Kalitta Enjoying Championship Chase

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Doug Kalitta is enjoying the hunt for his first NHRA Top Fuel championship this year. (NHRA Photo)
Doug Kalitta is enjoying the hunt for his first NHRA Top Fuel championship this year. (NHRA Photo)
Doug Kalitta is enjoying the hunt for his first NHRA Top Fuel championship this year. (NHRA Photo)

MOHNTON, Pa. — One of the big storylines of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship is Doug Kalitta and Ron Capps chasing their first career world championships in Top Fuel and Funny Car, respectively.

Capps and Kalitta rank first and second for drivers with the most wins without a championship, and both seemed poised to end that string. Capps has five wins in 2016 and is the Funny Car points leader, while three-time season winner Kalitta sits in second, just 13 points back of reigning Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown.

Racing for his first world championship may bring extra pressure but Kalitta is only focused on the immediate task at hand in his 10,000-horsepower Mac Tools/DeWalt FlexVolt dragster, which is doing well at this weekend’s 32nd annual Dodge NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.

“At this point we can control our own destiny, so we are just taking each race as its own and doing our best,” said Kalitta, whose 41 wins rank fifth in Top Fuel history. “Every race we have left is a little different, and you just have to be prepared. I have the best team and group of people surrounding me, and I am excited to see what we can do.”

Brown (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Chris McGaha (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winner at Maple Grove Raceway.

It’s a pivotal race going into the final stretch of the season and Kalitta knows his performance must be impressive at a facility that has historically yielded some of the quickest and fastest runs in NHRA history. After falling to Brown in the Countdown opener at Charlotte, Kalitta made up a round on the two-time world champ after Brown lost in the first round on Sunday in St. Louis. Kalitta lost a round later to eventual race winner Shawn Langdon, who jumped to fourth in points, and he knows the best way to rebound would be taking home a victory this weekend at Maple Grove Raceway.

“Each race in this Countdown is important,” Kalitta said. “There are only 24 rounds of racing, so you try to excel at every track. We would like to end this three-race string with a race win and carry that momentum into the final three events on the schedule.”

Kalitta won three straight races this year at Houston, Atlanta and Topeka, a scenario he would love to repeat during the Countdown to the Championship. Doing so in a loaded Top Fuel field, which also includes hard-charging and eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher, will be extremely difficult, so the focus is on continued consistency.

That’s been a staple of Kalitta’s entire standout career and certainly this season as well. Now the veteran Kalitta, who has finished second in three different seasons, is set on doing whatever he can to put his team in position to win a world championship.

“My team is incredibly focused,” Kalitta said. “This Mac Tools/DeWalt FlexVolt Toyota is running strong and we are limiting mistakes. We are right there and know we have what it takes to compete with all of the other teams out here that are chasing that title.

“You just have to stay focused on your job. I have a great crew and their job doesn’t change, and neither does mine. You have to be ready to go regardless of conditions.”