Doug Kalitta may have lost his chance to win his long-overdue –- and, frankly, long-deserved -– first championship, but it didn’t stop Top Fuel’s all-time leader in race starts from going for the gold on the final day of the season to end the season the way he began at the Winternationals, with a victory.
That season-opening conquest in February was sealed by beating Steve Torrence in the final round. He didn’t get that chance this year, and even if he had he still would not have stopped Torrence from winning the championship, but the season-ending performance was the next best salve and he did it by beating Kalitta Racing teammate Richie Crampton in the final.
"It was a fun day for sure," said Kalitta. "I was really proud of the effort we put in today but three rounds was tough to make up, but we gave it all we could, so, obviously, it's still on my list to win a championship. There are a lot of people who would love to see me win a championship and I would love nothing more than to get it done. I love running here at Pomona and to come out of here with a win in the 60th year [of racing by] Connie [Kalitta] team owner and having his car with Richie driving in the other lane."
Kalitta, also winner earlier this season at the prestigious U.S. Nationals, qualified the Mac Tools dragster No. 6 and worked his way past tire-smoking Terry McMillen in round one, then got past similarly tractionless rookie Justin Ashley, but at the cost of a freewheeling top-end blower explosion on a 4.06 that usually would not win a round.
"We completely blew that thing up," said Kalitta. "We just broke traction and I legged that thing down there and it was a helluva explosion, but all of the guys chipped in and we got it back together. After all of what happened, we went 3.37 in the next round. I was pretty impressed with my guys."
After watching Torrence win the championship ahead of him in the semifinals, Kalitta then powered his way to the final round with his best run of the day, a 3.730 to earn lane choice against Crampton in his fifth final round of the season.
Crampton, who will relinquish the seat in the second Kalitta dragster next season, went out on a high note, also winning in Gainesville and Reading, which boosted him from ninth seed in the Countdown to a lofty fifth.
After escaping the first round with a 4.20 pass after Mike Salinas smoked the tires, Crampton’s DHL dragster found its stride, running 3.79 in the second round to stop Shawn Reed then put a little dent in Torrence’s championship celebration by beating him head to head on a holeshot, 3.76 to 3.75.