NHRA: Doug Kalitta/NHRA Mopar Parts Nationals
7 May 1998ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. - At last year's NHRA Mopar Parts Nationals a rookie walked away with the Top Fuel title. Doug Kalitta would like to keep that theme going and be the rookie that walks away with this year's title when the 29th running of the East Coast classic returns to Old Bridge Township Raceway Park next week (May 15-17).
Kalitta, 33, stepped in to drive the family car when his uncle, Top Fuel veteran Connie Kalitta, decided to sit out the season to tend to business, and his cousin, two-time Winston Champion Scott Kalitta, retired at the end of last season. Since earning his license in the American International Airways/Kitty Hawk entry in January, Doug has been on the fast-track gaining experience in his latest racing venture.
A racer since he was 9 years old, Doug started out on motorcycles and go- carts before moving to midget and sprint cars where he enjoyed much success.. Driving the Kalitta Flying Service midget entry in 1990, Kalitta earned ARCA/WWAR Rookie of the Year honors and two victories. He kept busy in 1991 by competing in both the midget and a sprint car in the USAC series where he again was named midget Rookie of the Year. In addition to seven sprint car victories, Doug collected the 1994 USAC National Sprint Car Championship. He also has 14 midget titles to his credit. Before the dragster position came up late last year, Doug was trying his hand at stock car racing in the ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series. A true racer, Doug would like to stay involved in the round-track action when the schedule allows.
In the just completed three-race swing on the NHRA tour Doug experienced first-hand the highs and the lows of professional drag racing. The series started with Kalitta not qualifying for the Fram Nationals in Atlanta. He rebounded by qualifying seventh for the Pennzoil Nationals in Richmond, Va., and making it to round two before Joe Amato ended his day. The series ended at the Castrol Lone Star Nationals in Ennis, Texas with the Ann Arbor, Mich., resident making it to the first final-round of his short career. After qualifying number two for the event, Kalitta defeated Tony Schumacher in round one with a career-best time of 4.629 seconds, which would serve as low elapsed time of the event. He then stopped current point leader Cory McClenathan from winning four-in-a-row by taking him out in round two with a 4.633 to a losing 12.162. Kalitta continued his streak in the semifinals where he defeated current Winston Champion Gary Scelzi, 4.630 to 4.706. The day ended with five-time Winston Champion Joe Amato getting a bit of a jump off the line and taking the win with a 4.695 to Kalitta's quicker 4.686. That runner-up finish vaulted Kalitta from number 12 in the Winston point standings to a three-way tie for seventh place.
Riding on that momentum, Kalitta would like to be the first member of the Kalitta Motorsports team to win the Mopar Parts Nationals. Connie has yet to advance to the final round of this event while Scott was the runner-up in 1995. Former Funny Car and Top Fuel driver Ed McCulloch, who serves as Kalitta's crew chief, was the Funny Car runner-up here in 1972, 1978 and 1989.
Professional qualifying for the Mopar Parts Nationals will get underway on Friday, May 14, with sessions at 3 and 7 p.m. Qualifying continues on Saturday with sessions scheduled for 12:15 and 4 p.m. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. Sunday, May 17.
The Nashville Network (TNN) will televise one hour of highlights and first round coverage starting at noon Sunday. Final round coverage can be seen on TNN from 5-7 p.m.