With his final-round defeat of Austin Prock, Doug Kalitta made Winternationals Top Fuel history with his third straight win at the season opener, a feat not even accomplished by six-time Pomona Top Fuel great Don Garlits.
Kalitta, who in addition to his win at this event last year also won the 2019 season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals, is also the first driver in class history to win three straight events at Pomona Raceway and now owns a 12-round win streak at the track. Counting his runner-ups at the Winternationals in 2016 and 2017, Kalitta has been in the final round of the season opener five straight years.
The victory, the 48th of his career –- fifth all-time in class history -- is another great moment in history for his uncle, team owner Connie Kalitta, who has been part of all 60 Winternationals and collected a Top Fuel win here in 1967 as a driver.
The Rob Flynn/Troy Fasching-tuned Mac Tools dragster qualified fifth with a 3.717 but Kalitta had to pedal his way through tire shake in round one to defeat Brandon Welch. The team found its footing in round two with a 3.705 to stop rookie Justin Ashley and set up a semifinal date with low qualifier Brittany Force, who reset the track speed record in round two with a blast of 336.23 mph, the third-fastest run in Top Fuel history. Force fell to Kalitta in the semifinals in a matchup between last year’s second- and third-place finishers after Kalitta powered to his best run of the event, 3.675.
The victory kept Kalitta undefeated in nine semifinals across both annual Pomona races and put him into a Pomona final for the sixth time in the last seven races held at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
“It’s been an interesting day for sure. A lot of close racing,” said Kalitta. “We have people up there trying to tear the tree down on you so you’re a little nervous about all that. It worked out well though. I’m just really proud of my guys. They busted their tails today. We tore up a little bit of parts here, but it was all good. The 60th is pretty special. Connie was here at the first one. I couldn’t be happier for him and the family and the legacy that’s been created out here. I’m just glad this is one of our better tracks.”
Prock reached his second career final round –- his first coming in Seattle last year on the same day that team boss John Force scored his milestone 150th career win in Funny Car -- when 2017 Winternationals champ Leah Pruett, who had run a pair of mid-3.60s in the opening two rounds, slowed to a four-second pass behind Prock’s second straight 3.678.
Prock, who qualified his Mike Green- and Joe Barlam-tuned Montana Brand/Rocky Mountain Twist dragster No. 2 with a 3,680 on his final pass after struggling on their first three runs, shook the tires in round one but expertly pedaled to beat Cameron Ferre, which earned him a second-round bye for the short field.