NHRA racers and fans gather in Indianapolis every Labor Day weekend for the world’s biggest drag race. No career is truly complete without a win at the Big Go, something only accentuated by enormous car counts and fans and racers descending in Indy from all over the world.
One year ago, Doug Kalitta won the biggest race in his career. After 25 years, the veteran driver and perennial championship contender got four win lights at the NHRA U.S. Nationals and won the prestigious race for the first time. It was a hard-fought win that saw him defeat some of the toughest drivers in the category. This weekend Kalitta and his Mac Tools Top Fuel team will be looking to do something that hasn’t happened in over a decade and win back-to-back Top Fuel titles at the biggest race.
“That win last year was big. We were having a good season, but getting that U.S. Nationals win gave us a boost, and we made a serious run at the championship,” said Kalitta. “It was great to share that win with (team owner) Connie (Kalitta) and the boys. I am looking forward to trying to do it again.”
This season Kalitta has held the Mello Yello points lead from the first race of the season with a win at the Winternationals. He has raced to two more final rounds and continued to be one of the most dominant drivers on tour. Heading into the U.S. Nationals after three previous races in Indianapolis, Kalitta is laser-focused as ever on the task at hand.
“You can’t take a round off when you are racing,” said Kalitta. “If you aren’t at the top of your game, you are going to have a short day. This Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster has been running great all season, and I have to do my job when I get behind the wheel. We see more fans at the races, which is good, and we want to put on a good show.”
The NHRA has been working with local officials to ensure racing can continue, and with each race since the restart of the 2020 season, more fans have been in attendance at each national event. The build-up to the U.S. Nationals has been growing, and interest in the sport continues to expand. The fan interest and business support is something a veteran like Kalitta can appreciate.
“We have brought on new partners this season and had to get creative to keep them engaged and give them exposure,” said Kalitta. “Now we are back on track, and we want to show off for all the people that supported us over the summer. Mac Tools, Toyota, Mobil1, and NGK Spark Plugs have done a ton for our team over the years, and the new sponsors have made a huge impact. We also have guys like Osborn and Revchem Composites who help us back at the shop and on the race car every race. Those are the people we want to turn on win lights for and get them some added TV time on FOX.”
As the season makes a turn to the homestretch, Kalitta knows as the Mello Yello point leader, and he will get more attention from his competitors and the fans. He doesn’t feel any extra pressure but does want to perform at the highest level.
“I try and do my job the same every run. With the new qualifying format, you have one day to get it right in qualifying. We will get one shot on Friday night, but I am not sure how much that will help you on race day. The pressure comes from inside, I think. I want to get the wins and do my best. I know everyone on this Mac Tools team is ready to get after this weekend, and we will have to see what happens,” added Kalitta.