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Doug Kalitta Caps Flawless Weekend with New England Nationals Win

Doug Kalitta blasts his Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster down the track at New England Dragway

Doug Kalitta drove the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster to his first win in Epping, New Hampshire, on Sunday. (Photo: Allen Saucier | The Podium Finish)

EPPING, N.H. – Doug Kalitta had achieved just about every career goal possible after winning the 2023 NHRA Top Fuel championship. The only thing he had not won in his career was an NHRA race at New England Dragway. After Sunday’s New England Nationals, there are no boxes left unchecked.

Kalitta was dominant from the time his car came off the trailer on Friday afternoon, until he hoisted his 54th Wally on the victory stage in Epping, New Hampshire, on Sunday afternoon.

“Coming in here, that was the goal,” Kalitta said. “I knew it was the last place I hadn’t won at. Every round except the first round was incredibly close. It was one of those days where it almost seemed like it was a lucky day for us. I don’t know how we managed to pull it all off.”

Kalitta came out of the gates firing on Friday, posting the top qualifying time in each of the first two qualifying sessions, including a 3.700 second pass in great conditions on Friday night. With Sunday’s weather closer to Saturday than Friday, some may have wondered if the Mac Tools team could be consistent. Kalitta was not among the doubters.

“The team we have behind me, they have got my car running,” he said. “I feel very fortunate to be in this position. It’s a dream come true. I’m just trying to make sure I’m not the weak link, because right now the car is running so good. It’s added pressure because you know you’ve got a good running car. It’s a hell of an opportunity. I’m definitely up for the challenge.”

In the first round of eliminations on Sunday, Kalitta got past Scott Farley with ease, but the path would be anything but easy beyond that. He narrowly escaped Tony Stewart in Round Two, running a 3.841 second pass to Stewart’s 3.848 in what may have been the best race of the weekend. In the semifinals, Kalitta had to take on his teammate Shawn Langdon, and he was able to overcome Langdon’s starting line advantage with a 3.848 second pass to edge Langdon’s 3.884.

In the final round, he squared off with the winningest driver in Top Fuel History, Tony Schumacher, who has a pair of New England Nationals titles under his belt. Schumacher hazed the tires mid-track while Kalitta finished with his best run of the day, a 3.802 second pass at 332.92 miles per hour to take the emphatic win.

Celebration of Scott Kalitta Makes the Weekend Even More Special

On a weekend when the Kalitta team gathers to celebrate the life of the late Scott Kalitta, Doug’s cousin, who was killed in a Funny Car crash in Oldtown, New Jersey in 2008, it was fitting for Doug to complete the career sweep of the series’ tracks.

“To actually be able to pull off the win today is super special,” he said. “We’ve got Joe Poland and all the guys who set up our tribute for Scott Kalitta, and we had a lot of fun with that. A lot of the teams that worked for Scott through the years seem to migrate over. It’s great to have the opportunity to hang out and have a great meal. And it means a lot to (team owner) Connie (Kalitta) too.”

Connie Kalitta, Scott’s father, is a legend of the sport, who is the Kalitta Motorsports team owner. He and the team organize an event each year in honor of Scott, and Doug Kalitta said finishing off the goal of a win at Epping on the same weekend as that event made it particularly memorable.

Doug Kalitta won his first New England Nationals Wally to complete the sweep of every active NHRA track.

Doug Kalitta speaks with NHRA announcer Alan Reinhart on the victory stage in Epping. (Photo: Allen Saucier | The Podium Finish)

Kalitta Says Epping Win Was a True Team Effort

Nobody in sports wins by themselves, and Kalitta was keenly aware of the role that his team and team owner Connie Kalitta played in his success at Epping and beyond. He spoke at length about the value of having a strong team around him.

“Today was a little bit of a struggle for me with close races and not necessarily having the best reaction time, but it’s good to have the car and team that I have,” he said. “I’ll just call today an incredible team effort, because it was.”

He said he never takes the opportunity to race for a team like Kalitta Motorsports for granted, and he wants to enjoy the ride for as long as he can.

“I’m pretty fortunate to have Connie Kalitta in my corner,” he said. “Connie has had my back for 27 years. He started back in the 50s – probably running out here. He’s 86 now and still getting around good and still having fun getting to the races. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have accomplished this goal.”

As Connie Kalitta’s role with the team has changed from driver and tuner to owner, he has continued to support Doug, and several other drivers, like current Kalitta Motorsports teammates JR Todd and Shawn Langdon, as well as fellow New England Nationals winner Troy Coughlin Jr., who drove for Kalitta for a while.

“He’s not tuning the cars now, or driving the cars now, but he’s still in the game, and trying to promote the sport,” Doug Kalitta said of his uncle. “He loves the NHRA and is trying to help it grow. Being out here, having fun, trying to beat these guys. It’s been a pretty cool ride.”

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