Kalitta Drives Toyota To U.S. Nationals Title

NHRA Media Photo

Doug Kalitta defeated Billy Torrence in the Top Fuel finals to win Monday’s NHRA U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis. The victory gives Kalitta his first U.S. Nationals crown in 22 years of competition and marks the tenth U.S. Nationals title for a Toyota driver.

Kalitta won a thriller in his opening round win, running identical 3.721-second passes with Clay Millican, but Kalitta’s .060 reaction time gave him the holeshot victory by .003 seconds. He then moved on to face pole-sitter Brittany Force in round two. Once again, Kalitta had the starting line advantage and never trailed in winning by .016 seconds.  That sent the Mac Tools Toyota driver into the semifinals where Austin Prock had a slight lead at the tree, but was up in smoke early as Kalitta went straight down the track for the victory.

In the finals against Torrence, Kalitta again had the advantage at the tree and after Torrence smoked his tires, Kalitta had a solid lead at 660 feet, only to have his tires spin and lose power around 800 feet.  He was able to coast across the finish line ahead of Torrence by .080 seconds for the win.

“This is history,” said Kalitta after his first U.S. Nationals win. “Everything that Connie (Kalitta) has done to make this happen. It’s just so special. I just can’t say enough about all the support we’ve had here – all the fans, and our sponsors Mac Tools, Applied Imaging and Toyota. It was kind of ugly in the final. At 800 feet, it seemed like my car was just coasting with no power. I thought it was over, but the win light came on. At this point, it hasn’t settled in that I won the U.S. Nationals.”

Antron Brown also had a strong day in Top Fuel, defeating Jordan Vandergriff in round one and then eliminating point leader Steve Torrence in the second round. The three-time world champion then matched up with Billy Torrence in the semifinals. Brown had a sizable advantage at the tree and led through the 330 foot mark when he lost traction and clicked it off, giving Torrence the victory.

Rounding out the Toyota Top Fuel contingent, Richie Crampton fell in the opening round to Prock, but accomplished his biggest goal of the weekend in clinching his berth in the Countdown after a stellar showing in qualifying.

In Top Fuel, J.R. Todd advanced to the semifinals with victories over Cruz Pedregon and Ray Martin, registering the quickest pass of the final three rounds with a 3.900 against Martin. Unfortunately, his quest for a third consecutive U.S. Nationals title was ended in the semifinals. Todd was away first and held the lead until the 300 foot mark before losing traction with Beckman taking the win.

Shawn Langdon registered a 3.895-second pass in winning his opening round run against Tommy Johnson Jr., but was up in smoke on the hit in the second round against Matt Hagan.

Also earning a first-round win was Worsham Racing driver Martin, who was making just his second Funny Car start. The Anchorage, Alaska native, defeated Ron Capps in the opening round before falling to Todd in round two.

The Mello Yello Drag Racing Series kicks off the Countdown to the Championship playoffs at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Penn., September 13-15. 

Top Fuel Qual./Finish
Doug Kalitta  8/Winner
Antron Brown 6/Semis
Richie Crampton 5/Rd. 1
Funny Car 
J.R. Todd 5/Semis
Shawn Langdon 7/Rd. 2
Ray Martin 13/Rd. 2

2019 Toyota Wins (5)

Top Fuel (3)– Kalitta (2),Pomona1, Indianapolis; Crampton, Gainesville 

Funny Car (2)– Todd, Las Vegas1; Langdon, Charlotte1 

Notes:

– Doug Kalitta’s win today is his second of the season after previously winning the season-opening Winternationals in Pomona. It marks his first-ever win at the U.S. Nationals. Overall, it is the 46th Top Fuel win of his career – good for fifth all-time.

– After winning his first U.S. Nationals title today, Doug Kalitta will enter the Countdown in second-place as he sets his sights on his first Top Fuel title after finishing as the series runner-up four times, most recently in 2016. Kalitta closed out the regular season as the hottest driver in Top Fuel, out-scoring all other drivers over the last two races.

– With Doug Kalitta’s victory today, Toyota drivers have now won 10 U.S. Nationals titles since 2010, including seven in Top Fuel. 

– All five current Toyota drivers have won a U.S. Nationals title.

– Shawn Langdon stretched his streak of consecutive races with at least one round win to eight this weekend. 

– In advancing to the semifinals today, Antron Brown has now won at least one round in 11 of the past 12 races heading into the Countdown. With the strong effort, he jumped from fifth to third heading into the Countdown.

– J.R. Todd’s loss in the semifinals today was his first-ever in a Funny Car at the U.S. Nationals after winning his first 10 rounds at the track as the 2017 and 2018 champion. 

All five Toyota drivers will head to the Countdown to the Championship playoffs after Richie Crampton clinched his berth this weekend in the ninth position. Both Doug Kalitta and Antron Brown climbed in the Top Fuel point standings today with Kalitta finishing the regular season in second and Brown in third.  In Funny Car, J.R. Todd will start the defense of his Funny Car world championship from the eighth spot with Shawn Langdon in ninth. 

Quotes:

Doug Kalitta, Mac Tools Toyota Top Fuel dragster: 

Opening remarks:

“I just can’t say enough about everyone that’s been working on my Mac Tools Toyota. They were busting their butts – and Connie (Kalitta) was right there with them. Having him in our corner is awesome. What a day. It feels great to win a big race that Connie won. 

“I just can’t say enough about everyone on my team and how hard they worked to win this. The track conditions were incredible this weekend. The Safety Safari team busted their butts out there. The fans here are awesome. It hasn’t settled in that I won the U.S. Nationals.”

This is your 22nd trip here and you’ve been so close in the past, did you ever wonder if you were ever going to win this thing?

“I’m a real persistent guy, so I never give up. It does make you wonder. though. When we got by Clay I was thinking this is going to be a good opportunity and I’m just glad we were able to take advantage of it.”  

On the first round vs. Clay Millican winning by .003 seconds in a holeshot:

“These guys out here are all so good. You have to be right on your game every time and I’m not getting any younger, so you have to work a little harder at it. It worked out well just getting by Clay because those guys are always tough.”

On his second round match-up vs. Brittany Force:

“I just try to stay patient and make sure I go when that light comes on. We try not to worry about who’s in the other lane, but Brittany’s car has been on a rail. She qualified first, so we knew we had a tough run there and it was a close race. “

On the semifinals vs. Austin Prock:

“We raced another JFR car in the semifinals. They’ve got quite an arsenal over there. Austin’s doing an awesome job and I think all of us are trying to keep up with how hard he’s hitting that tree. He left on me by a little bit, fortunately we were able to get by him.”

Final round

“We came out of the semifinals and had to stop to do a quick interview with FOX and I got back just in time to warm up my car. I was glad I was able to be the one to warm up my car because I didn’t want to change up anything the way our day was going.

“It was kind of ugly in the final. At 800 feet, it seemed like my car was just coasting with no power. I thought it was over, but the win light came on.” 

Any idea of what went wrong there in the final?

“It just started spinning the tires and I’m not sure if it threw the belt off or what happened. It pretty much died out there, but we were close enough to the line. That’s all that matters.” 

What’s your outlook going into the Countdown?

“We’re looking forward to the Countdown. It’s what it’s all about for my time and everybody out here, so we’re going to give it our best. 

Obviously, my guys are going to have plenty of skip in our step heading into the Countdown – including me. We just have to keep our head down and go rounds and try to prevail. It’s going to be a lot of fun and I can’t wait to get to the next race and get this going. It’s going to be another great opportunity.”

What’s the key in the Countdown?

You have to qualify well and it’s just all about going rounds. Last year, Steve (Torrence) didn’t allow the other teams any room to screw up. You have to have your ‘A’ game going at every race.

Antron Brown, Matco Tools Toyota Top Fuel dragster: “Anytime we make it to the semifinals is a good day. Of course, we wanted to win the U.S. Nationals, but the track got a little tricky. We’re just to keep on working. We’re getting better and better, and the positive is, we moved up to third in the point standings, so that puts us just 30 points behind entering the Countdown. We’ve got a game plan heading into Reading, so we’ll do our best to execute that and see what we can do. I think as the weather gets cooler and cooler as we close out the season, we’ll really be able to run well and I think we’ll be right there with anyone. 

“Moving into the top three today was huge. Those are points you can’t make up. Every points counts and it’s a chess game. There are 24 rounds of available points (in the Countdown), so if you start off in the lead, you’ve already got one round ahead of the person behind you. So, for us, we’re going to try to catch Steve Torrence and get in front and maintain that lead. If you win those first few races, that puts you a good position to race the last three with confidence. That’s our game plan.”

J.R. Todd, DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car:“We really wanted that win today, but just overshot it in the semifinals in going for lane choice in the finals against John Force. The good thing is we have this DHL Toyota back where it needs to be. We have a really good Camry right now. We wish we were a little higher in the points, but we’re going to go out and try to win another title. Nobody’s out here to get the number two on the side of your car.”

Toyota Drivers –       Top FuelPoints Behind Leader (1742)‘19 Wins 2019  Win-LossCareer RacesCareer WinsCareer  W-L
2. Doug Kalitta 1184 (-558)225-1650746677-454 
3. Antron Brown1109 (-633)022-18 42466 725-355 
9. Richie Crampton842 (-900)111-17121999-113
Funny Car (1481)     
8. J.R. Todd1095 (-386)119-1721818231-199 
9. Shawn Langdon997 (-484)118-1725018281-232

Toyota Drivers NHRA U.S. Nationals Eliminations Round-by-Round

Top FuelRd. 1 Win-Loss Rd. 1 Win-Loss Semis Win-Loss 
KalittaW – Millican, 3.721-3.721 W – Force, 3.757-3.761 W – Prock,  3.766-8.991W – B.Torrence,  4.144-4.220
BrownW – Vandergriff, 3.723-3.790 W – S.Torrence,      3.785-4.772 L – B.Torrence, 3.757-4.768 
CramptonL – Prock, 3.712-4.933 **** 
Funny Car    
ToddW – Pedregon, 3.918-4.124 W – Martin, 3.900-4.256 L – Beckman, 4.065-4.547 
LangdonW – Johnson, 3.895-9.686 L – Hagan, 3.939-12.468** 
MartinW – Capps,    3.979-4.097 L – Todd,   3.900-4.256

Toyota Racing PR

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