Doug Kalitta Leads Gatornationals Winners
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Top Fuel points leader Doug Kalitta raced to his first victory of the season Sunday at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at historic Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville.
Robert Hight (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Steve Johnson (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.
Kalitta gained revenge from Phoenix, defeating Antron Brown in the final with a performance of 3.830 seconds at 323.74 mph in his Mac Tools dragster. Brown’s Matco Tools dragster lost traction early in the run and finished in 5.106 at 147.50.
Kalitta was happy to finally break into the winner’s circle. He posted a runner-up finish at the season-opener in Pomona and fell to Brown in the semifinals in the season’s second race two weeks ago in Arizona.
“We’ve been trying to get a win all year, and we’ve been right on the cusp,” said Kalitta of his 34th career victory and third at Gainesville. “We have great support amongst all four of our teams. It’s great that they can all get in there and celebrate on the starting line.”
Kalitta, who was the No. 1 qualifier at the first two events, started as the No. 4 seed here and outran Brittany Force, Kalitta Motorsports teammate David Grubnic and Steve Torrence before racing past Brown in the final. The Ypsilanti, Mich. native was pleased to get his longtime sponsor a victory over the rival company that sponsors Brown’s machine.
“The ‘tool car’ rounds are important,” said Kalitta, who increased his series points lead with the victory. “We knew there are a lot of distributors out there who are watching and paying attention. I feel very fortunate to get by those guys any time that we can. It seems like it goes back and forth. We’d like to get it a little more on the Mac Tools side than the Matco side, so we’ll see how it goes this year.”
Top Fuel No. 1 qualifier and defending world champ Shawn Langdon was upset in the first round by No. 16 qualifier J.R. Todd, while his Al-Anabi Racing teammate and Winternationals winner Khalid alBalooshi also exited in the opening round.
In Funny Car, Hight defeated father-in-law and 16-time world champ John Force with a winning performance of 4.074 at 314.46 in his Auto Club Ford Mustang. Force’s Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang lost traction early in the run as Hight pulled away.