LAS VEGAS — If Doug Kalitta and his Mac Tools team had mapped out the ideal start to the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, what has transpired over the first three events of the season would be high on the list.
Capping off his three-race hot streak with a victory at the tradition-rich Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals in Florida on March 16, Kalitta built on his Top Fuel point lead and continues to be a step ahead of nearly everyone in the loaded class. He heads into the 15th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at The Strip atLas Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend with an impressive amount of momentum and a three-race stretch that includes two No. 1 qualifying positions, two final round appearances and one victory.
The next step is simply keeping his 8,000-horsepower Top Fuel dragster on its current path at one of the world’s most state-of-the-art drag strips, which will host the fourth of 24 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events in the 2014 season.
“Getting the Gatornationals win was definitely a great boost for me and all my guys on the Mac Tools team, especially after the great start we have had this year,” Kalitta said. “We’re really excited about the way we’ve started 2014. As a driver, it’s a big boost to your confidence to know that you have such a great race car underneath you. We’re eager to see what this season will hold for us from here on out.”
After finishing third in points a year ago, Kalitta again has his sights set on his first Top Fuel world championship. A strong finish to his 2013 season, which included a win and two final rounds in the Countdown to the Championship, carried over to 2014 where Kalitta has appeared almost flawless at times.
He credits a Kalitta Motorsports team that also includes Top Fuel driver David Grubnic and Funny Cars pilots Del Worsham and Alexis DeJoria, who picked up her first career Funny Car victory earlier this year.
Those good vibes have carried over to Kalitta’s car as well. In earning his 34th career victory by knocking off 2012 world champion Antron Brown in the finals at Gainesville, which ties him for sixth all-time in Top Fuel victories, Kalitta only furthered his team’s hot start. As for keys, Kalitta said being prepared and laying down a good qualifying number has been important.
“It seems like qualifying well is a big advantage to starting race day off well, so we will be looking to continue more of that (in Vegas),” said Kalitta, who has finished second in Top Fuel points three different times during his career. “We have great support among all four of our teams and that is invaluable. Jim (Oberhofer, crew chief), Troy (Fasching, assistant crew chief) and the entire Mac Tools team have been tremendous. They give me a great race car to drive. It’s a great feeling.”
For now everyone is chasing Kalitta, whose early-season hot streak would only get more remarkable if he won in Vegas for the first time since 2001.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since we won that first one,” Kalitta said. “My guys and I are all hungry hunters so it should be fun going after another Vegas trophy. Even though the Vegas facility is one of best we race at, there is always a big temperature change throughout the day that seems to keep the crew chiefs busy.”