Doug Kalitta hasn't won a National Hot Rod Association race since the start of the 2010 Western Swing, when he was king of Thunder Mountain in the Mopar Mile High Nationals at Denver.
So he said Saturday after claiming his No. 1 Top Fuel qualifying position since August 2010, at Brainerd, Minn., he's looking forward to Sunday's eliminations of the Sonoma Nationals in California's Wine Country.
The Ann Arbor, Mich., businessman has won five times here, more than anyone else in the class and second only at this facility to seven-time Funny Car winner John Force. And on the strength of his track-record 3.785-second elapsed time in the Technicoat Dragster Friday night, Kalitta will lead the pack for the first time this year and 31st of his career.
"I hope we can pull it off," Kalitta, said. "The car's running good. Hopefully I won't screw it up on my part."
He didn't improve his E.T. in either of Saturday's two sessions in the heat of the day on a surface that reached triple-digit temperatures. However, he did use the third-session run to earn his top speed of the weekend at 324.12 mph.
And he said he doubted crew chief Jim Oberhofer suddenly will throw a conservative tune-up into the dragster Sunday.
"We're usually not very bashful with our set-up," he said.
Besides, he indicated he knows he can run in conditions that he and the class likely will encounter Sunday. What he saw Saturday, he said, "are definitely the conditions we'll have tomorrow." So he acknowledged that Oberhofer and the crew were trying out some settings that would come in handy in eliminations.
"Hopefully we'll have a whole bunch of 3.80s for 'em tomorrow," Kalitta said.
His Kalitta Motorsports teammate Dave Grubnic, in the Optima Batteries Dragster, was the No. 2 qualifier. They were 1-2 here in 2004, and they met in that final round with Kalitta winning. This marked the first time since the 2005 Gatornationals that Kalitta and Grubnic started at the top of the order.
"That's cool to see Dave and I at the front of the pack. I'm rally excited for Jim and (assistant crew chief) Troy (Fasching) and all my guys. They're working real hard. We'll do our best," Kalitta said.
His first challenge will come from Scott Palmer. Grubnic will face No. 15 Mike Strasburg in the first round.
On the heels of performing before an outstanding Denver crowd all last weekend, Kalitta took time to applaud the encouraging two-day attendance.
"This is one of the nicest tracks we go to," he said. "The crowd yesterday and today were huge." To the track personnel, he said, "You should be proud of the marketing and everything else that attracts that many people. You built a nice facility and people appreciate that and come back. I think that's probably what you're probably seeing."
Maybe they'll be seeing another Doug Kalitta victory -- one that might be familiar to the fans here but is long overdue for him.
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