It’s been a pretty good September for Doug Kalitta and his Mac Tools Toyota team. After a nearly three-year win drought, the Michigan driver won the first two Playoff races, his 50th and 51st-career wins, and claimed the points lead for the first time since 2020. The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series resumes this weekend at the NHRA Midwest Nationals in Madison, Ill., the third of six races that make up the Countdown to the Championship NHRA Playoffs.
Life is good for Kalitta right now, and he’s enjoying it – as he should. This sport can be humbling, as the Mac Tools driver said many times, and Kalitta had plenty of humbling experiences during the regular season. All of that changed in Reading, Pa. After a blown tire following the final qualifying attempt, the Mac Tools team went to its backup car, which unlike the primary car, does not have a canopy over the cockpit, and since that time, Kalitta has eight-consecutive round wins – the first eight of the Countdown to the Championship NHRA Playoffs. After returning to the winner’s circle two weeks ago, Kalitta and his team are finally enjoying the fruits of their labor – back-to-back wins for the first time since 2016 and a 63-point lead in the season point standings. Don’t expect a change back to the primary car anytime soon.
“We’re plenty happy with this car; it’s going well,” Kalitta said. “The two cars were built on the same jig so they’re basically the same. We’d been running that car for a long time so it’s one of my good cars that’s now a good backup – it’s been doing us proud. We’re going to swing by the shop on the way to St. Louis to go pick up the Canopy car (that was damaged in Reading), but I doubt we’re going to run it. I’m good with whatever those guys decide, but the backup car definitely brought some light to our program since we started running that thing.
“Really, it’s all about (co-crew chiefs Alan Johnson and Brian Husen) Alan and Brian, and the whole team with what they’re doing right now and what NHRA is doing with the track each week. It’s a matter of getting consistent, everybody getting comfortable in their positions and hopefully, we can keep going rounds. It’s taken about a year and three quarters to get this thing in the shape that it’s in, and we hope we can keep it going so we can make a charge at the championship.”
Entering this weekend’s NHRA Midwest Nationals in the shadow of the St. Louis arch, Kalitta returns to a track on which he has four wins in six final rounds. Perhaps history, coupled with the way this team is running, will allow the Mac Tools team to continue its recent run and solidify Kalitta’s standing as a championship contender.
“It would be huge (to win the championship); we just have to keep going rounds,” Kalitta added. “It’s really about everybody that’s helped me over the years for me, but it would be extra special for sure. I’m a pretty humble guy – I just want to stay ahead however we have to do that. Everybody’s driving the wheels off these things; we have a bunch of good-running cars (in Top Fuel) as you can tell from the qualifying ladder so it’s tough. You have to take advantage of the opportunities when you get them, and that’s what we’re going to continue to try to do. I’m happy to be here, and it’s a good spot for sure.
“It’s good to keep running when you are on a roll; I’m looking forward to St. Louis. We’ve had some luck there, but I’m sure everybody will be hungry; we’ll have to work our tails off there, too. With Alan Johnson tuning the thing and Brian, it’s a hell of a combination right now. I’m hoping we all settle in, just be comfortable doing what we are doing, keep our heads down, keep going rounds and let it shake out where it does. I’m super proud of these guys.”
For J.R. Todd, DHL Team, the Time is Now
J.R. Todd entered the Countdown to the Championship NHRA Playoffs as the fifth seed looking to make some noise in the battle for the championship, but with two of the six playoff races in the books, his outlook is a bit different. The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series resumes this weekend at the NHRA Midwest Nationals in Madison, Ill., the third of six races that make up the Countdown to the Championship NHRA Playoffs.
In the last three months of the NHRA regular season, Todd’s DHL GR Supra team advanced to at least the semifinals at seven of the last nine races of the regular season including a win at Sonoma, Calif., and three runner-up showings. The team appeared to be peaking at the perfect time, but things changed at the first Countdown race at Maple Grove Raceway in Pennsylvania. The DHL team qualified 11th and lost in the first round, and then last weekend Charlotte, they qualified ninth but again lost in the opening round. With 16 rounds or racing remaining in the season, the time to step up the performance is now.
“With four races left, you are almost in a must win situation,” Todd said. “St. Louis is another three-qualifying session race so you have to hit the ground running in that first qualifying session Friday night. We’re not mathematically out of the running for the championship; we have four races to go – that’s two thirds of the Countdown so we can still make a run at this thing, but now we don’t have any time to spare. We have four races left, and realistically, you probably have to win two of the four to have any legitimate shot. It won’t be easy, but it’s definitely possible.”
Shawn Landgon, Kalitta Air Careers Team Not Giving Up
Shawn Langdon’s Kalitta Air Careers Toyota team is running better but not yet well enough to challenge for a championship making this weekend’s third of six playoff races a pivotal event. The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series resumes this weekend at the NHRA Midwest Nationals in Madison, Ill., the third of six races that make up the Countdown to the Championship NHRA Playoffs.
Langdon’s season has not lived up to expectations, but a recent uptick in performance is reason for optimism. The Kalitta Air Careers team made six consistent runs in Reading, Pa., two weeks ago and appeared ready to step up its performance. With a second-consecutive quarterfinal appearance last weekend in Charlotte, Langdon, who has two wins in three St. Louis final rounds, did move up to 10th in points, but if the team is to have any shot at contending, a strong performance this weekend reaching deep into the eliminations ladder is vital.
“We go into St. Louis with the same game plan we had for Charlotte – try to get our Kalitta Air Careers car running as well as it can so we can continue getting better,” Langdon said. “We made six really good runs in Reading, but we weren’t able to keep that going in Charlotte (last weekend) so we’ll give it another shot this weekend. Mathematically, we can still win a championship, but realistically, it’s a long shot. We’d probably need to win at least two of the four races we have left so our goal is to continue improving our performance and hope we can keep moving up in points. St. Louis has a nice race track, and the weather looks good so we’ll go in there and keep working as hard as we can to keep getting better for Kalitta Air, Revchem, Toyota, Future Energy Solutions and everyone else who supports our team.”
Feeding America: the ‘Race to End Hunger’ Update
Prior to the Dodge Power Brokers U.S. Nationals, Kalitta Motorsports introduced the 2023 “Race to End Hunger,” a partnership among Kalitta Motorsports, DHL Express and Kalitta Air to accelerate the fight against food insecurity. For six NHRA Camping World Drag Racing national events, starting with the U.S. Nationals and ending with the Nevada NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas, every time a Kalitta Motorsports driver turns on a race day win light, Kalitta Motorsports will donate $1,000 to Feeding America, and both DHL and Kalitta Air will match the donation. The team turned on 16 win lights during the first half of the program:
Indianapolis: J.R. Todd (3), Doug Kalitta (2), Shawn Langdon (1); money generated: $18,000; meals generated 180,000.
Reading: Doug Kalitta (4), Shawn Langdon (1), J.R. Todd (0); money donated: $15,000; meals generated: 150,000
Charlotte: Doug Kalitta (4), Shawn Langdon (1), J.R. Todd (0); money donated: $15,000; meals generated: 150,000
Totals To-Date: Money Donated $48,000; Meals Generated: 480,000
Feeding America established Hunger Action Month in 2008 to create a nationwide push to address the hunger crisis across the United States. Consider:
People in the United States who are food insecure: 34 million
Children in the United States who are food insecure: 9 million (1 in 8 kids)
People who turned to food programs in 2022: 49 million
Counties in the United States with food insecurity: 100 percent
By clicking here fans can join the fight with a personal donation.