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Doug Kalitta throws first pitch, readies for curveballs in Richmond heat

Ahead of the 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series season resuming at the PlayNHRA Virginia NHRA Nationals in Richmond, Doug Kalitta threw a ceremonial first pitch prior to the Washington Nationals vs. Detroit Tigers game.
18 Jun 2024
Posted by NHRA.com staff
Doug Kalitta

Eight races into the 2024 season, Doug Kalitta is back where he was at the end of last season — atop the points standings leading the Top Fuel class, but last week, the reigning champ took time out to live a dream millions of kids have every day. The 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series season resumes June 22-23 at the PlayNHRA Virginia NHRA Nationals in Richmond.

Kalitta threw a ceremonial first pitch prior to the Washington Nationals vs. Detroit Tigers game on Wednesday, June 12. As a lifelong resident of the Detroit area, Kalitta was thrilled to have the opportunity. He sought assistance from a trusted source and took the advice of a new contact to prepare.

“My daughter [Avery] helped me practice a little bit,” Kalitta said. “One thing that really helped, the guy who met us and took us down to the field was adamant, ‘Do not hit the dirt with the ball.’ For whatever reason, that’s frowned upon. We managed not to do that, and the guy caught it, so that was positive. It was a little wide to my left, but he caught it, so that was a victory there. It was definitely cool. I grew up down the road from there, and my grandfather was a big Tigers fan, so it was really special. I appreciate everyone that helped make that happen for me, and they put a nice sign up on the scoreboard out there, so yeah, it was cool.”

With a win in two final rounds in the last two races, Kalitta moved to the top of the standings. In the season’s first eight races, he has two wins in four final rounds. Reaching the final round in half of the races this season is performing at a very high level, and this team shows no signs of slowing down. 

“It really feels like this Mac Tools Toyota team is just getting stronger,” Kalitta said. “It feels really good because everybody’s put a lot of hard work into this thing, and we’re all trying our best to make it happen, so it’s really exciting to see it continue to build. Alan and Mac [Crew Chief Alan Johnson and Assistant crew chief Mac Savage] are really doing a great job, and all the Mac Tools guys are doing their part making it as consistent as possible putting it together like they do.”

The NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series returns to Virginia Motorsports Park this weekend for the first time since 2022, and for the first time, the event will be a two-day show with three qualifying sessions on Saturday before racing on Sunday. Kalitta has a win in two final-round appearances at the Viriginia race track and plans to do his part to keep his team on the roll it’s enjoying.

“I’m certainly trying my best to do what I need to do, so with any luck, we can head to Richmond and get the job done,” Kalitta added. “It’s kind of exciting to have this different format with the two-day deal – really looking forward to getting back out there after making it to the final at the last race.”

With extremely hot conditions in the forecast, crew chiefs will be challenged to get the cars down the racetrack despite one of the best racing surfaces on the circuit.  

“Alan has so much experience tuning these things, I’m not sure how he keeps making it run better and making it work in all these different conditions, but it’s definitely fun to be part of it,” Kalitta said. “I think the track is all concrete there, which does help with the heat. It’s nice and smooth, so the track shouldn’t be too bad except for the temperature. It should be a good test for everybody to see how to figure out the heat. We’re making all three qualifying runs on Saturday – we hope to go into Sunday with a good handle on the track, make it to the final, and have a shot at winning. I feel good about it. It’ll be an interesting format to have when it seems like the right thing to do, so it’ll be good to kind of test it out and see how it works.”

When Kalitta advanced to the Bristol semifinals, he earned a spot in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge next week. During Saturday’s qualifying sessions in Virginia, the drivers who reached the semifinals in Bristol will rerun the semifinals and final, earning additional purse and championship bonus points.