LAS VEGAS, NV – March 28, 2016 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – A strong early-season start has Top Fuel standout Doug Kalitta third in the points standings. While that gives Kalitta and his team confidence and momentum early in the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, he knows it can be a fleeting thing in the loaded Top Fuel class.
Things change quickly in the land of 330-mph dragsters, as evidenced by two first-time Top Fuel winners at the most recent events. But Kalitta has no plans of slowing down in his 10,000-horsepower Mac Tools dragster as the NHRA powers back to Las Vegas this weekend for the 17th annual DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Kalitta has 38 career wins in Top Fuel, tied for fifth all-time, and has his sights sets on his first of 2016 in Vegas.
“There is always competition,” said Kalitta, who won the fall race at Las Vegas last year. “Everyone is not resting on what works right now. Kalitta Motorsports and every other team out there is striving and testing minor changes to see if we can gain anything. Again, this class is so tight, even a gain of a hundredth of a second can mean the difference in winning and losing a round.”
Richie Crampton (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car) and Erica Enders (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including three hours of live finals coverage starting at 5 p.m. (ET) on Sunday. It is the fourth of 24 events during a 2016 season that has already proven to be a wild one in Top Fuel.
Leah Pritchett and points leader Brittany Force picked up their first career wins at the two most recent races, while Steve Torrence won the opener in Pomona. Kalitta, meanwhile, has been his usual steady self for the most part. The Top Fuel veteran lost in the first round at Gainesville, but had a solid start with a final round appearance in Pomona.
He’s also qualified well, posting the top spot in Phoenix and running as quick as a 3.716 seconds in the early portion of the season. That has Kalitta, who won three races and finished fifth a year ago, happy about the start and hopeful about what is still to come.
“The Mac Tools team is pleased with the start of the season,” said Kalitta, who is after his first Top Fuel world championship. “You always want to start strong, and that is what we have done. In the off-season, Toyota and Toyota Racing Development (TRD) expanded their partnership with Kalitta Motorsports to include (teammate) J.R. (Todd’s) SealMaster dragster and my Mac Tools machine. Their data has been very helpful and next up, we want to win.”
Kalitta has the background and team to do that, as the Kalitta Motorsports team continues to be one of the most successful in the NHRA. The camaraderie of the group stretches across the entire four-car operation that includes Kalitta and Todd in Top Fuel, and defending world champion Del Worsham and Alexis DeJoria in Funny Car.
It also means very little turnover among their respective teams and Kalitta said that cohesiveness pays off time and time again.
“It allows you to focus on the little things,” Kalitta said. “(Crew chief) Jim Oberhofer, Troy Fasching and the Mac Tools team can just fine tune my ride and not have to swing for the fences. The class is just so tight. As we saw in Gainesville, every team out here is capable of race wins. We have to just keep doing what we are doing and the Mac Tools team will get their chance to celebrate.”
There is a significant amount of talent that will try to keep that celebration from happening in Vegas. In addition to the three 2016 winners, Kalitta must deal with the likes of defending world champion Antron Brown, who is tied with Kalitta for career Top Fuel victories, eight-time world champ Tony Schumacher, who has eight career victories at the facility, Shawn Langdon, Richie Crampton, Dave Connolly, Terry McMillen and Clay Millican.
But racing at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway has often brought out the best in the Kalitta Motorsports team and Kalitta’s two wins at the facility attest to that.
“The facility is beautiful and very well run,” Kalitta said. “Kalitta Motorsports has had a lot of race wins there recently in both Top Fuel and Funny Car classes and we definitely are planning on continuing that success this weekend.”
The Funny Car class continues to get tighter, with everyone chasing current points leader Robert Hight, who won at Gainesville. Others to watch include five-time Las Vegas winner Ron Capps, 16-time world champ John Force, defending world champion Del Worsham, Phoenix winner Tim Wilkerson, Alexis DeJoria, Jack Beckman, Matt Hagan, Courtney Force, Cruz Pedregon and Tommy Johnson Jr.
In the all-new Pro Stock class, Las Vegas dominator Enders, who has won the last four Las Vegas national events, will look to get back to her championship-winning ways after suffering two first round losses to open the season in Pomona and Phoenix. Standing in her way, though, will be her teammates Drew Skillman and Jeg Coughlin Jr., the Summit Racing duo of Greg Anderson and Jason Line, who have combined to win the first three races, including two by Anderson, Phoenix No. 1 qualifier Bo Butner, Shane Gray and Chris McGaha.
The sleek new Pro Stock cars feature fuel-injected engines, shorter wheelie bars, flat hoods and a 10,500 RPM rev-limiter.
The DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals is always a big weekend for Pro Stock drivers as the all-star K&N Horsepower Challenge kicks off the Pro Stock event in style. Eight of the best Pro Stock drivers will duel it out for bragging rights and a hefty paycheck on Saturday of race weekend. Enders is the defending K&N Horsepower Challenge winner.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
The event also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. on Friday, April 1 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, April 2, at 1 and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, April 3.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call (800) 644-4444 or visit www.LVMS.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
DENSO SPARK PLUGS NHRA NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 17th annual DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals, the fourth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in three categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock – earn points leading to 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. The race also will feature competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series.
WHERE: The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas. Track is located approximately 15 miles north of downtown Las Vegas off Interstate 15.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, April 1-3
FRIDAY, April 1 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m.
SATURDAY, April 2 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:10 and 4:05 p.m.
K&N HORSEPOWER CHALLENGE at 1, 4 and 5 p.m.
SUNDAY, April 3 – Pre-race ceremonies, 11:15 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at noon
SATURDAY, April 2, FOX Sports 1 (FS1) will televise one hour of qualifying highlights at 11 p.m. (ET)
SUNDAY, April 3, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying highlights at 9 p.m. (ET)
SUNDAY, April 3, FS1 will televise three hours of live finals coverage at 5 p.m. (ET)
2015 EVENT WINNERS: Richie Crampton, Top Fuel; John Force, Funny Car; Erica Enders, Pro Stock; Enders, K&N Horsepower Challenge.
MOST VICTORIES: Larry Dixon, 4, TF; Tony Schumacher, 4, TF; Robert Hight, 3, FC; Greg Anderson, 3, PS; Jeg Coughlin, 3, PS; Kenny Bernstein, 2, TF; John Force, 2, FC; Cruz Pedregon, 2, FC; Mike Edwards, 2, PS; Erica Enders, 2, PS; Allen Johnson, 2, PS.
MOST K&N HORSEPOWER CHALLENGE VICTORIES: Greg Anderson, 4; Kurt Johnson, 4; Jeg Coughlin, 3; Bob Glidden, 3; Warren Johnson, 3; Larry Morgan, 3; Bruce Allen, 2; Erica Enders, 2; Allen Johnson, 2; Jim Yates, 2;
Top Fuel – 3.722 sec. by Antron Brown, Oct. ’15 and 332.67 mph by Shawn Langdon, Oct. ’15.
Funny Car – 3.931 sec. by Tommy Johnson Jr., Oct. ’15 and 325.92 mph by Del Worsham, Oct. ’15.
Pro Stock – 6.559 sec. and 210.28 mph by Erica Enders, Oct. ’15.
Top Fuel – 3.680 sec. by Antron Brown, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.879 sec. by Jack Beckman, March ‘16, Gainesville, Fla. and 331.45 mph by Matt Hagan, Nov. ’15, Pomona, Calif.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C. and 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.
TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 644-4444. Tickets also available online at www.lvms.com/tickets.
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, CA — Point standings following the third of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series –
1. Brittany Force, 251; 2. Clay Millican, 210; 3. Doug Kalitta, 205; 4. Steve Torrence, 199; 5. Terry McMillen, 178; 6. Leah Pritchett, 166; 7. J.R. Todd, 157; 8. Tony Schumacher, 155; 9. Richie Crampton, 153; 10. Antron Brown, 149.
1. Robert Hight, 280; 2. Ron Capps, 279; 3. John Force, 221; 4. Jack Beckman, 205; 5. Courtney Force, 201; 6. Del Worsham, 189; 7. Tim Wilkerson, 183; 8. Chad Head, 162; 9. Alexis DeJoria, 119; 10. Matt Hagan, 118.
1. Jason Line, 337; 2. Greg Anderson, 331; 3. Bo Butner, 233; 4. Drew Skillman, 205; 5. Chris McGaha, 161; 6. (tie) Jeg Coughlin, 160; Allen Johnson, 160; 8. Vincent Nobile, 138; 9. Alex Laughlin, 121; 10. Erica Enders, 97.
Pro Stock Motorcycle:
1. Eddie Krawiec, 129; 2. Hector Arana, 99; 3. Andrew Hines, 79; 4. LE Tonglet, 74; 5. Chip Ellis, 62; 6. (tie) Michael Ray, 52; Jerry Savoie, 52; Jim Underdahl, 52; 9. Angelle Sampey, 35; 10. (tie) Scotty Pollacheck, 33. Melissa Surber, 33.