For the first 566 races of his NHRA career, Top Fuel veteran Doug Kalitta rode to 49 victories in an open-cockpit dragster before switching to a canopy-style configuration at the start of the 2023 season.
So, when Kalitta broke a 65-race winless streak — the second longest of his decorated career — with a victory at last weekend’s Pep Boys NHRA Nationals in a backup car without a canopy, one couldn't help but wonder about the coincidence.
The chassis of the team’s primary canopy car was damaged after an incident with the rear tires during Saturday qualifying at Maple Grove Raceway so the team pulled out the backup car for eliminations that concluded with Kalitta in the winner’s circle after his milestone 50th win that was almost three years in the waiting from No. 49.
The primary car couldn’t be repaired in time for this weekend’s Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals, and although Kalitta said he prefers the canopy over the open cockpit, he’s not exactly unhappy about sticking with the open car, especially after powering to his fifth straight 3.6-second pass to peace the field Friday at zMAX Dragway,
“We kind of tore that thing up so we’re gonna stick with this (backup) car, which is definitely not going to hurt my feelings,” Kalitta said. “Even if that thing wasn’t hurt, we’d probably still run this car. We ran this car all through the end of last year as our primary car and we switched to that canopy car this year. The cars are exactly the same, they're built on the same jig, so the only difference is that it's 30 pounds lighter.”
"You can actually see better in the open cockpit," he added. "In the canopy car you sit down in a little lower, and you really can't see the front wheels but that's really the only difference. It drives the same; it’s just a little louder in the open cockpit, and, I've obviously driven the open cockpit car for a long time. But I have to admit the canopy car is nice. Yeah. If I had to choose between the two I’d go with the canopy car, but whatever they're happy with is where I'm at.
Other than religiously putting on his left glove first, Kalitta claims to not be suspicious so he’s certainly not putting any real mojo behind the open car and its winning abilities over the canopy car.
“Whatever it takes,” he said. “I told them, ‘Whatever you guys want me to drive? I'm good.’ Heck, I'll wear the same socks all year if that's what it takes.”