With a handful of races left in the regular season Kalitta and the Mac Tools team will begin to set their eyes on the 2021 Countdown to the championship.
2019 NHRA Mike High Nationals Highlights (event not contested in 2020): Qual. No. 5; Beat Scott Palmer; Lost to Antron Brown
Last Event Recap (2021 NHRA Norwalk Nationals): Qual. No. 11; Lost to Antron Brown
Career Stats: 531 events, 524 starts, 720 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
Shawn Langdon and DHL Top Fuel Team Ready to Take on Mountain in Denver
The DHL Kalitta Air Top Fuel team and Shawn Langdon will be getting the famed Western Swing started this weekend at Bandimere Speedway’s NHRA Mile-High Nationals. Kalitta Motorsports has a long history of success on the mountain with Langdon’s crew chief, NHRA icon Connie Kalitta, winning the event twice in the mid-1980s. Langdon’s Top Fuel teammate Doug Kalitta has six final round appearances and a win in 2010 to his credit. The three races in a row will have a new look for 2021 with the run kicking off in Denver, then moving to Sonoma and in a historic switch the inclusion of the postponed Winternational at Pomona capping the swing.
“We are looking forward to heading out there and doing well,” said Langdon. “You are looking at the last couple of races of the regular season and hopefully we can do well. We want to end the regular season on a high note to get the car ready for the Countdown. To win three races is a great feat and we would be very proud to sweep the swing.”
The last time Langdon raced Bandimere Speedway he was piloting an 11,000 horsepower Funny Car. In 2019 he was the No. 2 qualifier and raced to the quarterfinals. In 2020 Langdon moved back to Top Fuel and into the DHL Top Fuel dragster. The swap paid dividends with a U.S. Nationals victory last season and then strong start to the 2021 season and a runner-up finish at the Gatornationals.
Two weeks ago the NHRA Camping World Drag racing Series was in Norwalk, Ohio, at the fan-friendly Norwalk Nationals and with the move to Bandimere Speedway, another well promoted event will treat NHRA fans record setting racing action.
“The Bandimere family is a great family and they do a fantastic job of promoting their race,” said Langdon. “I always get excited to go there because of how much they put into the sport. It is a great race and they have a great relationship with the NHRA.”
Two night time qualifying sessions on Friday and Saturday will precede a full day of eliminations on Sunday beginning at 11 a.m. local time. The event will be broadcast on FS1 from 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. ET.
2019 NHRA Mile High Nationals Highlights (event not contested in 2020): In Funny Car, Qual. No. 2; Beat Terry Haddock; Lost to John Force
Last Event Recap (2021 NHRA Norwalk Nationals): Qual. No. 16; Lost to Steve Torrence
Career Stats: 274 events, 271 starts, 305 round wins, 17 wins, 35 finals, 19 No. 1 qualifiers; in Top Fuel: 226 events, 223 starts, 15 wins, 32 finals, 266 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