Ending a winless drought that stretched on for nearly three years, Doug Kalitta finally claimed the 50th win of his legendary career when he won the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in a rain-postponed final round on Monday. Kalitta faced Steve Torrence in an epic final round, making a brilliant 3.662-second pass at 336.90 mph – the fastest speed of the entire weekend and the fastest speed of Kalitta’s career.
Doug, with his milestone win, became just the 23rd driver to achieve 50 national event victories, and the 16th in a professional category. A part of the famed Kalitta drag racing family, Doug departed a successful career in open-wheel racing to join the Top Fuel ranks in 1998. His first win came that year at Sonoma. He won his 10th at the fall Chicago event in 2005 and his 25th at Bristol in 2006. But it took a frustrated Kalitta two races shy of three years — his last came at St. Louis in 2020 — to get the 50th. Doug had won Reading just one time, all the way back in 2002.
Doug Kalitta faced Steve Torrence in an epic final round, and the Mac Tools Toyota team was up to the challenge making a brilliant 3.662-second pass at 336.90 mph – the fastest speed of the entire weekend and the fastest speed of Kalitta’s career. Kalitta also posted the quickest elapsed time of the weekend when he defeated Josh Hart in the opening round of eliminations. Kalitta’s eliminations elapsed times were 3.658, 3.692, 3.684 and 3.662 seconds in the final round – all within .034 seconds.
“That was a huge day for us; it’s been a while since we’d won – I don’t know why it’s been so long, but it was obviously a great effort by my team with the car running in the 60s yesterday and today. I definitely couldn’t do this without Connie’s(Kalitta, team owner) support; he’s definitely a pioneer out here. He comes to all these races and is still enjoying it. He’s definitely my hero when it comes to drag racing, and it’s cool to see how excited he was for me to get this win today so that was definitely one of the highlights of the day; he has always had my back. I love and appreciate that guy so much.”
Doug was the No. 3 qualifier, his 10th top-four qualifying effort of the season, but that wasn’t the real story. During the Friday evening session, Kalitta raced to a 3.696-second elapsed time at 331.45 mph for his best qualifying attempt. As the Mac Tools dragster completed its 3.748-second qualifying run at 332.10 mph in the final qualifying session Saturday afternoon, the right-rear tire shredded, damaging the rear wing and the chassis, forcing the team to run its backup car for final eliminations. The Mac Tools team, with help from the Kalitta Air Careers team, worked late into Saturday night to prepare the backup car. Unlike the primary car, the backup car does not have a canopy, so Kalitta drove the car with an open cockpit for the first time this season.
He posted the quickest elapsed time of the weekend when he defeated Josh Hart in the opening round of eliminations. His eliminations elapsed times were 3.658, 3.692, 3.684 and 3.662 seconds in the final round – all within .034 seconds.
“Getting a win with Alan Johnson (co-crew chief) has been huge on my list. Can’t thank Brian Husen (co-crew chief), Mac Tools, Toyota and all of the distributors with Mac Tools enough for continuing to support this effort,” Doug Kalitta said. “It’s a great way to start the Countdown to the Championship. Apparently, this (backup) car wanted to get off the trailer and prove what it could do. I’m really fortunate to have the guys build a car like this.
“We’ve been trying our hardest to get that monkey off our back and get that 50th win, and now we can get all that stress of trying to get to the winner’s circle behind us, settle in and concentrate on the next five (playoff) races,” Kalitta added. “Getting this victory, that’s been big on my list. It was a great job for my team and I’m real proud of their effort. To run like that and go in the 60s in the final, it shows their talent, and I couldn’t be happier. I love running here (at Maple Grove Raceway), and my guys worked their tails off.”