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Finally! Doug Kalitta scores his long-overdue first Indy Top Fuel win

Write it in stone: Doug Kalitta has finally won the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. The second-generation nitro racer, who was making his 22nd start at Indy, outlasted Billy Torrence in a weird final round to finally get the Big Go monkey off of his back.
02 Sep 2019
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
Race coverage
Doug Kalitta

Write it in stone: Doug Kalitta has finally won the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.

The second-generation nitro racer, whose famous uncle, Connie, won Indy 25 years ago, outlasted Billy Torrence in a weird final round to finally get the Indy monkey off of his back. Kalitta was making his 22nd start at Indy with the Troy Fasching- and Rob Flynn-tuned Mac Tools dragster still looking for his first triumph at the race despite 45 other career wins at tracks across the tour. 

Kalitta left on Torrence -– as he does almost everyone -– and was pulled away from Torrence at halftrack when both cars began to lose traction, then both fell silent and coasted across the stripe at just 212 mph. He became the third straight first-time Indy Top Fuel winner, the 30th Top Fuel winner in Indy history, and took over second place in the standings. What mattered most, of course, was finally getting that Indy win.

“I’m a real persistent guy; I never give up,” Kalitta said of finally winning the sport’s biggest race. “But it does make you wonder if you’re going to win it. After we got past the first round, I was thinking this was going to be a pretty good chance to win it.”

“It’s incredible; I can’t say enough about the guys working on my car day. They were busting their butts and Connie was right there with them. I was just going up there and trying to be patient and make sure you go when that light comes on. You try not to worry about who’s in the other lane.

“The final was kind of ugly and I was just coasting at 800 feet with no power – it started spinning and I think it threw the belt off -- and I thought it was over, but my win light came on.”

Kalitta began his run to the final round with his seventh holeshot win of the season --- tying his own class-record mark from 2006 –- to defeat Clay Millican in a first-round bash in which both ran 3.721.

Kalitta then defeated low qualifier Brittany Force, whose powerful Advance Auto Parts rail dropped a cylinder early and the race late, 3.75 to 3.76. Force’s teammate, Austin Prock, fell next to Kalitta, losing traction at the hit in the Montana Brand dragster, ending the rookie’s first Indy one round shy of reaching the final. Kalitta, meanwhile, was steady with a 3,76 to reach the final round for the second straight year and the fourth time in his career. 

Kalitta just missed winning the U.S. Nationals last year, falling to Terry McMillen by just .001-second in the final round. In addition to his loss in last year’s Indy final, Kalitta also was turned away in the final rounds in 2004 and 2008, both times by Tony Schumacher.

A first-time Indy winner was guaranteed for the second straight year and for the seventh time in the last nine years when Torrence, who was competing in Top Fuel at Indy for just the fifth time, worked his way to the final round.

Torrence, whose strong-but-limited schedule in the second Capco Contractors entry brought him to within striking distance of making the top 10 and earning a berth in the Countdown to the Championship, accomplished that goal early Monday, defeating Australian Wayne Newby in round one with a 3.73 to pass terry McMillen and Scott Palmer, who both lost in the opening stanza, allowing Torrence to leapfrog from 12th to 10th place.

Torrence was not content to rest on those laurels as he then powered to a 3.71 to defeat Shawn Reed in round two and then Antron Brown, who had defeated Torrence’s points-leading son, Steve, a round before, in the semifinals. Brown got out to a good lead at the green but lost traction and watched Torrence power past him and into the final round with a 3.757 that earned him final-round lane choice.