Kalitta On Top As Winternationals Kick Off 2014
Top Fueler Doug Kalitta called race conditions at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif. “perfect” on Saturday. They sure were for the Mac Tools driver as Kalitta raced to the No. 1 qualifying position for Sunday’s Circle K NHRA Winternationals.
John Force (Funny Car) and Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) also will lead their categories into Sunday’s 11 a.m. eliminations at the season-opening NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.
Veteran driver Kalitta powered his Mac Tools dragster to a track record performance of 3.713 seconds at 327.98 mph to earn his 37th No. 1 of his career and fourth at this event.
Kalitta’s pass was the third quickest run in NHRA history.
Kalitta held off defending world champ Shawn Langdon, who qualified second with a 3.715 in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster and 2012 world champ Antron Brown, who was No. 1 Friday but dropped to third with his 3.731 in his Matco Tools dragster.
Kalitta, who will face Sidnei Frigo in the first round, said, “It’s fun to race here. What can I say about (crew chief) Jim O. (Oberhofer), (assistant crew chief) Troy (Fasching), and this whole team? They came out of the box strong. It’s great to have four strong runs in qualifying at the start of the year. We’re really looking forward to seeing what we can do with it tomorrow.”
In Funny Car, Force earned a record 147th No. 1 and 10th at the Winternationals, taking the top spot with his national-record time of 3.966 and track record speed of 324.12 from Friday. The defending and 16-time world champ will open eliminations against Paul Lee.
Force failed to improve on either qualifying attempt today at the controls of his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang.
“We thought we could run .01 or .02, even a high 3.9,” Force said. “We tried it the first session, thought we could the second. We pushed it hard. Jimmy (Prock, crew chief) said there was more than the .96 and that it would run .94, .95, and he just wanted to know. There was nothing to lose unless Capps could pull it off in the other lane, but we’re also looking at conditions for tomorrow. It’s supposed to be overcast tomorrow, so we’ll have these same conditions. Otherwise, if it was going to be hot, you wouldn’t want to be doing that. You’d be trying to make it work. We got the record. It’s points, and that’s all we can say.”
Alexis DeJoria had the quickest Funny Car run on Saturday and she improved to third in the lineup with a 3.997 at 318.32 in her Patron XO Café Toyota Camry. With the effort, she became the first female to post a Funny Car run in the 3.9-second range.
“It’s an absolutely amazing feeling to be included in that exclusive 3.9 club,” said DeJoria, one of just nine drivers in history to accomplish the feat. “I knew my guys had it in them, but to come out and do it at the first race shows how good they really are. Having both Kalitta Toyotas in the top six is awesome. Now we have to come out tomorrow and just run our race. We’ve run from near the top and lost…and we’ve run from the bottom and won, this series is so good that there are no guarantees.”
Three-time Winternationals winner Robert Hight was second in his Auto Club Mustang with a 3.996 at 317.94 and two-time world champ Cruz Pedregon was fourth with a 4.001 at 311.49 in his Snap-on Tools Camry.
Ron Capps, who emerged uninjured after his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger suffered a spectacular engine explosion during a run Friday evening, qualified fifth overall based on his Friday run of 4.014 at 304.67.
“I had no apprehension about getting back into the car,” said Capps, 48, a winner of 41 NHRA races since earning his first as a rookie in 1995.
“We have the best crew working on this NAPA Dodge, and I knew they’d get the new body on it this morning and have the car ready. I have all the confidence in our NAPA team.”
Capps was surprised at the attention his explosive performance received.
“There are some things you dream of but you never imagine will happen, and being on Good Morning America and with all the local news we got especially from KABC news in Los Angeles was on my bucket list.
“Leading KABC news at 11 on Friday night was a huge, huge, huge deal for getting NAPA and NHRA safety so much exposure in Southern California. It’s been overwhelming.
“The best part is John Force went out and set an NHRA national record for elapsed time on Friday and all you saw on the news was the NAPA car. I will never, ever, pass up the chance to upstage the Force team even if we have to set our car on fire to do it.”
Two-time Funny Car world champ and two-time Winternationals winner Tony Pedregon failed to qualify for eliminations in his American Racing Toyota.
In Pro Stock, defending event winner Nobile claimed his third No. 1 qualifying position of his career with a performance of 6.510 at 212.73 in his Mountain View Tire Chevy Camaro. He will face Australian rookie Shane Tucker in the opening round of eliminations.
“It’s definitely a great start to the season, we put four great runs together,” said Nobile, who is aligned with the KB Racing team this season. “Tomorrow’s a new day though and we need to put together another four good runs and hopefully come home with a trophy. Number one qualifier doesn’t really mean anything to me until the end of the year, when those bonus points start adding up. Anybody can win this race, one through 16. So, the only thing that really matters is who holds up that trophy on Sunday.”
Allen Johnson qualified second with a 6.512 at 212.96 in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger and Jason Line was third in his Summit Racing Chevy Camaro with a 6.514 at 212.63. Defending world champ Jeg Coughlin will start eighth in his JEGS.com/Mopar Avenger.
Sunday’s first-round pairings for eliminations for the 54th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, the first of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.
Top Fuel — 1. Doug Kalitta, 3.713 seconds, 328.86 mph vs. 16. Sidnei Frigo, 3.872, 313.58; 2. Shawn Langdon, 3.715, 328.70 vs. 15. Troy Buff, 3.850, 309.34; 3. Antron Brown, 3.731, 326.00 vs. 14. Clay Millican, 3.843, 307.86; 4. Bob Vandergriff, 3.743, 328.14 vs. 13. David Grubnic, 3.830, 321.96; 5. Spencer Massey, 3.768, 324.51 vs. 12. Leah Pritchett, 3.817, 320.05; 6. Steve Torrence, 3.773, 329.02 vs. 11. Terry McMillen, 3.806, 323.66; 7. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.774, 324.59 vs. 10. Tony Schumacher, 3.793, 322.73; 8. Brittany Force, 3.778, 326.24 vs. 9. Richie Crampton, 3.786, 320.28. Did Not Qualify: 17. Steven Chrisman, 4.093, 286.44; 18. Steve Faria, 4.154, 225.41; 19. Scott Palmer, 9.507, 94.55.
Funny Car — 1. John Force, Ford Mustang, 3.966, 324.12 vs. 16. Paul Lee, Dodge Charger, 4.162, 271.41; 2. Robert Hight, Mustang, 3.996, 319.67 vs. 15. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.150, 316.23; 3. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 3.997, 318.32 vs. 14. Gary Densham, Charger, 4.147, 301.67; 4. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.001, 311.49 vs. 13. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.132, 311.20; 5. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.014, 304.67 vs. 12. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.097, 309.06; 6. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.040, 317.27 vs. 11. Chad Head, Camry, 4.079, 303.23; 7. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.046, 320.13 vs. 10. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.077, 316.01; 8. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.049, 312.86 vs. 9. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.069, 316.82. Did Not Qualify: 17. Terry Haddock, 4.213, 253.04; 18. Bob Bode, 4.241, 264.29; 19. Tony Pedregon, 4.258, 245.58; 20. Phil Burkart, 5.523, 139.76; 21. Jeff Diehl, 6.064, 182.85.
Pro Stock — 1. Vincent Nobile, Chevy Camaro, 6.510, 212.73 vs. 16. Shane Tucker, Chevy Cobalt, 6.594, 210.50; 2. Allen Johnson, Dodge Avenger, 6.512, 212.96 vs. 15. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.589, 210.73; 3. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.514, 212.63 vs. 14. Matt Hartford, Avenger, 6.574, 210.14; 4. V. Gaines, Avenger, 6.515, 212.83 vs. 13. Greg Stanfield, Camaro, 6.567, 210.97; 5. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.516, 212.53 vs. 12. Deric Kramer, Avenger, 6.566, 211.20; 6. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.519, 211.86 vs. 11. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.552, 211.69; 7. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.528, 211.89 vs. 10. Jimmy Alund, Camaro, 6.546, 211.86; 8. Jeg Coughlin, Avenger, 6.531, 212.39 vs. 9. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.541, 211.79. Did Not Qualify: 17. Paul Pittman, 6.676, 208.10.No Comment