Kalitta earns third straight Pomona final
Race Recap: Kalitta returned to Pomona with momentum after a solid closing to Nitro Spring Testing in Phoenix. The Mac Tools team proved they would be one to watch early on in qualifying.
Kalitta, crew chief Jim Oberhofer and the Mac Tools team had never run a 3.6 second pass in an official event, and took care of that in the first qualifying pass setting the early mark to beat. Kalitta eventually slipped to no.2 overall, but reset his career-best elapsed time twice, earned eight of nine possible bonus points and ran three straight 3.6 second runs.
The Mac Tools team continued their run on raceday. First up was Steve Faria, and the Mac Tools team was not taking anyone lightly. Kalitta blazed the track in 3.696 seconds, which was low elapsed time of round one giving him lane choice in the second stanza versus Terry McMillen.
McMillen and Kalitta left together, but Kalitta steadily pulled away as the Mac Tools team again laid down best elapsed time of the round with a 3.687 second run moving him to the semi-finals against last season's champ, Antron Brown.
With the world watching live on FOX, Kalitta gave them a run to watch. He moved first on the line and pulled away from Brown moving the Mac Tools Toyota driver to his third straight Pomona final.
The Pomona final was the seventh career Pomona final and 88th overall. It allowed the Mac Tools driver to hold a top three spot in the point standings for the 25th race in a row, which leads the Top Fuel class.
Kalitta's run ended to Leah Pritchett in the final. After he took a starting line advantage, the Mac Tools ride encountered troubles and Pritchett was able to pick up the win.
Qualified: No. 2 (3.696 sec., 329.91 mph) **CAREER-BEST ET**
E1: Kalitta defeated Faria - 3.696 sec., 329.91 mph to 4.246 sec., 230.92 mph
E2: Kalitta defeated McMillen - 3.687 sec., 330.55 mph to 4.335 sec., 170.86 mph
E3: Kalitta defeated Brown - 3.698 sec., 331.85 mph to 3.731 sec., 324.90 mph
Final: Kalitta defeated by Pritchett - 7.630 sec., 103.85 mph to 3.711 sec., 324.98 mph
Quotable: “Tough finish to an outstanding weekend for the Mac Tools team. I am so proud of Jim O and the whole Mac Tools Toyota group. We had stellar pass after stellar pass. I am already ready for Phoenix and hopefully a little of redemption."
Point Standings: Second (-17); trails Leah Pritchett by 17 points for first; leads Antron Brown by 26 for third
Coughlin Jr. claims first career round win
Race Recap: The long awaited professional debut of Troy Coughlin Jr. in a Top Fuel machine drew much excitement to the SealMaster pit. However, even with much thrill surrounding the first race of Coughlin's career, the 26-year-old driver was focused.
The Connie Kalitta and Rob Flynn-tuned machine was consistent throughout qualifying as Coughlin held the early lead with a 3.730 second pass before earning a top half starting spot in his debut as the SealMaster Toyota ride achieved the sixth starting spot.
His first-ever Top Fuel opponent was former boat racer Shawn Reed. The pair was the final Top Fuel duo to see the track but Coughlin was prepared. He got around Reed early on and powered by him by 1,000 foot line earning his first career round win.
His first event ended in the second round as defending Top Fuel champion Antron Brown was able to take the round win. However, Coughlin was upbeat about his first event and looked forward to returning to the seat in two weeks in Phoenix.
Qualified: No. 6 (3.730 sec., 322.81 mph)
E1: Coughlin Jr. defeated Reed - 3.728 sec., 328.46 mph to 3.854 sec., 316.60 mph **CAREER-BEST MPH**
E2: Coughlin Jr. defeated by Brown - 3.727 sec., 327.35 mph to 3.733 sec., 325.69 mph **CAREER-BEST ET**
Quotable: “Not a bad day. We came into the race with a bunch of thoughts on how these things work, so now we have less thoughts going into this next race. Need to keep getting used to the process on the starting line and hone in on it. Connie Kalitta, Rob Flynn and the SealMaster Toyota guys have this thing working so consistently. They are giving me a car to compete in, a winner's circle bandit, so I need to get ahold of my end of it and enjoy it."
Point Standings: Sixth (-71); trails Brittany Force by three points for fifth, leads Steve Torrence by one point for seventh
Todd hits milestone 150th career round win in Funny Car debut
Race Recap: Last time Todd was at the Auto Club Raceway of Pomona, he was setting records as a Top Fuel driver. He took the SealMaster ride from the no.1 qualifier to his sixth final round appearance of the 2016 season.
This time, he was a Funny Car driver. 11 years after his Top Fuel debut, Todd was taking over a new challenge as the driver of DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car.
Todd was up to the challenge. His first lap down the track nearly earned bonus points and he slotted in fourth. Mechanical issues dogged the DHL team on Saturday and he was bumped to 11th, but Todd was solidly qualified in his first Funny Car event.
His first Funny Car opponent would prove to be the veteran Tim Wilkerson. Todd moved first and led all the way down the track earning his first career Funny Car round win and 150th of his career. The day would end in the second round despite another solid lap, however, it was a great debut for the new driver of the DHL Toyota.
Qualified: No. 11 (3.936 sec., 329.42 mph)
E1: Todd defeated Wilkerson - 3.902 sec., 330.72 mph to 6.970 sec., 112.50 mph **CAREER BEST FUNNY CAR ET & MPH**
E2: Todd defeated by C. Force - 3.930 sec., 329.02 mph to 3.892 sec., 326.08 mph
Quotable: "Basically today was our first runs of the year because of the issues we had. We will go into Phoenix with race car we can work with. Pretty good debut in this DHL Toyota."
Point Standings: Tied for Sixth (-67); tied with Tommy Johnson Jr. and Del Worsham
(Doug Kalitta, Troy Coughlin Jr., J.R. Todd)
All photos are courtesy of Gary Nastase Photography
DeJoria suffers tough first round defeat
Race Recap: DeJoria started the season with a new co-crew chief in Nicky Boninfante and renewed excitement for a new season. That excitement extended through qualifying as DeJoria earned two bonus points and started in the seventh position.
Her first foe was last season's championship runner-up, Tommy Johnson Jr. The Tequila Patrón Toyota was gaining on Johnson Jr. when it suffered a mechanical problem ending DeJoria's day in the first round.
Qualified: No. 7 (3.879 sec., 330.39 mph)
E1: DeJoria defeated by Johnson Jr. - 4.148 sec., 229.24 mph to 3.938 sec., 323.89 mph
Point Standings: 10th (-84); trails Robert Hight by one point for ninth, leads Tim Wilkerson by one point for 11th
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Photo is courtesy of Gary Nastase Photography.
Mello Yello Championship Points:
Top Fuel (Unofficial)
1. Leah Pritchett (122)
2. Doug Kalitta (105)
3. Antron Brown (79)
4. Tony Schumacher (70)
5. Brittany Force (57)
6. Troy Coughlin Jr. (54)
7. Steve Torrence (53)
8. Terry McMillen (48)
9. Shawn Reed (32)
9. Scott Palmer (32)
Funny Car (Unofficial)
1. Matt Hagan (119)
2. Courtney Force (99)
3. John Force (80)
4. Ron Capps (77)
5. Jack Beckman (53)
6. J.R. Todd (52)
6. Del Worsham (52)
6. Tommy Johnson Jr. (52)
9. Robert Hight (36)
10. Alexis DeJoria (35)
About Kalitta Motorsports:
Based in Ypsilanti, Mich., Kalitta Motorsports is a Top Fuel and Funny Car drag racing team in the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. The team was founded and is owned by drag racing icon Connie “the Bounty Hunter” Kalitta. For more than 50 years, Connie has been involved in the sport as a driver, tuner, and an owner. Kalitta Motorsports is one of the most successful teams in the history of auto racing with six world championships and over 100 national event titles in five different professional drag racing sanctioning bodies since it was established by Connie in 1959.
Team Kalitta is the home of the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car World Champion, Del Worsham. He drives the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car. Alexis DeJoria pilots the Tequila Patrón Toyota Camry Funny Car. J.R. Todd drives the SealMaster Top Fuel dragster while Connie’s nephew, Doug Kalitta, pilots the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster. Team Kalitta also manages the McLeod Racing Toyota Camry Funny Car driven by Paul Lee. Connie serves as head tuner for all Team Kalitta entries. He is assisted by co-crew chiefs Jon Oberhofer and Nick Boninfante on the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car, Tommy DeLago and Glen Huszar on the Tequila Patrón Toyota Camry Funny Car, Todd Smith on the McLeod Racing Toyota Camry Funny Car, Rob Flynn on the SealMaster Top Fuel dragster and Jim Oberhofer on the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster.
Associate sponsors on Kalitta Motorsports’ race cars include ARP, AutoDesk CAM, Champion, Cogistics, Darton Sleeves, DHL, Justice Brothers, Kalitta Air, Mac Tools, Optima Batteries, Phoenix Fuel Converter, Racing Electronics, Red Line Oil, SealMaster, Summit Racing Equipment, Technicoat Companies, Tequila Patrón, TMS Titanium, Toyota and Ziebart.