CONCORD, N.C. — Doug Kalitta gave Kalitta Motorsports and legendary team owner Connie Kalitta their first-ever zMAX Dragway Top Fuel win during final eliminations Sunday at the 10th annual NHRA Carolina Nationals.
Robert Hight (Funny Car) was also a winner in nitro racing at zMAX Dragway, during the first of six races in NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
In an all-Kalitta final round, ‘Air Doug’ powered his Mac Tools dragster to a run of 3.775 seconds at 318.39 mph, defeating his teammate Richie Crampton, who trailed in the SealMaster dragster with a 3.876 at 306.40.
The win was Kalitta’s first of the year and the 43rd of his career, which ranks fifth on the all-time class wins list.
“It’s nice to get a Charlotte win. We’ve been coming here a lot of years,” said Kalitta, who was also the No. 1 qualifier. “It’s a great day for Connie (Kalitta) as well, having two Top Fuel cars in the final. Richie did a great job. He was climbing into that car for the second race and he made it to the final and did a great job.”
Just before the semifinals, Kalitta’s team had to change the cylinder heads and manifolds in the engine and he barely made it to the starting line in time to race Clay Millican, but did so and went on to win with a flourish.
Kalitta beat out Chris Karamesines, Tony Schumacher and Millican before taking out Crampton in the final round.
Crampton, in just his second race driving the SealMaster dragster, drove past Scott Palmer, points leader Steve Torrence and Brittany Force before falling to Kalitta.
On a surprising Sunday of competition, the top four in Top Fuel points were all eliminated prior to the semifinals.
That allowed Kalitta to soar from fifth to first in the standings and assume a 14-point lead over Torrence, who entered the Countdown as the No. 1 seed after seven victories during the regular season.
An all-John Force Racing final in Funny Car saw Hight romp to victory over teammate Courtney Force, running 3.943 at 328.86 in the Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro to defeat Force’s losing 3.980 at 315.19 in the Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro.
Hight’s win was his third of the season, third at Charlotte and 40th of his career. It also gave him the points lead for the first time since winning the championship at the end of the 2009 season.
“This is probably one of the toughest race days we’ve ever had,” Hight said. “All four rounds were countdown competitors. If you race Matt Hagan first round, you better not go up there shy and I’ve got the right guy for that, Jimmy Prock. He went up there and we got low e.t. of race day.
“You move on to Tommy Johnson, another countdown car with multiple wins this year and right up there in the points. We got him. Then there was J.R. Todd, who has been on a hot streak lately winning some races,” he added. “It was pretty cool to get to the final with Courtney.”
Hight took out Matt Hagan, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Indianapolis winner J.R. Todd on his way to the victory.
C. Force defeated Bob Gilbertson, her father John Force and Alexis DeJoria, reaching her 21st-career final round before losing to Hight.
Ron Capps, who was the top seed in points entering the Countdown, fell to Todd in round two and trails Hight by 44 points leaving Charlotte.
Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also victorious in their respective classes Sunday at zMAX Dragway.
For more on the Pro classes, click here.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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