Kalitta Motorsports, the defending 2015 NHRA Funny Car champions, preview the Circle K Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona. This is the first race of 24 in the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello NHRA season.
Worsham relishes opportunity to defend title
Del Worsham, driver of the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car, returns to Auto Club Raceway for the first time a Funny Car Champion. One of just three drivers to claim a title in both nitro classes, Worsham looks forward to the chance to defend his championship.
His 2015 run to the title was like none other before him. Worsham earned victories in four of the six Countdown for the Championship events, a first for the Funny Car class. In addition, Worsham and his DHL ‘Yella Fellas’ are the only team to run four consecutive three-second passes on raceday. They achieved that distinction in their second of back-to-back wins to start their title surge in St. Louis.
At the last race in Pomona, Worsham ran well throughout qualifying. He once-again reset his career-best elapsed time and MPH in qualifying, running multiple laps below the 3.90 second range. Sunday came and the DHL team defeated their two closest pursuers for the title, Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr., in the final two rounds to claim the championship and the event victory.
“It has been an incredible off season and we have enjoyed the chance to celebrate the title,” said Worsham. “However, even in celebration, my DHL Toyota guys were hard at work. I am excited for the opportunity to defend this title and look forward to racing in my backyard to start off the new season.”
His four late season victories moved him to 38 overall which places him into the top 20 of NHRA history, while the 30 wins in the Funny Car class puts him in a tie for seventh with one of Worsham’s childhood heroes, Kenny Bernstein.
While Worsham is a three-time Auto Club World Finals winner (2003, 2011, 2015), he is searching for his first Winternationals trophy at the track that is just 30 minutes from his home base. Twice he has come close: coming up just short in finals against John Force in 1993 and 2002. This race is definitely one that Worsham would like to cross off his list and show his competition that he is hungry to defend his title.
Kalitta ready to hit the career pinnacle
Doug Kalitta, driver of the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster, continued his career resurgence in 2015 and begins the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello season ready for more.
Kalitta, who is coming off his 18th straight top ten points finish, earned his most victories in one year since the 2006 season. The 2015 wins were special. Kalitta stopped Tony Schumacher in Houston to help NHRA start the Top Fuel season with six different drivers winning in the first six events. Next up, a dominant performance at Kalitta Motorsports’ home track in Norwalk, Ohio. Starting from the no.1 spot, Kalitta’s Mac Tools ride was consistent throughout race day and reached the winner’s circle after having to change the engine three times before the last pass during a quick live TV turn-around schedule. The final win of the season, Las Vegas’s fall event, saw Kalitta take the special Breast Cancer Awareness Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster to the finish line. That race was not without its struggles either as a Saturday morning chassis change yielded a bottom-half qualifying effort. Kalitta dug out of that early hole to become the lowest qualifier to win a Top Fuel race last season.
Often regarded as the best Top Fuel driver without a title on his resume, Kalitta has reeled off his best three-season run since the early 2000s with three straight top five points finishes. However, there is only one goal this season and that involves a speech at the championship banquet at the end of the season.
Kalitta’s team received an in-house chassis in the offseason and worked through the new parts at the inaugural Nitro Spring Training in Phoenix. In addition, the Mac Tools team experiences the addition of manufacturer support for the first time with backing from Toyota and Toyota Racing Development (TRD).
“I am excited to get this season started,” said Kalitta. “I think the Mac Tools team has everything in place for a great complete season. I am ready to get to Pomona and see what we have.”
Kalitta is the 2009 Circle K Winternationals winner and has earned the no.1 starting spot at this event four times, most recently in 2014.
Todd has fresh outlook for 2016
For J.R. Todd, driver of the SealMaster Top Fuel dragster, it would probably be easier to talk about what did not change versus what did.
Todd has a new co-crew chief in Rob Flynn. Flynn has tuned drivers to victories in four NHRA classes, and comes over from Dote Racing where he led Leah Pritchett to career-best numbers in the 2015 season.
Todd has a new primary sponsor in SealMaster. After running six different schemes in the 2015 season, Todd will have one for 2016 as Kalitta partner SealMaster jumps from two primary events to entire season in 2016.
He also has new manufacturer support with Toyota and several new crew members. However, even with all the changes, Todd is excited to have stability with Kalitta Motorsports. For the first time in his career, he will begin his third season with the same team.
Since joining Kalitta Motorsports in the 2014 season, Todd has achieved an average of a round win per race but with all of the changes and upgrades in the offseason he is looking for more. He is coming off a season where he earned another victory. The Seattle win completed a personal career Western Swing sweep, but the ninth place points finish was disappointing. The new season gives Todd and the SealMaster team a fresh start and they are ready to take advantage.
“Kalitta Motorsports has really put forth a ton of new resources in the off season to really strength my chances at the title, so to say I am thrilled to start the new season would be an understatement,” said Todd. “The new SealMaster machine looks sharp and fast, and with the Toyota and TRD support, I could not be more confident to head into the new season.”
Todd earned his fourth career victory and his first career points lead at this event in 2007. He is competing in his second Circle K Winternationals with Kalitta Motorsports.
DeJoria’s new look leads kicks off historic race
Alexis DeJoria, driver of the Tequila Patrón Toyota Camry Funny Car, starts 2016 with a huge accomplishment.
DeJoria will earn begin her 100th race weekend in Pomona where she officially shows off her new look. Her first 99 starts, all with Kalitta Motorsports, have yielded three wins, including a coveted U.S. Nationals trophy and two consecutive Countdown for the Championship appearances. In 2015, DeJoria began the countdown in the tenth position and made a two spot improvement achieving her career high in Countdown round wins.
The 2014 Auto Club Finals no. 1 qualifier comes into Pomona looking for her first career Winternationals final round appearance. With family and friends making plans to attend this career weekend, this season’s race in Pomona could prove to be very special for DeJoria.
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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 six world championships and over 100 national event titles in five different professional drag racing sanctioning bodies since it was established by Connie in 1959.
Team Kalitta is the home of the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car World Champions, Del Worsham. He drives the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car. Alexis DeJoria pilots the Tequila Patrón Toyota Camry Funny Car. J.R. Todd drives the SealMaster 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, Tommy DeLago and Glen Huszar on the Tequila Patrón Toyota Camry Funny Car, Rob Flynn on the SealMaster Top Fuel dragster and Jim Oberhofer on the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster.
Associate sponsors on Kalitta Motorsports’ race cars include ARP, AutoDesk CAM, Champion, Cogistics, Darton Sleeves, DHL, Justice Brothers, Kalitta Air, Mac Tools, Optima Batteries, Phoenix Fuel Converter, Red Line Oil, SealMaster, Summit Racing Equipment, Technicoat Companies, Tequila Patrón, TMS Titanium, Toyota and Ziebart.