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NHRA: Kalitta Wants to Win the Race and Catch a Dog at Route 66 Raceway

25 May 1998

JOLIET, Ill. - Rookie Top Fuel dragster driver Doug Kalitta is a busy man. In addition to racing 10 months out of the year, he's a pilot and an executive. However, when the inaugural NHRA Fram Route 66 Nationals come to the Chicago-area for the first time, May 29-31, Kalitta would like to apply for a temporary position in the city. The job he wants? Dogcatcher. Since stepping in as the driver of the American International Airways/Kitty Hawk entry in January, Kalitta has made great progress and quickly become a capable competitor for the veterans of the sport. Of late, however, he has had little luck when it comes to butting heads with five-time Winston Champion Joe Amato.

At the Pennzoil Nationals in Richmond, Va., last month Kalitta was rebounding nicely after not qualifying for the previous event. He qualified seventh in the 16-car field and won his first round. In his second round, Amato took the win 4.691 to a 4.734. At the next event, the Castrol Lone Star Nationals in Dallas, Kalitta accomplished one of his goals - secure the number one qualifying position - which he did during Friday's qualifying. Come Saturday night, however, he had lost the spot by just over one-hundredth on a second to Amato. Undaunted, Kalitta went on to win round one with a career-best 4.629-second run which would serve as low elapsed time of the meet. In round two he took out Winston points leader Cory McClenathan with low elapsed time of the round. In the semifinals his march continued when he defeated current Winston Champion Gary Scelzi, again with low elapsed time of the round. In the final he would again meet up with Amato. Though Kalitta had a quicker time it was Amato who turned on the win light. At the just completed Mopar Parts Nationals in Englishtown, N.J., Kalitta was again on his game. Running consistent 4.60s he qualified seventh and won his first round. By virtue of the ladder system, he once again faced Amato in round two. And, again, Amato took the win with a strong 4.578 at 323.50 mph to Doug's 4.656 at 316.38 to win the round.

What does all this have to do with being the city dogcatcher?

Amato's good luck charm is the beloved "Snoopy". Get rid of the charm, get rid of the luck? It's a theory Kalitta would like to prove true.

Kalitta began driving the dragster when his uncle, Top Fuel veteran Connie Kalitta, decided to extend the driving hiatus he has been on since April 1997 and his cousin, two-time Winston Top Fuel Champion Scott Kalitta, retired at the end of last season. Doug has qualified for all but one of the eight events contested so far this season and is currently seventh in the Winston points chase. A former midget and sprint car racer, Kalitta is eager to add a Top Fuel win to his credits which include 14 midget wins, seven sprint car wins and the 1994 USAC National Sprint Car Championship.

When he's not at the racetrack, Doug can be found at American International Airways, the worldwide air cargo company founded by Connie, which is now a division of Kitty Hawk, Inc., where he is the vice president of Central and South American operations. Doug is also a pilot for the company and is rated for DC-8, Learjet and Hawker aircraft. Like his racing career, which started at the age of 9, Doug also got an early start in aviation. Receiving his Learjet rating in 1985 at the age of 21 made him one of the youngest persons to achieve the goal.

Kalitta and the rest of the professionals will get their first qualifying shots at the brand new Route 66 Raceway facility with two sessions on Friday, May 29th at 3 and 7:30 p.m. Qualifying will conclude with two sessions on Saturday scheduled for 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Final eliminations will get underway at 11 a.m., Sunday, May 31st.

The Nashville Network (TNN) will televise two hours of highlights and final round coverage starting at 6 p.m. (EDT), Sunday. There will also be a half- hour of qualifying highlights starting at 11 a.m. Sunday.