INDIANAPOLIS, IN – November 17, 2023 – (Motor Sports NewsWire) – At long last, Doug Kalitta is a NHRA Top Fuel world champion, a moment that instantly entered the history books on Sunday at In-N-Out Pomona Dragstrip as one of the most memorable in NHRA history.
A championship runner-up six times in an otherwise remarkable 26-year career, Kalitta and his team, led by crew chiefs Alan Johnson and Brian Husen, came through with a clutch run that will be replayed forever, defeating Leah Pruett in a winner-take-all final round at the 58th annual In-N-Out Burger NHRA Finals.
Kalitta went 3.673-seconds at 334.98 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Mac Tools/Toyota dragster, handing him the event win and a world title, erasing a career of championship heartbreak and giving the fan-favorite veteran a label that can never be removed: NHRA Top Fuel world champion.
“It definitely has a nice ring to it. It’s going to take a while for that to settle in, but I’m definitely going to be grinning here for quite a while,” Kalitta said. “What a blessing to have Alan (Johnson) on our team. To be one of the guys that has won a championship with him as a crew chief is what I’ve dreamed of, and winning it with Connie (Kalitta, team owner) here was extra special as well.
“It’s incredible to see all the fan support. This is one of the coolest places to run and this is just the pinnacle for me. At the end of the run, I was just so relieved. I’ve been trying to win this thing for so many years and it’s just really hard to believe. It will sink in eventually, but we’ve definitely had a great run.”
Kalitta and his Kalitta Motorsports team battled through adversity and got hot at the ideal time, winning three races in the Countdown to the Championship, including the playoff opener in Reading to pick up his milestone 50th career victory.
After starting the six-race playoffs in sixth, he jumped to third after Reading and then went into the points lead after winning the fall race in Charlotte. Pruett bumped Kalitta out of first with her Dallas win and then Steve Torrence moved ahead of everyone in Las Vegas, setting up a marquee three-car showdown in Pomona to close out the year.
All three advanced to the semifinals, and as the drama and intensity built, Kalitta and his team simply got better. He went 3.706, 3.733 and 3.723 during the first three rounds, defeating Justin Ashley in the semifinals. After Pruett slipped past Torrence in the semifinals, it set…