SYDNEY, Australia -- In the quickest side-by-side drag race in Australian history, two-time NHRA Top Fuel World Champion, Scott Kalitta, who announced in November that he will switch from Top Fuel to Funny Car in the 2006 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, grabbed the title trophy and bragging rights over his Kalitta Motorsports teammate and native Australian Dave Grubnic in the final round of Top Fuel eliminations at the USA vs. Australia Boxing Day Top Fuel Nitro Thunder at Western Sydney International Dragway in Sydney, Australia Tuesday.
Kalitta, 43, is quite happy to leave the Top Fuel class on such a high note. "This whole experience down here has been great," Kalitta said. "My family made the trip over here with me and we have had a blast.
"This will be something I remember for the rest of my life. Everyone here has been terrific and the facility at WSID is really top-notch. I want to thank all the racing fans here and all the staff at the track for making us all feel so welcome and for giving us a great place to race."
"This has always been a dream of mine," Grubnic, 43, said. "I have always wanted to run in front of my family and friends in Australia, and the fans here have always been so supportive of me.
"I wish we could have taken the trophy away from Scott, but I'm really happy just to be here and get to race in my homeland. I'm really happy for Scott too. He's moving on to Funny Car next year in the States, so to get a win in his last competitive ride in the cockpit of a dragster is great."
Grubnic, driver of the StriVectin-SD Top Fueler, has posted consecutive NHRA top-five championship points finishes, and he picked up an emotional and long overdue first NHRA national event win this past May in Topeka, Kans., to become the first non-native North American to win a Top Fuel trophy. He is an 11-year nitro dragster veteran.
Kalitta was the No. 2 qualifier (4.809 sec., 297.61 mph) for the Boxing Day, a national public holiday in Australia that got its name from an old tradition when employers boxed gifts for their workers on the day after Christmas, event. In the United States, Kalitta has garnered 18 NHRA national event wins (17 Top Fuel, 1 Funny Car) in his 24-year drag racing career. He and his family reside in Snead Island, Fla.
Kalitta and Grubnic drove Kalitta Motorsports-prepared dragsters during the fast festivities. The two cars they drove were sold out of the Kalitta Motorsports stable to Australian racers and businessmen Santo Rapisarda and Jim Read earlier this year. Longtime Team Kalitta tuner Jim Oberhofer was on-hand to turn the knobs on Grubnic's Read-owned dragster while drag racing journeyman tuner and driver Glenn Mikres called the tuning shots on Kalitta's Rapisarda-owned rail.
The American "invaders" were joined in the final eliminations field by reigning Australian Top Fuel champ Darren Morgan along with Phil Read, Bob Shepherd, Terry Sainty, Steve Read and Luke Shepherd.
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