With an army of DHL uniforms surrounding the red-shirted men of the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster team, Doug Kalitta lined up next to Capco Contractors' Steve Torrence for the final run of the 2020 NHRA Midwest Nationals.
Torrence, who was 19-16 against Kalitta overall and 6-2 against Kalitta in prior final rounds, took the Tree with a starting-line advantage, but smoldered the tires right at the hit and clicked the car off. Kalitta launched hard and kept it hooked all the way to the stripe to take the win. He ran low E.T. of the event and is now two points behind Torrence in the hunt for the championship. Kalitta’s win is his second Wally of the year, and the 49th of his career.
The World Wide Technology Raceway, located just east of the gleaming stainless steel St. Louis Gateway Arch, returned to the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule in 2012 and quickly became known for record-setting performance. After 2020’s NHRA Midwest Nationals, it will also be known for unique atmospheric conditions that made racing cars challenging and required the NHRA to constantly adjust the schedule to allow for the most possible racing action.
“It was a crazy day out here, but the conditions were great," said Kalitta. "I just can't say enough for Connie and everybody on this Mac Tools, Toyota car here. You know, it was just a crazy points day, too. We knew we had to stay with it. It's all about going rounds, obviously at this point. And, uh, you know, we're just trying to stay close and, and be there at the end. This is a great start for us, for sure. Three to go.”
Kalitta drew Shawn Langdon in round one, where Langdon was 5 - 3 against Kalitta and 21 - 11 against Kalitta in prior events overall. Kalitta left with a great light and never trailed as Langdon went up in smoke right at the hit. Kalitta kept it hooked up and hitting on all eight all the way down the track for the win and lane choice over T.J. Zizzo in the next round.
In round two against Zizzo, Kalitta again had the starting-line advantage and never trailed for the win. He went straight down the groove, the chutes were late coming out but did come out and blossom Kalitta got the car stopped and made the turn. Zizzo’s pass was his quickest of the weekend.
Familiar foes met in round three of Top Fuel when Tony Schumacher (51-39 against Kalitta in prior events) pulled into the lane next to Kalitta. This was the 91st meeting between these two, the most for any two Top Fuel drivers. Schumacher's throttle stuck on the burnout and banged the blower. He pulled it over by the wall and coasted on down the track. Schumacher couldn’t get off the track in time and Kalitta's car was shut off. Kalitta’s crew ran back to pits and grabbed a fuel jug to refill the car. When they fired the car it launched and went straight down the track giving Kalitta lane choice over Torrence in the final.
The 2020 Mopar Express Lane NHRA Midwest Nationals trophy is going to Ypsilanti, Mich., but Texas is next, and for Steve Torrence Texas is home.