Kalitta Drives Toyota To U.S. Nationals Title
INDIANAPOLIS, IN – Doug Kalitta defeated Billy Torrence in the Top Fuel finals to win Monday’s NHRA U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis. The victory gives Kalitta his first U.S. Nationals crown in 22 years of competition and marks the tenth U.S. Nationals title for a Toyota driver.
Kalitta won a thriller in his opening round win, running identical 3.721-second passes with Clay Millican, but Kalitta’s .060 reaction time gave him the holeshot victory by .003 seconds. He then moved on to face pole-sitter Brittany Force in round two. Once again, Kalitta had the starting line advantage and never trailed in winning by .016 seconds. That sent the Mac Tools Toyota driver into the semifinals where Austin Prock had a slight lead at the tree, but was up in smoke early as Kalitta went straight down the track for the victory.
In the finals against Torrence, Kalitta again had the advantage at the tree and after Torrence smoked his tires, Kalitta had a solid lead at 660 feet, only to have his tires spin and lose power around 800 feet. He was able to coast across the finish line ahead of Torrence by .080 seconds for the win.
“This is history,” said Kalitta after his first U.S. Nationals win. “Everything that Connie (Kalitta) has done to make this happen. It’s just so special. I just can’t say enough about all the support we’ve had here – all the fans, and our sponsors Mac Tools, Applied Imaging and Toyota. It was kind of ugly in the final. At 800 feet, it seemed like my car was just coasting with no power. I thought it was over, but the win light came on. At this point, it hasn’t settled in that I won the U.S. Nationals.”
Antron Brown also had a strong day in Top Fuel, defeating Jordan Vandergriff in round one and then eliminating point leader Steve Torrence in the second round. The three-time world champion then matched up with Billy Torrence in the semifinals. Brown had a sizable advantage at the tree and led through the 330 foot mark when he lost traction and clicked it off, giving Torrence the victory.
Rounding out the Toyota Top Fuel contingent, Richie Crampton fell in the opening round to Prock, but accomplished his biggest goal of the weekend in clinching his berth in the Countdown after a stellar showing in qualifying.
In Top Fuel, J.R. Todd advanced to the semifinals with victories over Cruz Pedregon and Ray Martin, registering the quickest pass of the final three rounds with a 3.900 against Martin. Unfortunately, his quest for a third consecutive U.S. Nationals title was ended in the semifinals. Todd was away first and held the lead until the 300 foot mark before losing traction with Beckman taking the win.
Shawn Langdon registered a 3.895-second pass in winning his opening round run against Tommy Johnson Jr., but was up in smoke on the hit in the second round against Matt Hagan.
Also earning a first-round win was Worsham Racing driver Martin, who was making just his second Funny Car start. The Anchorage, Alaska native, defeated Ron Capps in the opening round before falling to Todd in round two.
The Mello Yello Drag Racing Series kicks off the Countdown to the Championship playoffs at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Penn., September 13-15.