CONCORD, N.C. – Doug Kalitta scored his first NHRA Top Fuel victory of the season on Sunday during the NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway to kick off the Countdown to the Championship.
Also visiting victory lane on Sunday afternoon were Robert Hight (Funny Car), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
Kalitta, who was the fastest qualifier in the Top Fuel division, defeated his Kalitta Motorsports teammate Richie Crampton in the final round on Sunday. The 3.775-second pass at 318.89 mph for Kalitta in the final round comfortably gave him the victory over Crampton, who could only muster a 3.876-second run at 306.40 mph.
The victory was Kalitta’s first at zMAX Dragway.
“It’s nice to get a Charlotte win. We’ve been coming here a lot of years,” said Kalitta, whose 43rd career Top Fuel victory came in his third final round of the season. “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.”
Kalitta’s team had to overcome an issue prior to the semifinals that led to the team changing the cylinder heads and manifolds on his engine just 30 minutes before he lined up against Clay Millican. Somehow the team got the parts changed and made it to the starting line with seconds to spare.
Kalitta also defeated Chris Karamesines and Tony Schumacher in addition to Millican on his way to the final round. Crampton, who was in his first Top Fuel final since joining Kalitta Motorsports at the U.S. Nationals, bested Scott Palmer, Steve Torrence and Brittany Force.
Hight scored his third Funny Car victory of the season and the 40th of his career after taking out his John Force Racing teammate Courtney Force in the finals.
C. Force, who scored her seventh No. 1 qualifier of the season this weekend, was trying to score her first victory of the year. She came up short against Hight, who beat her with a 3.943-second pass at 328.86 mph to beat C. Force’s 3.980-second run at 315.19 mph.
The victory moved Hight into the Funny Car point lead for the first time since he won the Funny Car championship in 2009. He leads defending Funny Car champion Ron Capps by 44 points.
Hight took out several championship contenders on the way to the finals. He first eliminated Matt Hagan in round one before besting Tommy Johnson Jr. in the quarterfinals, followed by U.S. Nationals champion J.R. Todd in the semifinals.
“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 J.R. Todd, who has been on a hot streak lately winning some races,” Hight said. “It was pretty cool to get to the final with Courtney.”
C. Force, on the other hand, went through Bob Gilbertson, her father John Force and Alexis DeJoria on her way to the finals.