Doug Kalitta defeated Austin Prock in the final to become the first Top Fuel driver in history to win three consecutive Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals in the 60th running of the event at the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Sunday. Toyota Top Fuel drivers have now won eight of the last 11 Winternationals.
In the opening round of the day, Kalitta squared off with rookie Brandon Welch. Kalitta had a slight lead at the tree before rattling the tires and being forced to pedal it for the win. He would match-up with Justin Ashley in round two. Once again, he had an advantage at the light and never trailed in advancing to the semifinals. That set up an epic semifinal between the Mac Tools Toyota driver and pole-sitter Brittany Force. For the third straight race Kalitta had an advantage at the starting line and never trailed in nipping Force with a 3.675 to a 3.680 as both cars clocked in at more than 329 mph.
In the finals against Prock, Kalitta was once again out of the gate first with a stellar .038-second reaction time and then drove straight down the groove for the victory with a 3.698-second pass for his 48th career Top Fuel win. Kalitta closed out the event by running his two quickest passes of the weekend in his final two runs.
“It’s hard to believe,” said Kalitta afterward on winning his third straight Winternationals crown. “I love this place and it will probably sink in tomorrow. Anytime you can win here it’s just extra special. It’s great to start and end the season here. It’s going to be a tough year, but I’m really looking forward to it. My guys are all hungry and I’m just glad that we were able to get one of the Kalitta Motorsports cars into the Winner’s Circle today and get the season kicked off right. Winning the first race takes a lot of pressure off. Now that we’ve got that win behind us, we can just try to build on it.”
Fellow Toyota Top Fuel drivers Shawn Langdon and Antron Brown both were unable to make a clean pass In the opening round and were eliminated. Langdon fell to Ashley, while Brown was eliminated by Shawn Reed.
Alexis DeJoria had an impressive return to the seat of a Funny Car after a two-year retirement to spend more time with her teen daughter. The ROKiT Toyota Camry driver defeated Paul Lee in the first round with an outstanding 3.92-second pass. She followed it up with a victory over defending Funny Car champion Robert Hight to advance to the semifinals before eventually falling to race winner Jack Beckman. She will head to Phoenix fourth in Funny Car points.
Rounding out the Toyota Funny Car contingent, J.R. Todd lost his opening run against Tim Wilkerson, with Alex Miladinovich falling to pole-sitter Matt Hagan.
The Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will head to Phoenix for the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, Feb. 21-23.
2020 Toyota Wins (1)
Top Fuel – Kalitta, Pomona1,
Toyota NHRA Winternationals Results
|Shawn Langdon||4/Rd. 1|
|Antron Brown||9/Rd. 1|
|J.R. Todd||8/Rd. 1|
|Alex Miladinovich||16/Rd. 1|
– Doug Kalitta became the first Top Fuel driver in history to win three consecutive Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals. It also marks his fourth triumph in the last five events at the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Overall, Kalitta has registered 48 career Top Fuel wins, ranking fifth all-time.
– Toyota Top Fuel drivers have now won eight of the last 11 Winternationals.
– Kalitta Motorsports team owner Connie Kalitta has now participated as an owner or driver at all 60 NHRA Winternationals.
– Alexis DeJoria advanced to the semifinals in her first race since returning from retirement following a two-year hiatus. She defeated Paul Lee and John Force today in the first race for the new DC Motorsports team and will head to Phoenix fourth in points.
Doug Kalitta, Mac Tools Toyota Top Fuel dragster: “There was a lot of close racing today. You’ve got people up their trying to tear the tree down on you, so it makes you a little bit nervous. I’m just so proud of my Mac Tools Toyota guys. They busted their tails today. We tore up a few parts, but it was all good. To win the 60th Winternationals is pretty special. Connie (Kalitta) was here at the first one and he’s here with us and I couldn’t be happier for him. He’s created an amazing legacy out here and I’m just glad this is one of our better tracks.
What is it about Pomona that makes you guys so successful out there?
I wish I could pinpoint that. I just have a lot of great people behind me. On race day, we have all the Toyota and TRD support staff out here helping us with whatever track conditions we’re looking at. They give us a lot of great feedback. Really, our success comes from the entire team. I wish I could take credit for it. It’s a place with a lot of history and it’s very special to me.
Talk about your relationship with your uncle Connie
I started working for him right when I got out of high school, so it’s been quite a while. He’s provided me with a lot of great opportunities. I loved everything he was doing and he was happy to have someone who wanted to learn about airplanes and race cars. I don’t come out on the weekend and try to tune anything and Connie’s still in there tuning. That’s what he enjoys doing. It keeps his passion going – and Shawn Langdon’s car has been running good. It’s going to be a car that’s tough to beat. I’m just really proud that Connie’s still out here doing what he’s doing.
Tell us about final round pass against Austin Prock
You’re in the finals at Pomona and you’re just waiting for that win light not to come on. Down at the top end, I was looking at that thing and I was really happy to see that yellow light. Austin’s going to do big things. He’s a great driver and he’s killer on the tree. It’s going to be an interesting year with all these younger drivers that are hungrier than heck. We’re just going to keep at it.
How does it feel to win three straight Winternationals?
It’s hard to believe. I love this place and it will probably sink in tomorrow. Anytime you can win here it’s just extra special. It’s great to start and end here.
What do you see for the 2020 Top Fuel season?
It’s going to be a great year. Everyone out here just keeps stepping up their game. You can see it in the performances of these cars. It’s going to be a tough year, but I’m really looking forward to it. My guys are all hungry and I’m just glad that we were able to get one of the Kalitta Motorsports cars into the Winner’s Circle today and get the season kicked off right. Winning the first race takes a lot of pressure off. Now that we’ve got that win behind us, we can just try to build on it.
You guys were top three in three of the four qualifying sessions and then came out and ran strong all day with your two best runs of the weekend coming in the semis and then the finals. How does the Mac Tools Toyota dragster stay so consistent when everyone seems to be struggling to get down the track?
I have to give all the credit to my crew chiefs, Rob and Troy and everyone that works on my car. The thing that I’m really excited about this year is that I have all of my same guys back in place from last year. We had some great momentum going toward the end of last year. We’ve got the team together and they’re doing a great job. I take my hat off to them. We are hungry. We’re all trying to win a championship and my guys are all working hard to pull it off. We just want to win.
Alexis DeJoria, ROKiT Toyota Camry Funny Car: “I’m pretty amazed. It’s our first race back in Pomona and to make it to the semifinals is incredible and to even with our first round today was pretty amazing. The guys hustled and in the last run, we didn’t get a chance to warm the car up. We just went right out there and gave it our all. We’re sitting fourth in points, which is surreal. It feels good to have some momentum going into Arizona and to do so well for my sponsors, ROKiT Phones and ABK Beer. I’m so proud to have them on our Camry and proud to represent them as a brand.”
Shawn Langdon, DHL Toyota Top Fuel dragster: “We had a feast or famine weekend. On Friday, we ran great and got the provisional number one qualifier on the first day of the season with this DHL Toyota Top Fuel dragster. On Saturday, we had some issues, but got them fixed by the end of the day. I was confident going into the first round. We had totally different conditions and I had to give it a quick pedal. We just couldn’t recover in time and now we’ll head to Phoenix. The best part is we know we have a car that go rounds and it is just the first race of the season.”
Antron Brown, Matco Tools/Global Electronic Toyota Top Fuel dragster: “We felt really good and thought we had a great shot at getting the round win, but we fell short with some tire shake. The track was extremely cold. I have all the confidence in the world in (crew chiefs) Brian Corradi, Mark Oswald and this whole Matco Tools/Global Electronic Technology/Toyota Top Fuel dragster team. We’re going to keep our heads down, keep pushing and get ready for Phoenix. There are plenty of races ahead of us and the main thing is to grow at each and every one.”
J.R. Todd, DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car: “We had a good, but not great weekend. This season is a marathon and not a spring and I know this DHL Toyota Camry will win a lot of rounds this season. I am looking forward to getting to Phoenix. We just missed it a little this morning when the conditions changed. It was really almost a coin flip with colder conditions and trying to be aggressive, but not too aggressive. I have a lot of confidence and we are excited to get the season started with this Toyota team.”
|Toyota Drivers Top Fuel||Points Behind Leader (117)||2019 Wins||2019 Win-Loss||Career Races||Career Wins||Career W-L|
|1. Doug Kalitta||117 (-NA)||1||4-0||513||48||694-459|
|8. Shawn Langdon||38 (-79)||0||0-1||255||16||287-238|
|10. Antron Brown||32 (-85)||0||0-1||429||66||726-363|
|4. Alexis DeJoria||72 (-54)||0||2-1||142||5||100-133|
|10. J.R. Todd||33 (-93)||0||0-1||223||18||237-203|
Toyota Drivers NHRA Finals Eliminations Round-by-Round
|Top Fuel||Rd. 1 Win-Loss||Rd. 2 Win-Loss||Semifinals||Finals|
|Kalitta||W– Welch, 3.886-7.332||W – Ashley, 3.705-3.965||L- W- Force, 3.675-3.680||W W- Prock, 3.698-330.23|
|Langdon||L– Ashley, 3.726-6.312||**||**||**|
|Brown||L– Reed, 3.924-5.233||**||**||**|
|DeJoria||W – Lee, 3.922-4.091||W – Hight, 5.388-10.238||L-Beckman, 3.843-9.729||**|
|Todd||L – Wilkerson, 3.879-5.983||**||**||**|
|Miladinovich||L – Hagan, 3.914-5.859||**||**||**|
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