AFTER FIRST WORLD TITLE, TOP FUEL’S DOUG KALITTA EAGER TO START 2024 NHRA SEASON IN GAINESVILLE

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 4, 2024) – For the first time in his career, Top Fuel veteran Doug Kalitta will enter the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series season with a “1” on his 11,000-horsepower Mac Tools dragster to signify his world championship in 2023.

It’s a well-earned honor for the popular Kalitta, who will now look to open his first title defense on a strong note at this weekend’s 55th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at legendary Gainesville Raceway.

The championship was a long time coming for the longtime standout, as Kalitta earned that first world title on the final pass of the season, a winner-take-all final round with Leah Pruett at the In-N-Out Burger NHRA Finals in Pomona. That memory is still fresh in Kalitta’s mind, but it’s also kept his team plenty motivated heading into this weekend’s highly-anticipated 2024 opener in Gainesville.

“We’re hoping to pick up where we left off (last season). That’s what I’m thinking,” Kalitta said. “Fortunately, with all the changes we made on both our dragsters, Alan (Johnson, crew chief) is definitely the right guy for the job in tuning these things so we’re fortunate to have him so we can keep our momentum going. The main thing is to have fun and take care of business.

“I’m super excited to get this thing going again, and all my guys are super excited. Starting at the Gators in Florida is a fan favorite. It’s always good to race in Florida down in Don Garlits country – he’s pretty much the man for Florida drag racing.”

Last year, Mike Salinas (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Troy Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock), and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) all won in Gainesville and this year’s race will be broadcast on FS1, including eliminations action on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and 9 p.m. Kalitta will also take part in the Pep Boys NHRA Top Fuel All-Star Callout on Saturday. Josh Hart is the defending winner of the specialty race that promises big money and bragging rights, while Kalitta enters the shootout as the No. 2 seed.

If top seed Steve Torrence doesn’t call out the reigning world champ, Kalitta will get his choice of opponent for the opening round in the eight-car field. The race, which gets a special broadcast at 7 p.m. ET on FS1 on Saturday, gives standouts in Top Fuel a unique opportunity for a double-win weekend.

That would be a perfect start to a championship defense, but Kalitta will have his hands full in the loaded Top Fuel category. Torrence, Mike Salinas, Brittany Force, Justin Ashley, Antron Brown, Shawn Langdon and Hart are all part of the Callout, while other standouts include Tony Schumacher, Tony Stewart, who is making his NHRA Top Fuel debut in Gainesville, and Clay Millican.

Kalitta, though, will aim to pick up his fourth career victory at the Gatornationals, as well as a win in specialty race.

“It’s very cool Pep Boys has this race and hopefully we can keep on trucking and turn on some more win lights,” said Kalitta, who has 52 career Top Fuel wins. “It’s an interesting formant, for sure, and it should be a lot of fun. I’ve been out here 26 years and I’ve had a lot of people pulling for me, so it was nice to pull (the championship) off last year. The Gators is always a great place to race and I’m focused on trying to win there. I appreciate all the support I’ve been receiving, but it’s definitely time to get back to racing.”

The selections take place at 10 a.m. in the Top Eliminator Club. The first round of the Pep Boys Top Fuel All-Star Callout takes place on Saturday at 1:20 p.m. ET and the semifinals at 2:45 p.m. The finals are slated for 4:25 p.m.

In Funny Car, Hagan is after his third straight Gators win against a star-studded field of Ron Capps, Bob Tasca III, J.R. Todd, John Force, Daniel Wilkerson, Cruz Pedregon and Austin Prock.

Six-time Pro Stock world champ Erica Enders will try to win in Gainesville for the first time, facing off against Greg Anderson, Aaron Stanfield, Matt Hartford and Dallas Glenn. In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Herrera is after a repeat win by knocking off the likes of Matt Smith, Steve Johnson, Hector Arana Jr. and Angie Smith.

Along with racing in the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series, fans will also be able to see action in the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, the Congruity NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by LearnEV+ and Flexjet Factory Stock Showdown. Fans can also look forward to the exciting cacklefests taking place at the Hot Rod Junction on both Friday and Saturday, and can visit the Don Garlits Swamp Rat Alley throughout the weekend as well.

Race fans at Gainesville Raceway can enjoy the special pre-race ceremonies that introduce and celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the fan favorite SealMaster Track Walk, which benefits the Darrell Gwynn Foundation in Gainesville. The final can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes, where fans are invited to congratulate the event winners of the season-opener.

The Nitro Alley Stage is a huge attraction all weekend and is the main entertainment hub in the pits when the Mission Foods Drag Racing Series competitors are not on the track, hosting Nitro School, meet and greets and much more. Marching bands will also entertain the crowd each day, including the University of Florida on Sunday.

As always, fans get a pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. Fans can see their favorite teams in action and servicing their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers, and more. They can also visit NHRA’s Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, merchandise, food, and fun.

NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series qualifying features two rounds at 2 and 4:30 p.m. ET on Friday, March 8, and the final two qualifying rounds on Saturday, March 9 at 12 and 3 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. ET on Sunday, March 10.

To purchase tickets to the 2024 Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. Children 12 and under are free in general admission areas with the purchase of an adult ticket. Get your tickets now for the Top Eliminator Club because these will sell out. For more info on NHRA, please visit www.NHRA.com.


About Mission Foods

MISSION®, owned by GRUMA, S.A.B. de C.V., is the world’s leading brand for tortillas and wraps. MISSION® is also globally renowned for flatbreads, dips, salsas and Mexican food products. With presence in over 112 countries, MISSION® products are suited to the lifestyles and the local tastes of each country. With innovation and customer needs in mind, MISSION® focuses on the highest quality, authentic flavors, and providing healthy options that families and friends can enjoy together. For more information, please visit https://www.missionfoods.com/

About NHRA

Headquartered in San Dimas, Calif., NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. NHRA presents 21 national events featuring the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series and NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, as well as the Congruity NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by LearnEV+, NHRA Flexjet Factory Stock Showdown™, NHRA Holley EFI Factory X and Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage NHRA Mountain Motor Pro Stock at select national events. NHRA provides competition opportunities for drivers of all levels in the NHRA Summit Racing Series and NHRA Street Legal™. NHRA also offers the NHRA Jr. Street® program for teens and the Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League® for youth ages 5 to 17. With 110 Member Tracks, NHRA allows racers to compete at a variety of locations nationally and internationally. NHRA’s Youth and Education Services® (YES) Program reaches over 30,000 students annually to ignite their interest in automotive and racing related careers. NHRA’s streaming service, NHRA.tv®, allows fans to view all NHRA national events as well as exclusive features of the sport. In addition, NHRA owns and operates three racing facilities: Gainesville Raceway in Florida; Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park; and In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip in Southern California. For more information, log on to www.NHRA.com, or visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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