Pre-Race #SouthernNats

Doug Kalitta

Team Kalitta looks to continue to dominate 2019 season with four wins in six races including two each in Top Fuel and Funny Car. Each Team Kalitta driver has tasted victory and maintains Top Ten point position.

Recent Funny Car Winner Shawn Langdon Looking To Make It Two In A Row

When the Southern Nationals gets underway this weekend Shawn Langdon, driver of the Global Electronic Technology Toyota Camry Funny Car, will start the race with a brand new feeling. He will enter the race as the most recent Funny Car winner after his first victory in the class last weekend in Charlotte. The first Funny Car win was one of the toughest for Langdon to acquire and he earned every round win on Sunday.

Racing in the unique four-wide format Langdon ran beside two-time Funny Car champion Robert Hight in the opening quads before outrunning the Funny car points leader in the final. Langdon also defeated 16-time Funny Car champion John Force and two-time Funny Car champion Matt Hagan in the final quad. It was an epic victory for Langdon and his Toyota Camry Funny Car team.

“There are so many things that I’ve gone through to get to this point,” said Langdon after the win. “The reason why I’m sitting here is because of the people I’ve been surrounded by with the Global Electronic Technology Toyota Camry team. I’ve been so fortunate to have the opportunity to race for a legend like Connie Kalitta.”

The win came in Langdon’s 30th Funny Car start and added Langdon’s name to the roster of Team Kalitta winners for 2019. Team Kalitta has been represented in either a Top Fuel or Funny Car final round at five of the first six races with every Team Kalitta winning at least once. Additionally, Langdon’s teammate J.R. Todd was the runner-up at the Arizona Nationals.

With the win Langdon becomes the 17th driver to win in Top Fuel and Funny Car following in the tire marks of his teammate Todd who was just the 16th driver to reach that goal.

“It’s humbling when my name gets put next to those guys,” said Langdon. “I grew up idolizing so many of those guys. I grew up running around and trying to get their autographs and going back home and playing with hot wheels and those were the drivers I played with. Just to have my name next to them is one of those things that I just really don’t know how to take it. I’m very happy that I’m here, but a lot of times I’ll think I don’t know what I did to deserve that. It’s very humbling and I’m very gracious to have my name beside those guys.”

The win moved Langdon up to eighth place in the Mello Yello point standings and his is just one point out of seventh place. Most importantly the win opens the door for another successful weekend at the Southern Nationals. The Global Electronic Technology driver is looking for his first win at the historic track this weekend. As his experience level grows behind the wheel of the Funny Car Langdon continues to get instruction from legendary team owner Connie Kalitta.

“I was telling a story the other day that I was up in Richie (Crampton’s lounge) and I was on the simulator up there working on my reaction times,” said Langdon. “Connie took time out of his day and sat down next to me and I looked at him and asked him if he was doing alright and he said, ‘Yep, I’m just keeping an eye on you, though, making sure you’re getting the treatment.’  He sat there and watched me, then he gave me a couple of little pointers. Working with a guy like that and having a guy like J.R. Todd as a teammate and he’s a champion. So I bounce ideas off him all of the time.”

Langdon also gets great insight from his crew chiefs Nicky Boninfante and Del Worsham.  

“Working with Nicky Boninfante, who’s been out here for years and worked with some of the greatest drivers in the sport.  Then to bring Del Worsham in has been a key factor. After I did a bit of a drifting job in the second round (in Charlotte), Del told me you can’t do that in the final. We looked at the race packet between sessions and he told me I needed to turn down the steering a little bit because it’s a hot track and if you do it again like that it’s going to smoke the tires. Just working with these guys has really elevated my game in terms of driving,” added Langdon. 

2018 Southern Nationals Highlights:  Qualified No. 9; Lost to Tim Wilkerson

Last Event Recap (2019 Charlotte Four-Wide Nationals): Qual. No. 5; WINNER; Beat Jeff Diehl and Terry Haddock; Beat J.R. Todd and Tommy Johnson Jr; Beat Robert Hight, John Force and Matt Hagan

Quotable: Langdon on first win: “The guys we had to go through today in the second round and the finals was the best in the class. To get this win is very gratifying. I went .069 in the final and left fourth. It just shows how good these guys are and how hungry they are to win. There’s so many things going on in my life, that I just sat in the car and closed my eyes and said just give me this one time right here, I need to use it. I don’t say that too often, but this time it worked.”

Career Stats: 238 events, 235 starts, 269 round wins, 15 wins, 31 finals, 18 no. 1 qualifiers; in Funny  Car 30 events, 30 starts, 19 round wins, 1 wins, 1 finals, 0 no. 1 qualifiers

2019 Season: 
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

Noteworthy: With most recent Funny Car win Langdon became just the 17th racer to win in both Top Fuel and Funny Car.

Doug Kalitta

Doug Kalitta Eyeing Fourth Southern Nationals Win for Mac Tools

Doug Kalitta has been racing at historic Atlanta Dragway since 1998. In that time the 45-time Top Fuel winner has hoisted the Top Fuel Wally three times, most recently in 2016. One more win would make him one of the winningest Top Fuel racers ever at the Southern Nationals joining Antron Brown and Larry Dixon with four victories apiece. That kind of record is a nice achievement for Kalitta but not his main goal.

“You want to win at every race track. We have had some success in Atlanta for sure. Our goal at Team Kalitta and with this Mac Tools Toyota team is to race for that Mello Yello championship. We got off to a good start this season and we are going rounds. I am focused on doing my job driving and I know the round wins will come.”

The Mac Tools Toyota dragster started the season with a win at the Winternationals and over the first six races has been Top Fuel points leader for most of the season. Heading in to Atlanta the Kalitta is just two rounds out of the top spot.

The key to Kalitta’s success has been solid qualifying efforts and his nearly psychic reaction times on race day. The team has only started from the bottom half of the field one time and still raced to the semifinals at the Gatornationals.

“We have a great group of guys over here with this Mac Tools Toyota team. I have to do my job on race day because they are giving me a great race car. I have a lot of confidence in this team and I am very happy with how everyone at Team Kalitta is succeeding,” added Kalitta.

2018 Southern Nationals Highlights: Qualified No. 6; Beat Richie Crampton; Lost to Steve Torrence

Last Event Recap (2019 Charlotte Four-Wide Nationals): Qual. 4; Advanced to second quad; Beat Richie Crampton and Lex Joon; Lost to Clay Millican and Leah Pritchett 

Quotable:  On back-to-back races; “This is when you can get into a groove. We can put Charlotte behind us and get right back to work. This Mac Tools Toyota team is doing so many things right. I am looking forward to getting back to the track in a few days in Atlanta.”

Career Stats: 495 events, 488 starts, 45 wins, 97 finals, 663 round wins, 49 no. 1 qualifiers

2019 Season: 
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

Noteworthy: Doug Kalitta is one win away from joining Antron Brown and Larry Dixon as winningest Top Fuel drivers at the Southern Nationals

JR Todd

Funny Car Champion J.R. Todd Excited For Festivities and Racing Action

This weekend reigning Mello Yello Funny Car champion will start the Arby’s NHRA Southern Nationals with a whole new experience. On Thursday night Todd will officially be presented with his Mello Yello Funny Car championship ring and jacket by Coca-Cola executives at the annual NHRA champion’s banquet in Atlanta. The winner of six races in 2018 including his second U.S. Nationals and three in the Countdown, Todd is eager to represent Team Kalitta and the Funny Car class as champion.

“Maybe that is when it will totally sink in,” said Todd “I haven’t officially been presented by championship jacket and ring. I get it at the Coke dinner on Thursday. That will be pretty cool. It will be good to hang out with all the past champions. That is what it is all about, getting the respect from your peers. To me that is the coolest part of being the champ so far. It will be nice to go there and relax and hang out with the Coca-Cola executives.”

The race itself will be a welcome challenge to Todd who last year was upset in the first round after qualifying No. 7 in the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car. Todd is looking for his first win at the historic track north of Atlanta. He does have a runner-up finish to his credit competing in Top Fuel in 2016.

Last weekend Todd was bidding for his second consecutive four-wide nationals win of 2019 at zMAX Dragway but he his day was ended by teammate Shawn Langdon in the second quad. The nine-time Funny Car winner is eager to put last weekend behind him and get back into his DHL Toyota Funny Car.

“You never want to have a week off after smoking the tires or something like that. It is nice to be able to get back in the car in a few days and go back to traditional racing. We are going to focus on winning more races and gaining more points. Get ready for a long summer.”

Todd picked up his first win of the 2019 NHRA season at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and also has a runner-up finish at the Arizona Nationals. The early season success has the third year Funny Car driver in a tie for fourth place in the Mello Yello Funny Car standings. As the team moves into the busy summer schedule Todd is ready to add more round wins to his total.

“I love this part of the season when we are racing all the time. Now we will be at the track almost every week and we will get into a great rhythm. This DHL Toyota team wants to keep that No. 1 on the side of this Camry for as long as possible. There are a lot of tough competitors out there,” added Todd.

2018 Southern Nationals Highlights: Qualified No. 7; Lost to Jack Beckman

Last Event Recap (2019 Charlotte Four-Wide Nationals): Qual. No. 8; Advanced to second quad; Beat Bob Tasca III and Bob Gilbertson; Lost to Shawn Langdon and Robert Hight

Quotable: J.R. Todd on teammate Shawn Langdon’s first Funny Car win: “That is pretty cool. I didn’t even think about the fact that I was the 16th driver to win in Funny Car and Top Fuel and now he is the 17th.  A year or so ago I really thought he would be the next driver to do that. They have had their ups and downs. It seemed like they couldn’t catch a break. I am proud they finally broke through. It is going to happen a lot more now. I am glad that he was the one to be No. 17. It is awesome to be able to share that accomplishment with him.”   

Career Stats: 206 events, 198 starts, 18 wins, 31 finals, 219 round wins, 10 no. 1 qualifiers; in Funny Car: 54 events, 54 starts, 9 wins, 11 finals, 70 round wins, 1 no. 1 qualifier 

2019 Season: 
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

Richie Crampton

Richie Crampton and DHL Focusing on Atlanta Success

With a third of the regular season in the record books Richie Crampton and the DHL Top Fuel team are looking forward to maximizing the next 12 races before the Countdown. Both of the unique four-wide nationals are in the rearview minor and as the team moves into the summer months they know they have the leadership and team to continue to build on their early season success.

“I am definitely looking forward to getting back to the regular two wide racing.  We know it will be a warm race in Atlanta but I think (crew chiefs) Connie (Kalitta) and Kurt Elliot have a few tricks up their sleeves. For me it will be getting back to normal and keeping my rhythm. I am reasonably happy with how I have been driving on race day. I am as confident as ever.”

The confidence is well earned for the back-to-back Gatornationals winner and nine-time Top Fuel winner. So far this season he has been on the wrong end of some tough round losses to teammate Doug Kalitta during both four-wide races.

“One thing you have to learn out here is every round is tough,” said Crampton. “The competition is fierce and I learn a lot from racing with and against drivers like Doug (Kalitta). You look at how long he has been successful and how strong he is on the starting line. Everyone at Team Kalitta strives to be the best when it comes to reaction time and I am continuing to raise my game.”
2018 Southern Nationals Highlights: Qualified No. 11; Lost to Doug Kalitta

Last Event Recap (2019 Charlotte Four-Wide Nationals): Qual. No. 12; Lost to Doug Kalitta and Leah Pritchett

Quotable: Crampton on both four-wide nationals: “The four-wide has been tough for sure. We will conquer it at some point for sure. It is just a wild card race. We know we have a good race car. We haven’t totally executed on raceday but I know it’s right there. My DHL Toyota boys will keep digging and so will I.”

Career Stats: 109 events, 108 starts, 93 round wins, 9 wins, 11 finals, 5 no. 1 qualifiers

2019 Season: 
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