NHRA: Kalitta living dream season
Hometown: Ann Arbor, Mich.
Car: Mac Tools dragster
Crew chief: Jim Oberhofer
Top Fuel standings: First
Don't pinch Doug Kalitta.
The driver of the Mac Tools dragster is in the middle of a dream season.
Kalitta finds himself leading the Top Fuel division of the NHRA's Mellow Yellow series. He's already clinched a spot in the postseason Countdown and owns a 76-point lead over the hard-charging Antron Brown.
Kalitta has led or been second in the point standings all season and he's bringing his No. 1 ranking to Brainerd International Raceway for the Lucas Oil Nationals Friday-Sunday (Aug. 15-17).
"Over the years, I've actually done pretty well at Brainerd," said Kalitta. "I know it was one of Connie's (Kalitta) favorite places when he was still driving. So the idea is to go in, win the thing and head on home.
"I usually fly in Friday morning just minutes before qualifying and leave as soon as we're done racing. I enjoy going to Brainerd with all of the other activities and camping. They know how to do it right."
Last year at BIR, Kalitta qualified 11th and advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to Khalid alBalooshi. He knocked out Brown in the opening round. That's a matchup that could happen again this year as it has many times over the years.
Last week in Seattle, Kalitta beat Brown in the finals.
"It's very fortunate that my car is running like it is," Kalitta said. "The guys are doing a heck of a job. Jim Oberhofer is the crew chief and we have six guys on that thing who are just working well together. Troy Fasching is our assistant crew chief and he's from that neck of the woods. He's got family around there.
"Our car has been much more consistent and much better. It's been fun. Our goal was to just get locked in to the Countdown and we've managed that. We're just trying to win races now and get ourselves ready for those last six races. So right now there isn't much stress. We're just going along trying to stay in first."
First has been the norm for Kalitta this season. He owns five No. 1 qualifiers. In seven final-round appearances, Kalitta has two wins. His first came in Week Three at Gainesville, Fla.
Kalitta is three races removed from his worst week of the season at Denver. He qualified 11th, his worst by three spots, and didn't make it out of the first round. It's the only time this season Kalitta has not advanced to at least the quarterfinals.
But with his spot in the Countdown secure, Kalitta will focus on winning. He advanced to the Lucas Oil semifinals in 2012 losing to Brown after qualifying sixth. He lost to Brown again in 2011 in the quarterfinals. Brown went on to win the event. The same two met in 2010. Kalitta got the best of Brown in the quarters before falling to eventual winner Larry Dixon in the semifinals. Kalitta qualified No. 1 that year.
"The track has always been pretty even lane-to-lane," Kalitta said. "It's always good. I've never heard any of my guys complain about it. As long as the weather is good the racing is good. But to be honest with you, the guys with what they're doing with the clutch, we're getting down hotter tracks a lot better these days. That's an advancement we've seen the last couple of years in the engines and the clutch.
"We were just in Seattle (Aug. 1-3) and in the finals we had 92 degrees and we still ran a 3.84. We were trying for a 3.88 but we went out there and ran well. It does kind of amaze you as we continue to figure this thing out."
It's hard to imagine the Mac Tools dragster running any better, but Kalitta said it's a combination of everyone working together as one.
"It's been a lot of fun this season actually," he said. "It's what you dream about, this type of a season where you can run up front and have a great chance to win any one of these events.
"There are a boatload of good cars. If you look at how many different winners there has been this year, and there's some pretty good competition.