MADISON, Ill. – Racing against a talented Top Fuel field in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, veteran Doug Kalitta knows he has his work cut out for him if he hopes to win his first NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championship.
But it’s his team-driven focus that has put him in position to claim that title.
Kalitta won the first race of the NHRA’s six-race playoffs and currently sits second in points heading to this weekend’s the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park.
As the Countdown to the Championship hits the halfway mark, Kalitta has once again positioned himself as a contender in his 10,000-horsepower Mac Tools dragster, thanks part to his successful mindset.
“We are just focused on ourselves,” Kalitta said. “Our plan is to keep making great passes in the Mac Tools Toyota. We plan on continuing to qualify strong and race strong as well. It is very important to run strong in St. Louis. It is the halfway point in the Countdown and our Mac Tools team is focused on being at or near the top, so we can be ready for the last three races.”
Kalitta sits just 22 points behind points leader Steve Torrence and the longtime standout’s quest for a first world title is one of the big storylines during the Countdown to the Championship.
But the even-keeled Kalitta won’t let that pressure get to him. He remains locked in on his own performance, even against a loaded Top Fuel field that also includes Reading winner Brittany Force, who is one point behind Kalitta; back-to-back world champion Antron Brown; Clay Millican; eight-time world champ Tony Schumacher and four-time 2017 winner Leah Pritchett.
That strong Countdown to the Championship start included his first win of the year in Charlotte, putting him in the points lead.
Torrence jumped past him last weekend in Reading, but 43-time race winner Kalitta appears to be putting together his best performances of the season at the perfect time.
“With the Countdown format, no one is out of it,” said Kalitta, who fell in the second round in Reading. “My Mac Tools team plans ahead and is focused on running the regular season strong to be as high up as possible, and then focus on each race at a time in the Countdown.”
The strength of the Kalitta Motorsports team is certainly a big boost to Kalitta during the Countdown to the Championship as well. He faced off with teammate Richie Crampton in the Charlotte final, while defending event winner Langdon is also a Countdown competitor.
With three wins at Gateway Motorsports Park (2004, 2003, 2001), Kalitta is confident about his team’s chances this weekend in St. Louis.
“It has been great to see our Funny Cars run so well,” Kalitta said. “They have really hit on some great tuneups, especially in the heat and J.R. and Alexis are doing a great job driving them. Our goal going into each race is to win both Top Fuel and Funny Car and with the performance of our Toyota Camry Funny Cars we know that is attainable.”
CREDIT: NHRA Communications