Doug Kalitta is second in points in his Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster after scoring one win and one runner-up finish this season and earning five No. 1 qualifying positions. He has finished second in the points three times and is battling for his first championship.
Q: Doug, you have had one of the fastest cars all season, you've been part of some incredible racing, but since the Indianapolis event, you guys have really made a strong championship push. What did you guys hit upon here in the back end of the season?
Kalitta: Yeah, I think it's just hopefully all kind of coming together for us, really Jim Oberhofer, my crew chief, and Troy, and really all the guys. We just keep doing what we've been doing, just try to not make any mistakes along the way, obviously just hoping that the win light comes on each time.
But real proud of the effort that everybody has got going on. We're real focused at trying to do the best we can, and like you say, it's getting better for us since Indy, and definitely really looking forward to the next couple races.
Q: You guys had great consistency the past couple of races. I think people are amazed that you can be consistent in an 8,000-horsepower Top Fuel dragster. How do you hit upon that consistency?
Kalitta: You know, as far as tuning the thing, obviously Jim and Troy and all the guys, they work real hard at it. It's a fickle machine. Some days, it responds well to what you're trying to do, and we've just come across a setup that I think we're trying not to veer too far from. But it's really just hats off to my guys there. We're trying obviously real hard. Everybody is focused, and that hopefully has something to do with just how bad my Mac Tools team, how bad we want to do well out there. That's kind of what we're up to. It definitely helps your confidence going into these events, and right now, we're feeling pretty good about it. Obviously, I wish we were going to Las Vegas this weekend because I know me and all my guys are ready to go. It's just the wanna-win, do-the-best-you-can attitude we have right now, and obviously, when you know your car is running as good as anybody out there, you're just trying your best. Right now, I've probably got one of the better opportunities to hopefully run with Shawn [Langdon] and whoever else is coming up because I think second on back, everybody is within a round of one another. Shawn has pulled away a little bit, but we're hoping that we can definitely gain on him, and I think we can.
Q: With your good results, how long does that take to transfer to your team?
Kalitta: It's hopefully been building all year. Definitely there's a bunch of great Top Fuel drivers at the top of the pack here, so I know as the guy driving that thing, I'm going to definitely have to be as good or better than some of these guys. Each round is pretty tough these days. Personally, I'm trying real hard to do the best I can, and at the same time, I love doing what we're doing. It's fun. I wouldn't want to do it any other way. To have an opportunity with two races to go to be in the position we're in, we're all having fun, we've got a good competitive car, and we're just really hoping for good results, and I'm confident about it.
Q: Tony Schumacher always talks about these big moments, and that's what he likes to call the big moments. You're not nearly as boisterous as Tony Schumacher, but do you frame these down-to-the-wire championships the same way that he does?
Kalitta: You know, obviously, there's not too many rounds left, so it's definitely time to lead, follow, or get out of the way. I personally feel that we're up for the challenge, and I look forward to going to these next two races and hopefully running towards the front of either one of the two. Anything can happen. I mean, we've seen over the years how the points have gone at the last two races. You've just got to stay upbeat about what we're doing, and I'm confident, and yeah, I feel real comfortable going to the next two with the group of guys that I've got and making some good out of it. We've got a little bit different paint scheme with the Vegas weekend with a Chip Foose-designed car. That'll make it a little more fun and change it up a bit. But I think we'll be ready.
Q: Is there a crazy guy inside Doug Kalitta going, “Give me the ball, coach; I want to get this last shot”?
Kalitta: I guess time will tell. But it'll be fun. I think we're in a good position. Like I said, one of my better opportunities I've had in a few years to be in this position, so hopefully we can take advantage of it.
Q: What do you draw on as you go down like Tony has got maybe past history or something? What do you have to draw on, like motivation or inspiration? Do you think of Scott [Kalitta] or do you think of Connie [Kalitta]? Do you have an inspiration like that, or is it just confidence in your crew and your team?
Kalitta: Yeah, it would be obviously great to bring it home. You always try to accomplish all your goals, so this is definitely one of them that's still standing out there. So really it's just having confidence in your ability and feeling confident about it, and that's pretty much how I feel going into the next two races.
Q: You finished second in the points three times in your career. Are you just tired of being a bridesmaid here that you want to get to the championship Wally?
Kalitta: Yeah, it would be a huge relief. I've looked at that championship trophy a few times and wished it was on my mantel. Yeah, you know, there's always a first for everything, and it might as well be our turn, I think.
Q: Last time you were in this position in this tight of a battle, I believe it was 2006. How many of the guys that are on your team right now were with you then when you came so close to getting that big Wally?
Kalitta: Probably not that many. There's a couple guys back at the shop, obviously Jim Oberhofer, he was with our team I think at that time. He was tuning for Hillary [Hines] or Scott, one of the two. But amongst our organization, there's probably four guys that are still there.
Q: And do they want to win this as bad as you do and overcome the disappointment from 2006?
Kalitta: Yeah, I mean, just as hard as we've been trying with really all of our teams and just building Kalitta Motorsports, obviously this would be a great morale booster for really all four of our teams. I'm real proud of obviously the effort that we've got going on with our other cars, but it would be awesome to pull that thing, bring it home for Connie, who's obviously supported me for a lot of years, obviously with drag racing and sprint car and midget racing; he backed me then when I was doing the open-wheel stuff as well. Yeah, it would definitely be a proud moment to bring Connie home that kind of hardware. I'm sure Scott and the other people that have brought home those end-of-the-year championships to Connie, he'd definitely like to see another one.
Q: Towards the end of last season, it seemed as though Oberhofer stumbled onto something on that car, and that car has been very consistent and has been really fast all season. Has he told you what he found? Was it a batch of clutch discs? Find something in the blower? What did he stumble onto because that thing has really been working?
Kalitta: You know, I think it's just a little bit of everything. We've just kind of narrowed in on the clutch, the motor combination, superchargers. Obviously, everything in drag racing is always advancing, the quality of the heads, and he's pretty proud of it. He's got his hands around the whole thing really well. And Troy, who manages all the guys on the team, is doing a great job getting the car back consistent each time we take it apart and put it back together. That's obviously just as important as anything.
But no, we're proud of him. Yeah, he's hungry as ever. I talked to him a little bit yesterday, and looking at that paint job, hoping that maybe it's going to be a fast car for Vegas. I think it will be.
Q: With everything that you have going on at home, with your business and with your family, the kids, the whole deal, how much do you think about racing and about this championship when you're not at the racetrack?
Kalitta: Every day. It's coming down to the wire here. But no, the shop is real close to the airport, so I'm by there periodically throughout the week and trying to see how the guys are doing. Yeah, they were looking forward to obviously getting a couple weekends off and kind of get recharged.
I'm real focused on trying to be ready for these last two races. Fortunately with the airline work that I do, I'm surrounded with a group of very good people. Obviously, it's a very busy time, but it's what I enjoy doing. You know, aviation is kind of in my blood as well, and then my family, they're doing real well. I've got a 10- and a 12-year-old, Mitch and Avery, and they're doing great. Right now, it's business as usual.
Q: You just always seem too mellow and so laid back. What gets you charged up before you get in the car?
Kalitta: This opportunity here is kind of what I've been hoping for and dreaming about. Just knowing that it's time to, like I say, lead, follow, or get out of the way. It'll be a lot of fun at the next couple events just to see how it all shakes out. I've really enjoyed doing what we're doing, so it's a lot of fun for me.
Q: You've talked a couple of times about the Chip Foose paint scheme, design. It's like when girls get dressed up in a new outfit, they feel a little different. Does a new paint scheme on the car, like in this particular case, something from Chip, who's done your stuff before, does that really give you an extra sense of, like putting on a new suit or something? Does it make you feel better?
Kalitta: You know, the car looks great. Obviously, Mac Tools and Chip work together very closely with a lot of their projects, so we're just honored to have him part of our deal, for me personally. He's a pretty amazing guy. He's quite an artist. He would definitely be proud to see that car in the winner's circle. It’s just a little extra motivation really for me and all my guys to try to accomplish that with Chip being involved. I'm not sure if he's going to come to that particular race or not, but he'll be watching and rooting us on. Just appreciate the opportunity that Mac is giving us to work with Chip again.
Q: Looking ahead a little bit, do you look ahead and go, “Oh, my gosh, it's hard enough to get to where I am right now,” let alone next year is going to be even more competition in sheer numbers but also good quality there, too?
Kalitta: Yeah, well, there's definitely plenty of competition out there throughout the years that I've been driving. Obviously, you get these younger guys, and I'm probably one of the older guys out there, so they definitely are making me realize I've got to step my game up, and I am certainly trying to do that. Yeah, the more the merrier as far as I'm concerned. There's 16 spots on Sunday, and you certainly hope to be in one of them is kind of usually the way I look at it. And then obviously, just trying to get that win light each round and trying not to get too nervous about who you're racing or whatever you want to call it. We're pretty much on our side of the lane and hoping the win light comes on. I've never really tried to get too nervous about who you're racing against or who might be showing up. I appreciate the opportunity.
Q: You mentioned that some of the newer competition, some of the younger guys, really make you stay on your game and realize that you need to step up your game. What do you do to step up your game?
Kalitta: Yeah, obviously, just trying to get the focus level and the consistency with your reaction time. As far as driving the thing, keeping it in the groove and all that, that's the easy part for me, really. It's just getting the consistency on the line, and I've certainly been working at that. So a lot of times, you try different things. They're a lot of little things, but obviously, very highly secretive information amongst all the drivers, whatever it is that works for them. But I don't really have a lot of lucky things I drag around with me, but just trying to improve on the focus, and it seems simple, but just go when that light comes on and being able to do it consistently is the name of the game, obviously.