Doug Kalitta, enters the event as the Top Fuel Mello Yello points leader after his third consecutive final round appearance of 2020. Top Fuel teammate Shawn Langdon and Funny Car teammate J.R. Todd will be looking to move further up the Top Ten standings as the series returns to Indianapolis.
Doug Kalitta Looking to Take Osborn To Indy Win
The Mac Tools team keeps rolling and racing to final rounds with Doug Kalitta holding onto a strong Mello Yello points lead in Top Fuel. Last weekend Kalitta qualified No. 2 and raced to his third consecutive final round of the 2020 NHRA season, fourth final in a row going back to last year’s Auto Club finals and seventh final in the last ten races. The consistency and dominance of the Mac Tools Toyota Top Fuel dragster has Kalitta excited to get back to the track this weekend for the NHRA SummerNationals in Indianapolis.
“These Mac Tools guys have been busting their tails,” said Kalitta. “Rob (Flynn) and Troy (Fasching) gave me a great car in qualifying and we got three more round wins on Sunday. I think we are in a great spot and I just want to keep racing.”
This weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis Kalitta will be sporting a new look, the blue and white of new Kalitta Motorsports sponsor Osborn. The race car was unveiled on Tuesday and was put through the paces last Friday during the NHRA pre-race test session. The brand new look will give Kalitta even more motivation to excel on track this weekend.
“We are excited to show off this Osborn Top Fuel dragster,” said Kalitta. “We have been working on this program from a while and the car looks great. I think we are running it a couple of times but this weekend is the big debut. We also have new partner Mobil 1 up front on this race car and we can’t thank those guys enough for their help as well.”
Last weekend Kalitta hit a significant career milestone when he picked up his 700th round win in Top Fuel. He is only the second Top Fuel driver to every reach this milestone and to achieve it at the historic track in Indianapolis was especially important.
“There is so much history at Indy,” said Kalitta. “You look at the U.S. Nationals and all the big names that have won here. I was lucky to add my name to that list last year and then to get the 700th round win here is really cool. I am looking to get a lot more round wins and I have a lot of people to thank for their support but most of all I have to thank Connie (Kalitta) for giving me this opportunity.”
In addition to Osborn coming onboard at the end of last year Kalitta Motorsports has been reaping the benefits of new sponsors Mobil 1 and NGK Spark Plugs. Both of those performance relationships have contributed to the overall success of all three Kalitta race cars but none more than the Top Fuel dragster Kalitta has been wheeling since February.
“We have been having a great season and I think so much of our success has been because of sponsors like Toyota with TRD, Mobil 1 and NGK Spark Plugs. These companies all give us great products and also support and research away from the track. There are a lot of things we learn on the track that goes back to them for use on the consumer side and we get the benefit of a lot of motorsports expertise from them that we use on the NHRA side. It is a real win-win for everyone,” added Kalitta.
Last Event Recap (2020 NHRA Indy1 Nationals): Qual. No. 2; RUNNER-UP; Beat Lex Joon, Leah Pruett and Antron Brown; Lost to Billy Torrence
Quotable: Doug Kalitta on getting season re-started: “The first race in Indy was a good one for the Mac Tools Toyota team. We kept our momentum from the first two races and I don’t think we missed a beat. I am glad we will be getting right back at it.”
Career Stats: 516 events, 509 starts, 700 round wins, 48 wins, 104 finals, 50 No. 1 qualifiers
Winternationals: Qual. No. 5; WINNER; Beat Brandon Welch, Justin Ashley, Brittany Force and Austin Prock
Arizona Nationals: Qual. No. 8; RUNNER-UP; Beat Shawn Reed, Brittany Force and Antron Brown; Lost to Steve Torrence
Indy1 NHRA Nationals: Qual. No. 2; RUNNER-UP; Beat Lex Joon, Leah Pruett and Antron Brown; Lost to Billy Torrence
Shawn Langdon and DHL Ready for Round Two at Indy This Weekend
Getting back into the swing of things was easy for Shawn Langdon, driver of the DHL Top Fuel dragster, during the relaunch of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season. He was at a hometown race track for the Danville, Indiana resident and he was continuing a streak of drag racing that previously included primarily bracket races but gave him valuable seat time none the less. By his account heading into last weekend’s NHRA national event he had raced 24 days and made 132 passes in his sportsman dragster. After his weekend in Top Fuel he can add a couple days of racing and two more passes.
As the No. 8 qualifier Langdon outran No. 9 qualifier Justin Ashley in the first round and was ousted by No. 1 qualifier Steve Torrence in the quarterfinals. Langdon’s opening round 3.789 second run was a huge performance jump from his qualifying time and gave the 2013 NHRA Top Fuel champion momentum headed to the quarterfinals. In the second round Langdon fell off a little in performance but was overall pleased with his team’s effort.
“We got back in the groove of things pretty well,” said Langdon. “We would have liked to have been qualified a little higher but we were top half and there were quite a few good race cars here. The conditions were pretty tough on Saturday and we stepped it up pretty good on Sunday.”
The new format of one day of qualifying with two sessions and then right into race day at 9 a.m. local time was an adjustment that Langdon rolled with successfully.
“I am used to making runs early in the morning with my bracket car,” said Langdon. “There are times we could be making runs at 8 a.m. so hitting the tree at 9 a.m. wasn’t too bad. It just means you need to get a good night’s sleep which isn’t a problem. The biggest thing is those two qualifying runs. You can’t afford to get behind the eight ball on that first run. You have to be aggressive but also smart. That is why I love racing with (team owner and crew chief) Connie Kalitta. He can do it all and I always feel very comfortable.”
Last weekend there were eighteen Top Fuel dragsters vying for sixteen spots in the field and this weekend could be equally as tough. With the removal of the Countdown playoff format Langdon knows that every race and every round win moves him closer to the point leader and teammate Doug Kalitta. Langdon is currently seventh in the Mello Yello Top Fuel point standings but the DHL Top Fuel dragster is less than three rounds out of second place.
“Doug has a pretty good lead on everyone but I think we can move up in the points this weekend for sure,” said Langdon. “There are a couple people that are within one round and then if the ladder falls right we could move up three or four spots. The key will be to get a low qualifying spot and then run quick on Sunday.”
Last Event Recap (2020 NHRA Indy1 Nationals): Qual. No. 8; Beat Justin Ashley; Lost to Steve Torrence
Quotable: Shawn Langdon on first race back last weekend: “I have been racing a lot of bracket races so I was in a racing groove but nothing compares to this DHL Top Fuel dragster. We had a good start or restart I guess. I felt really good in the dragster and we made some good runs in qualifying. I think we will be even better when we come back this weekend.”
Career Stats: 259 events, 256 starts, 289 round wins, 16 wins, 33 finals, 18 No. 1 qualifiers; in Top Fuel 211 events, 208 starts, 14 wins, 30 finals, 250 round wins, 18 No. 1 qualifiers
Winternationals: Qual. No. 4; Lost to Justin Ashley
Arizona Nationals: Qual. No. 7; Beat Clay Millican; Lost to Steve Torrence
Indy1 NHRA Nationals: Qual. No. 8; Beat Justin Ashley; Lost to Steve Torrence
DHL and J.R. Todd Focused on Indy Success
Back to back racing weekends in Indianapolis have DHL Toyota Camry driver J.R. Todd excited to get the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series restarted. After a slow start at the first two events in February Todd and his DHL team came out swinging at the NHRA National event last weekend qualifying No. 4 and racing to a semifinal finish. The strong finish moved Todd into the Funny Car Top Ten and also has him just under two round wins from the Top Five.
“It was good to go some rounds on Sunday for sure,” said Todd. “I know my guys worked hard over the time we had off to look at a few things and we all have a new chassis. We tested on Thursday and Friday leading up to the race but there is really no substitute for the pressure of a race weekend. We did a really good job all things considered.”
The new race format of two qualifying sessions and then a race on Sunday didn’t faze Todd and his DHL Toyota team. They came off the trailer on Saturday and posted one of the quickest times of the first qualifying session. In the second session they held fast and went into race day as one of the four quickest Funny Cars.
“We knew qualifying was going to be important,” said Todd, a two-time U.S. Nationals winner. “(Crew chief) Todd Smith and Jon Oberhofer did a great job setting the car up. I had a lot of confidence even with a hot track. The two days of testing also helped. I think we will be even better this weekend. It will be cool to come right back here and race. We had some fans and to be on the FOX national broadcast was big.”
In the last four events contested at Lucas Oil Raceway Todd has two wins and two semifinal finishes. This track is just minutes from his home and has always held a special place for the 2018 Funny Car world champion. As a youngster Todd raced junior dragsters at this facility and in the past three year this race track has become home to some of his most significant wins.
“Winning the U.S. Nationals in 2017 and 2018 was amazing. The 2018 win was huge because it set us up for the run for the Mello Yello championship. We got on a roll after that win and went all the way. I am hoping these two races in Indy get us going in the right direction and we can come back Labor Day weekend and get that third U.S. Nationals win,” added Todd.
Last Event Recap (2020 NHRA Indy1 Nationals): Qual. No. 4; Beat Alex Miladinovich, Alexis DeJoria; Lost to Tommy Johnson Jr.
Quotable: J.R. Todd on getting back into race mode: “It was just good to be back at the race track. I missed my crew guys and the rest of the Kalitta Motorsports team. We had a good weekend and I think we will continue to get better. We have a new chassis and I think it is showing Todd (Smith) and Jon (Oberhofer) a lot of promise.”
Career Stats: 227 events, 219 starts, 239 round wins, 18 wins, 33 finals, 12 No. 1 qualifiers; in Funny Car: 75 events, 75 starts, 9 wins, 13 finals, 91 round wins, 3 No. 1 qualifiers
Winternationals: Qual. No. 8; Lost to Time Wilkerson
Arizona Nationals: Qual. No. 9; Lost to Ron Capps
Indy1 Nationals: Qual. No. 4; Beat Alex Miladinovich, Alexis DeJoria; Lost to Tommy Johnson Jr.