ST. LOUIS, MO – September 26, 2023 – (Motor Sports NewsWire) – Before the NHRA Countdown to the Championship started, Doug Kalitta’s last Top Fuel victory came in 2020 at World Wide Technology Raceway, the site of this weekend’s 12th annual NHRA Midwest Nationals.
Since then, the fan-favorite driver has been perfect in NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series action, winning a pair of playoff races as he competes for that elusive first world championship in his 11,000-horsepower Mac Tools/Toyota dragster. Kalitta had waited nearly three years between wins, dating back to his 2020 triumph in St. Louis, before getting his 50th career win two weeks ago and adding another on Sunday in Charlotte.
Heading into St. Louis, where Kalitta has always thrived, the veteran also has the points lead for the first time in three years. A fifth victory at World Wide Technology Raceway – which would tie him with Antron Brown for the most in NHRA Top Fuel history at the popular track – would keep him perfect in this brilliant postseason run and cap off this string of three consecutive race weekends in dominant fashion.
“We really want to keep this momentum going in St. Louis,” Kalitta said. “Connie (Kalitta, team owner) has given us everything we need to run this thing and I’m super proud of what we’re doing. It’s good to just keep running when you’re on a roll. I’m really looking forward to running in St. Louis. We’ve had some good luck there and I’m sure everybody will be hungry. We’re going to have to work out tails off there, too, but I’m definitely looking forward to getting there.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) won last year in St. Louis and this year’s playoff event will again be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), with action from eliminations set to air at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 1. It is the 18th of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA season and the third of six playoff events, marking the halfway point of the Countdown to the Championship, and nobody has been better than Kalitta thus far in crunch time.
It’s the first time he’s won two playoff races in a single season and the team, led by Alan Johnson and Brian Husen has been remarkably consistent thus far in the playoffs. Kalitta had six straight runs in the 3.60s at one point, turning up the performance against the elite performers in the category. It’s given him a 63-point lead over Torrence and 68 points better than Justin Ashley, who had six wins during the regular season, but Kalitta knows it’s a deep field filled with contenders.
It’s a list that also includes defending world champ Brittany Force, Brown, Leah Pruett, who is fourth in points, Mike Salinas, who blistered the track record in Charlotte and made the first 300-mph run to the 1/8-mile in NHRA history last weekend, Austin Prock and Clay Millican. Kalitta, though, can feel the momentum and confidence building, and he’s eager to continue to make the most of it in St. Louis.
“The momentum with my guys, along with their confidence and my confidence, that’s big,” said Kalitta, who has 51 career Top Fuel wins. “With Alan and Brian tuning it, it’s a heck of a combination and hopefully we can continue to settle in and be comfortable with what we’re doing. We’ll try to keep our heads down and just keep going rounds, and things will shake out how they will. I’m just super proud of these guys and we’re looking forward to getting back to it.”
Defending Funny Car event winner Hight holds a 25-point lead over Bob Tasca III, who knocked off Hight last weekend in Charlotte. Other championship hopefuls include defending world champ Ron Capps, Matt Hagan, John Force and Chad Green.
Nobody has dominated World Wide Technology Raceway more than Pro Stock’s Erica Enders. The reigning world champion won for the sixth time in St. Louis last year and she’s also won the race four straight years. She’s just four points back of Matt Hartford, with Dallas Glenn trailing by only 15 points.
Speaking of dominant performances in St. Louis, defending Pro Stock Motorcycle world champ Matt Smith has five wins at the facility, including the last two. He’s chasing Gaige Herrera, who leads Smith by 52 points and Hector Arana Jr. by 54 following his seventh win of the season on Sunday.
The NHRA Midwest Nationals also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, as well as the FuelTech NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by Type A Motorsports, Flexjet NHRA Factory Stock Showdown and the new Factory X presented by Holley category. It is also the penultimate race in the Pro Mod’s “Road to the Championship” as they get close to crowning a championship. The ET Racing Showcase, Jr. Arch Shootout, Budweiser Challenge, high school challenge and Jr. Dragster Shootout will all take place during the weekend as well.
Fans are invited to the Nitro Alley Stage all weekend, which will help create a festive atmosphere leading into Nitro Alley. The Nitro Alley Stage will be the main entertainment hub in the pits when the Camping World Drag Racing Series competitors are not on the track, hosting Nitro School, meet and greets and much more. As always, fans get a pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. Fans can see their favorite teams in action and servicing their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers, and more. They can also visit NHRA’s Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, merchandise, food, and fun.
Race fans at World Wide Technology Raceway can enjoy the special pre-race ceremonies that introduce and celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the fan favorite SealMaster Track Walk. The final can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes, where fans are invited to congratulate the St. Louis event winners.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature one round at 6:00 p.m. CT on Friday, Sept. 29, and the final two rounds on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11:00 a.m. CT on Sunday, Oct. 1. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 7 p.m. ET on Friday, Sept. 29 and 2 p.m. ET on Sunday Oct. 1, with eliminations starting at 3 p.m. ET on FS1 on Sunday.
Tickets may be purchased at the WWTR ticket office, by phone at (618) 215-8888, or online at www.wwtraceway.com. All children 12 and under will be admitted free in the general admission area with a paid adult. For more information on NHRA, visit www.NHRA.com.
About Camping World Holdings, Inc.
Camping World Holdings, Inc., headquartered in Lincolnshire, IL, (together with its subsidiaries) is the World’s largest retailer of RVs and related products and services. Our vision is to build a long-term legacy business that makes RVing fun and easy. Our Camping World and Good Sam brands have been serving RV consumers since 1966. We strive to build long-term value for our customers, employees, and shareholders by combining a unique and comprehensive assortment of RV products and services with a national network of RV dealerships, service centers and customer support centers along with the industry’s most extensive online presence and a highly trained and knowledgeable team of employees serving our customers, the RV lifestyle, and the communities in which we operate. We also believe that our Good Sam organization and family of programs and services uniquely enable us to connect with our customers as stewards of the RV enthusiast community and the RV lifestyle. With RV sales and service locations in 43 states, Camping World has grown to become the prime destination for everything RV. For more information, visit www.CampingWorld.com.
Headquartered in San Dimas, Calif., NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. NHRA presents 21 national events featuring the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series, NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, FuelTech NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by Type A Motorsports, Flexjet NHRA Factory Stock Showdown™ and Top Fuel Harley Series. NHRA provides competition opportunities for drivers of all levels in the NHRA Summit Racing Series and NHRA Street Legal™. NHRA also offers the NHRA Jr. Street® program for teens and the Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League® for youth ages 5 to 17. With 120 Member Tracks, NHRA allows racers to compete at a variety of locations nationally and internationally. NHRA’s Youth and Education Services® (YES) Program reaches over 30,000 students annually to ignite their interest in automotive and racing related careers. NHRA’s streaming service, NHRA.tv®, allows fans to view all NHRA national events as well as exclusive features of the sport. In addition, NHRA owns and operates three racing facilities: Gainesville Raceway in Florida; Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park; and In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip in Southern California. For more information, log on to www.NHRA.com, or visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.
Source: National Hot Rod Association