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Sun, 02 Mar 2014, 20:09 PM

Led by Legend Connie Kalitta, Kalitta Motorsports Starts 2014 NHRA Season with Spectacular Success
Courtesy of Todd Myers


Alexis DeJoria celebrates win
with husband and team.
Photo copyright 2014 Gary Nastase Photography
After the first two events of the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, Kalitta Motorsports' team owner and drag racing icon Connie "the Bounty Hunter" Kalitta has a big smile on his face. His four-car, nitro-fueled racing stable has already produced record-breaking and historic performances to begin the season, including most recently a breakthrough Funny Car victory by Alexis DeJoria and her Patr?n XO Caf? team at the previous event in Phoenix. DeJoria became only the fourth female to win an NHRA Funny Car event and the 14th female in history to win a Mello Yello Series event.

After piloting her purple, gold, and matte-black Patr?n XO Caf? Toyota Camry Funny Car to an extraordinary 3.997-second pass in Pomona qualifying, DeJoria became the first woman and ninth Funny Car driver to join the coveted "three second run club". Her win in Phoenix guaranteed her team an exclusive entry in the 2014 Funny Car Traxxas Nitro Shootout, a special event held during the famed U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis in August. She is currently placed a career-high third place in Mello Yello Funny Car championship points.

"When we won the [Phoenix] finals, I couldn't believe it," said DeJoria, daughter of famed entrepreneur John Paul DeJoria and wife of noted television personality Jesse James. "Actually, I can because I know we can do it, but it's such a shock at the same time. It's surreal. It's really amazing."

DeJoria's win gave the Phoenix crowd a chance to see the well-known Kalitta Motorsports mosh pit celebration. DeJoria pointed out that the support of the whole organization made the win much more rewarding.

Team Kalitta celebrate DeJoria win.
Photo copyright 2014 Auto Imagery, Inc.
"I can't wait to see the video of the Kalitta guys on the starting line," DeJoria, a 36-year old resident of Austin, Texas, added. "I don't care what anybody says; that's badass. We all root for each other, and it's really a team effort."

Connie's nephew Doug Kalitta, driver of the "Big Red" Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster, has shown that he has one of the best "rails" for the 2014 championship campaign. He grabbed the No. 1 qualifier spot (3.713 seconds, 328.86 mph) at this season's first event in Pomona. His career-best elapsed time set the Pomona track record and made NHRA history as the third quickest run in NHRA's 1,000-ft. era. He reset the Pomona track speed record with an amazing 330.15-mph mark in the second round en route to a runner-up finish in the season opener.

Doug, who is currently the Mello Yello Top Fuel championship points leader, also claimed the No. 1 qualifying spot (3.735 sec., 327.74 mph) at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Phoenix to raise his total to 38 career No. 1 qualifying spots. He raced to the semifinals in Arizona and now needs only 21 more round wins to reach 500 in his illustrious, 17-year NHRA career, which includes 33 wins and 69 final rounds in the world's quickest and fastest auto racing class.

"We've had a great couple of races to start the season," Doug, a 49-year old resident of Ann Arbor, Mich., said. "Obviously, we would like to have picked up a trophy or two, but my Mac Tools team is great to work with and we're really excited about the way we've started 2014.

Doug Kalitta has qualified No. 1 at the first two events.
"As a driver, it's a big boost to your confidence to know that you have such a great race car underneath you. We're eager to see what this season will hold for us from here on out."

Del Worsham, driver of the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car, raced to the semifinals in Pomona, the 72nd such showing of his career. He and the DHL "Yella Fellas" team have been to the semifinals in three of the last six events (dating back to St. Louis in 2013). Worsham made a quarter-final appearance in Phoenix, and that coupled with two strong qualifying efforts (Pomona: No. 6 - 4.040 sec., 317.27 mph, Phoenix: No. 5 - 4.051 sec., 316.67 mph) has him currently in the No. 5 Mello Yello Funny Car championship points slot.

Worsham and the DHL team have accrued six runs so far this season quicker than 4.08 seconds with the quickest being a 4.024-second blast in round one of eliminations in Pomona. Through the first two events of 2013 Worsham had scored only one run in that range with no round wins which landed him in 12th place in points a year ago.

"We finished out 2013 pretty strong," Worsham, a 44-year old resident of Villa Park, Calif., said. "Really, we've been running well since Indy last year, and all the preparation the crew did over the short off season is paying off even more now. I see no reason for us not to continue to get even stronger."

Native Australian David Grubnic, driver of the Optima Batteries Top Fuel dragster, raced to a quarter-final appearance in Pomona. He was unfortunately on the losing end of tremendous race in the opening round of eliminations in Phoenix with Brittany Force - 3.826 sec., 320.13 mph to 3.821 sec., 316.97 mph. The margin of victory for Force was a mere .007 seconds (approximately four feet) at the 1,000-ft. finish line. Grubnic is currently tied for ninth place in Mello Yello Top Fuel championship points, which places all four Team Kalitta race cars in the top ten in respective class points.

Grubnic, a 51-year old resident of Bozeman, Mont., remarked, "First off, let me say how excited I am with Team Kalitta's performance so far this year. All of our cars are running great and any one of them has the potential of winning. Alexis proved that with her historic win in Phoenix. I know Connie (crew chief on the Optima Batteries dragster) has been paying close attention to all the teams and is working diligently to include our Optima Batteries team in the winner's circle as well."

"It's all about having the right people in the right places," Connie Kalitta, who recently celebrated his 76th birthday, said about his team's great start to the season. "We have a great wealth of knowledge among our crew chiefs and assistant crew chiefs. They are all willing to help each other whenever they can and that makes a huge difference.

"The season is still early and we have a long way to go, but we're all looking forward to seeing what will play out for the rest of the year. Hopefully we'll keep kicking their butts."

Connie's #KalittaStrong team will be back in NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series action March 14-16, in Gainesville, Fla. at the 45th annual NHRA Gatornationals at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville, one of drag racing's crown jewel events.

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