Before the NHRA Countdown to the Championship started, Doug Kalitta’s last Top Fuel victory came in 2020 at World Wide Technology Raceway, the site of this weekend’s 12th annual NHRA Midwest Nationals.
Since then, the fan-favorite driver has been perfect in NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series action, winning a pair of playoff races as he competes for that elusive first world championship in his Mac Tools/Toyota dragster. Kalitta had waited nearly three years between wins, dating back to his 2020 triumph in St. Louis, before getting his 50th career win two weeks ago and adding another on Sunday in Charlotte.
Heading into St. Louis, where Kalitta has always thrived, the veteran also has the points lead for the first time in three years. A fifth victory at World Wide Technology Raceway – which would tie him with Antron Brown for the most in NHRA Top Fuel history at the popular track – would keep him perfect in this brilliant postseason run and cap off this string of three consecutive race weekends in dominant fashion.
“We really want to keep this momentum going in St. Louis,” Kalitta said. “Connie [Kalitta, team owner] has given us everything we need to run this thing, and I’m super proud of what we’re doing. It’s good to just keep running when you’re on a roll. I’m really looking forward to running in St. Louis. We’ve had some good luck there, and I’m sure everybody will be hungry. We’re going to have to work our tails off there, too, but I’m definitely looking forward to getting there.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock), and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) won last year in St. Louis, and this year’s playoff event will again be broadcast on FOX Sports 1 (FS1), with action from eliminations set to air at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 1. It is the 18th of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA season and the third of six playoff events, marking the halfway point of the Countdown to the Championship, and nobody has been better than Kalitta thus far in crunch time.
It’s the first time he’s won two playoff races in a single season, and the team, led by Alan Johnson and Brian Husen, has been remarkably consistent thus far in the playoffs. Kalitta had six straight runs in the 3.60s at one point, turning up the performance against the elite performers in the category. It’s given him a 63-point lead over Torrence and 68 points better than Justin Ashley, who had six wins during the regular season, but Kalitta knows it’s a deep field filled with contenders.
It’s a list that also includes defending world champ Brittany Force, Brown, Leah Pruett, who is fourth in points, Mike Salinas, who blistered the track record in Charlotte and made the first 300-mph run to the 1/8th-mile in NHRA history last weekend, Austin Prock, and Clay Millican. Kalitta, though, can feel the momentum and confidence building, and he’s eager to continue to make the most of it in St. Louis.
“The momentum with my guys, along with their confidence and my confidence, that’s big,” said Kalitta, who has 51 career Top Fuel wins. “With Alan and Brian tuning it, it’s a heck of a combination, and hopefully, we can continue to settle in and be comfortable with what we’re doing. We’ll try to keep our heads down and just keep going rounds, and things will shake out how they will. I’m just super proud of these guys, and we’re looking forward to getting back to it.”
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature one round at 6 p.m. CT on Friday, Sept. 29, and the final two rounds on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. CT on Sunday, Oct. 1. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 7 p.m. ET on Friday, Sept. 29, and 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, Oct. 1, with eliminations starting at 3 p.m. ET on FS1 on Sunday.
Tickets may be purchased at the WWTR ticket office, by phone at (618) 215-8888, or online at www.wwtraceway.com. All children 12 and under will be admitted free in the general-admission area with a paid adult.