Toyota driver Doug Kalitta took the lead at the start, then fought off Steve Torrence after hazing the tires to win the Top Fuel finals at the rain-delayed Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals Monday.
With the victory, Kalitta becomes just the second Top Fuel driver ever to win back-to-back Winternationals. It marks his third overall Winternationals crown, having also won the event in 2009.
Kalitta drove his Mac Tools Toyota dragster to a first-round victory over Scott Palmer to set up a second-round match-up with Billy Torrence. Kalitta used an exceptional .048 reaction time to take an early lead and then held off the elder Torrence to win on a hole-shot by .002 seconds (approximately 13 inches). In the semi-finals, Kalitta registered his second consecutive holeshot round win as he edged Terry McMillen. Kalitta registered the best Top Fuel reaction time of the day with a .043-second light on the way to a margin of victory of .011 second to send the Mac Tools Toyota dragster driver to his 97th final round.
In the finals, Kalitta had the starting line advantage, but started to haze the tires after the 330’ mark, but he never came off the gas. Shortly afterward, Torrence started to haze his tires as the two fought toward the finish line. Kalitta would hold on and win with the official margin of victory was .019 seconds or approximately seven feet.
“My car started smoking out there and I thought for sure that Steve was going to drive away,” said Kalitta, who won three of his four rounds today on holeshots. “There was no lifting. I could see the finish line, so we just held on to it down there. It was either let it blow or get the win. There was nothing to gain by lifting. I was just expecting him to go by when we started smoking, but fortunately for us, he was having some type of problem over there. We hung in there and the win light came on for our Mac Tools Toyota dragster. He’s had a heck of a streak and there’s no better place to get by him at than the Winternationals. I’m really proud of all the guys working on my car.”
Both Antron Brown and Richie Crampton were eliminated in the first round in Top Fuel despite each registering a 3.73-second run. Brown fell to Leah Pritchett, while Crampton lost to Terry McMillen.
In Funny Car, Shawn Langdon drove his Toyota Camry to the second round. He defeated Jim Campbell in his opening run before falling to Tommy Johnson in round two. J.R. Todd was unable to make a clean pass down the track in his early first round run.
The 2019 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues with round two at the Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Feb. 22-24.
|Top Fuel||NHRA Finals Results||Qual/Finish|
|Doug Kalitta||Mac Tools Toyota Top Fuel Dragster||7/Winner|
|Antron Brown||Matco Tools Toyota Top Fuel Dragster||3/Rd. 1|
|Richie Crampton||CRAFTSMAN Toyota Top Fuel Dragster||6/Rd. 2|
|Shawn Langdon||Global Electronic Technology Toyota Camry FC||6/Rd. 2|
|J.R. Todd||DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car||9/Rd. 1|
2019 Toyota Wins (1)
Top Fuel (1) – Kalitta, Pomona1
– Doug Kalitta earned his first victory of the season and the 45thTop Fuel win of his career. It is his third career Winternationals.
– With the victory today, Doug Kalitta became just the second Top Fuel driver ever to win the Winternationals in back-to-back seasons. He joins Larry Dixon, who won the event consecutively in 2002-2003.
Doug Kalitta, Mac Tools Toyota Top Fuel Dragster: Tell us about your weekend:
“It was really nice just to go rounds today. In the Countdown to end last year, all we were getting is one or two rounds, so to start going rounds today really helped the team’s morale. It was just a battle all day. It worked out well and we got the win.”
Describe the finals win over Steve Torrence:
“My car started smoking out there and I thought for sure that Steve was going to drive away. But we hung in there and the win late came on for our Mac Tools Toyota dragster. Steve and that Capco team are really good. We were real fortunate to get by them and we’ll just keep at it. I’m really proud of all the guys working on my car.”
Did you lift on the run in the finals when you started to smoke the tires?
“There was no lifting. I could see the finish line, so we just held on to it down there. It was either let it blow or get the win. There was nothing to gain by lifting. I was just expecting him to go by when we started smoking, but fortunately for us, he was having some type of problem over there. He’s had a heck of a streak and there’s no better place to get by him at than the Winternationals.”
What was key in winning three races on holeshots?
“It was just one of those things. You just keep your head down and hit that light. It’s part of the deal.”
Thoughts on the track conditions today?
“The track was pretty good in both lanes. We had great conditions for running today and the track preparation was second to none.”
What was it like to become just the second Top Fuel driver to win the Winternationals for the second year in a row?
“Growing up, I remember coming out here years ago when Connie was driving. I always thought this was the coolest place going and I still do, so to win back-to-back Winternationals is really something special. To have success here is more than you can imagine for me.”
How important is it to start the season off with a win?
“Just to get that win gives us great momentum heading into the year.”
You made a number of changes on your team late last season, has everything come together for your team?
“Our guys have been very meticulous during the off-season. Everyone has been very positive and have been working together really well. Everyone on the team wants to win and we were really hungry for this one. It was definitely a good day for us.”
What did you think about how many fans came out today after rain postponed the race yesterday?
“There was a lot of people here for a Monday.I have to thank all the fans who came back today. I think they got a good show today.”
What are you looking for going into Phoenix?
“The track was good there and I’m sure it will be good going back and my guys will be pretty enthused to get back there with some momentum and we’ll just try to keep it going.”
J.R. Todd, DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car: “It wasn’t that left lane, we just missed it. It’s disappointing, but we’re just going to regroup and get this DHL Toyota Camry ready to go to Phoenix in 10 days. It’s a long season – we’ve still got 23 races to go. We ran well in testing in Phoenix, so we’re confident heading back there next week.”
Antron Brown, Matco Tools Toyota Top Fuel Dragster: “The track is tricky the tighter it gets out there. We had a good combination, and we went up there and tried to do a ‘rinse and repeat’ and improve a little bit. We thought we had enough to run a 68 or 67, but the track was so good it nuked the clutch out there on the race track. It slows you down when you go through the clutch like that. The good thing is, we got down a hard race track that a lot of other cars couldn’t. A lot of cars were shaking and everything else. We had our teammate (Leah Pritchett) and they made a better lap than we did and they got the win. We’re looking good going into Phoenix, our next race. We’re very confident in this Matco Tools Toyota. We have a car that can go down the track every time and can be very competitive and will get better and better each lap. We’re looking forward to getting to that next race and getting back to it.I believe we have a car that can run with any car out there. We showed that Saturday. We just have to keep working. Our car is phenomenal from the 330 (foot mark) all the way through the back door, you’ve just got to pick away at it. It’s a long marathon of a race season. Our main focus is when we get to that final leg, the last six races, we have a strong kick and can go out there and contend for a championship.”
Richie Crampton, DHL Toyota Top Fuel Dragster: “The conditions were what they were for everyone. We were a little too conservative and Terry McMillen made his best-ever run against me. I think the racetrack pretty much gobbled up all the tune-up we put into the car. In hindsight, we could have gotten away with tuning it up just a little bit more. It just didn’t work out for us and close races are the ones that sting the most when you don’t win them.
|Toyota DriversFunny Car||Points Behind Leader (121)||2019Wins||2019W-L||Career Races||CareerWins||Career W-L|
|5. Shawn Langdon||58 (-63)||0||1-1||233||14||264-216|
|10. J.R. Todd||32 (-89)||0||0-1||201||16||211-180|
|1. Doug Kalitta||126 (+9)||1||4-0||490||45||656-438|
|9. Antron Brown||37 (-89)||0||0-1||407||66||702-338|
|10. Richie Crampton||35 (-91)||0||0-1||104||8||88-97|
Toyota Drivers NHRA Winternationals Eliminations Round-by-Round
|Top Fuel||Rd 1 Win-Loss||Rd 2 Win-Loss||Semis Win-Loss||Finals Win-Loss|
|Kalitta||W – Palmer,3.707-6.009||W B. Torrence,3.716-3.670||W – McMillen,3.708-3.706||W – Torrence,4.014-4.008|
|Brown||L – Pritchett,3.707-3.733||xx||xx|
|Crampton||L – McMillen,3.717-3.737||xx|
|Langdon||W – Campbell,3.930-13.400||L – Johnson3.875-3.982||xx||xx|
|Todd||L – Tasca,3.959-9.384||xx||xx||xx|
· Funny Car winner – Robert Hight (non-Toyota)
Toyota Racing PR