POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 11, 2015) – The 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing season comes to a close this weekend as Team Kalitta moves to the Auto Club Finals looking to finish the Countdown strong by continuing the run of success the team has experienced in the last five events.
Through the 18 regular season events, Kalitta Motorsports tallied three victories, but proved to be more than ready for the Countdown for the Championship once it began. Team Kalitta is tied for best among all NHRA nitro teams with four total victories in the five countdown events and is on pace for the best Countdown run of the team’s history.
Del Worsham, driver of the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car and current Funny Car points leader, plans on making the 2015 season even more memorable for the Kalitta Motorsports team.
He has already clinched the best points finish ever for a Kalitta Motorsports Funny Car team, but is looking to achieve even more. Worsham, who lives less than an hour from Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, has led the championship points after every Countdown event. The DHL team comes into the weekend 38 points ahead of his nearest competitor, Jack Beckman, for the Funny Car championship. Tommy Johnson Jr. and Ron Capps are also still mathematically alive for the title.
With two pro titles already clinched, Worsham knows many eyes will be on him and his DHL team as they try to clinch Kalitta Motorsports’ first title since the late Scott Kalitta’s back-to-back Top Fuel championships in the 1994 and 1995 seasons.
“Obviously it is a big weekend,” said Worsham. “I am so proud of my DHL guys; they have stayed focused and consistent throughout the entire countdown run. The finals are here and we plan on doing everything we can to achieve this title for the entire Kalitta Motorsports family.”
Worsham was in a very similar situation during his 2011 Top Fuel Championship. Worsham came into the weekend trailing Spencer Massey by two points, and drove a clutch race defeating Massey in a winner-take-all round that gave Worsham the Auto Club Finals Wally and the Championship trophy.
That win is one of three race wins for Worsham at Pomona. He also has earned Funny Car victories in 2001 and 2003 and is one of four drivers to own Top Fuel and Funny Car Wallys. Earlier this season, Worsham qualified among the top half of the Funny Car field and earned round wins over Chad Head and Courtney Force to earn a semi-final finish.
Fans can spend time with Worsham in many different unique opportunities this weekend. The inaugural Kalitta Softball Classic takes place this weekend at Big League Dreams in Chino Hills on Thursday at 5pm. Worsham will play on the Funny Car team which will be led by captain, Tommy DeLago. Alexis DeJoria and the DHL and Patrón crews will complete the roster. They will face Top Fuel captain Jim Oberhofer, Doug Kalitta, J.R. Todd and the Mac Tools and Optima Batteries groups in the inter-team battle of Top Fuel versus Funny Car.
Once the Auto Club Finals weekend begins, fans can meet Worsham at the Mello Yello Powerhouse and Toyota Pit Pass displays.
Doug Kalitta, driver of the Mac Tools Top Fuel Dragster, rebounded in a big way at the Toyota Nationals in Las Vegas.
Coming into the race weekend in the tenth position in the point standings, Kalitta earned his third victory of the season by defeating a tire smoking Larry Dixon in the final round. Kalitta’s three victories are the most he has recorded in one season since he earned five in back-to-back years in 2005 and 2006.
However, this win did not come easily. After struggling on the first day of qualifying, Kalitta’s crew chief, Jim Oberhofer, made a tough decision to switch chassis. The Mac Tools crew worked tirelessly to switch out all the components to the new chassis, which had not seen the track since Pomona earlier this season. Saturday saw the new machine make two consistent runs, but Kalitta was only able to earn the 13th starting position.
The 13th position proved lucky for Kalitta as the new pipe got better with each run. Kalitta defeated four Countdown drivers on the day: Steve Torrence, Richie Crampton, Antron Brown and Dixon. His run versus Brown proved to be the closest finish of the season for the Top Fuel ranks as Kalitta defeated the newly crowned champion by less than three inches.
The win moved Kalitta from tenth to sixth in the standings, less than one round from a return to the top five. He won at Pomona in 2009 and has advanced to the finals at the track four times since 2010.
“It was great to get a win for Mac Tools and all the distributors in Las Vegas,” said Kalitta. “We want to continue to work on this new chassis and learn so we can be prepared for the 2016 season.”
Alexis DeJoria, driver of the Patrón XO Café Incendio Toyota Camry Funny Car, is on track for her career-best Countdown effort. DeJoria earned her fifth Countdown round win by defeating NHRA legend John Force in the first round of the Toyota Nationals, matching DeJoria’s total from last season.
DeJoria ended with a strong effort at last year’s Auto Club Finals. She earned her third career no.1 qualifier and defeated Gary Densham and Robert Hight to earn a semi-final finish. Pomona is a special place for DeJoria as she became the first female in NHRA history to run a sub-four second pass during the spring event in 2014.
She also has the potential to achieve a new career high in the point standings. She sits just two rounds behind Force for seventh and three rounds back from Hight for sixth.
“It’s been a turbulent season up to this point,” said DeJoria. “We have had some very great runs and round wins, plus we are in the top ten no matter what. This weekend will be about finishing well and hopefully going up in points. And I’ll do my best to not only win but be one hell of a blocker for Del!”
DeJoria will be signing autographs at the Toyota Pit Pass display and Patrón merchandise hauler.
J.R. Todd, driver of the Optima Batteries Top Fuel Dragster, finishes his first complete season for Kalitta Motorsports this weekend.
One of his eight career victories came at Pomona when he claimed his fourth career win at the Winternationals in 2007. He defeated future teammate Doug Kalitta in the quarterfinals, before talking down friend Brandon Bernstein in the final round.
Todd, who will finish among the top ten drivers for the second consecutive year and fourth year overall, has struggled in recent weeks, but is feeling optimistic going into the weekend.
“It has been a tough couple races for the Optima Batteries guys,” said Todd. “We want to end the season on a high note and then begin work on how we can get better for next season.”
Last season, Todd finished the season strong with a top five qualifying effort and a semi-final finish after defeating Bob Vandergriff and Steve Torrence in the first two rounds.
Two more round wins in this year’s edition of the Auto Club Finals could be big for Todd as he sits just 40 points from seventh in the standings.
Todd will meet fans at various stops this weekend including sessions at the Top Eliminator Club. He will also join his teammate, Doug Kalitta, at the SealMaster display on Saturday.
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About Kalitta Motorsports:
Based in Ypsilanti, Mich., Kalitta Motorsports is a Top Fuel and Funny Car drag racing team in the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. The team was founded and is owned by drag racing icon Connie “the Bounty Hunter” Kalitta. For more than 50 years, Connie has been involved in the sport as a driver, tuner, and an owner. Kalitta Motorsports is one of the most successful teams in the history of auto racing with five world championships and over 100 national event titles in five different professional drag racing sanctioning bodies since it was established by Connie in 1959.
Del Worsham drives the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car for Team Kalitta. Alexis DeJoria pilots the Tequila Patrón XO Café Incendio Toyota Camry Funny Car. J.R. Todd drives the Optima Batteries Top Fuel dragster while Connie’s nephew, Doug Kalitta, pilots the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster. Connie serves as head tuner for all Team Kalitta entries. He is assisted by co-crew chiefs Jon Oberhofer and Nick Boninfante on the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car, by Tommy DeLago and Glen Huszar on the Tequila Patrón XO Café Incendio Toyota Camry Funny Car, and by Jim Oberhofer on the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster. Connie serves as crew chief on the Optima Batteries Top Fuel dragster.
Associate sponsors on Kalitta Motorsports’ race cars include Justice Brothers, Kalitta Air, Optima Batteries, Patrón XO Café Incendio, Phoenix Fuel Converter, Red Line Oil, SealMaster, Summit Racing Equipment, Technicoat Companies, TMS Titanium, Toyota and Ziebart.