(Photos courtesy NHRA)

2016 NHRA season in review: Top Fuel driver Doug Kalitta

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Over the next three-plus weeks, MotorSportsTalk will feature season-ending reviews of the top drivers of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

Each day, we’ll have one in-depth review of a driver that finished in the top-five in each of the four professional classes (Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle), as well as a compendium of select other drivers that did not finish in the top-five.

The list of drivers we’ve already posted is below. Today, we feature Top Fuel driver Doug Kalitta.

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Driver: Doug Kalitta

Age: 52

Hometown: Ann Arbor, Michigan

Team: Kalitta Motorsports

Sponsor/car: Mac Tools dragster

Crew chief: Jim Oberhofer

2016 season finish: Second in Top Fuel.

2016 season statistics: 24 races, 4 wins, 2 runner-up, 7 semifinals, 8 quarterfinals. No. 1 qualifier four times. Round-by-round record: 44 wins, 20 losses.

Career statistics: 441 races, 42 wins, 45 runner-up, 76 semifinals, 135 quarterfinals. No. 1 qualifier 47 times. Round-by-round record: 589 wins, 392 losses. 7 DNQ.

What went right in 2016: Kalitta had a great season, finishing second in the Top Fuel standings for the third time in his career. … For much of the season, it looked like Kalitta may go on to win his first Top Fuel championship, but a late surge by Antron Brown kept Kalitta from achieving his goal. … Still, the former sprint car driver reached the final round in one-fourth of the 24 races (four wins, two runner-up). Was part of major drag racing history, defeating teammate J.R. Todd in the closest Top Fuel final round finish — .000 seconds — at Southern Nationals in Commerce, Ga.

What went wrong in 2016: Kalitta’s championship hopes faded when he suffered three consecutive second-round losses in the Countdown to the Championship (St. Louis, Reading and Dallas). … Antron Brown clinched the championship in the second-to-last race (Las Vegas). If he had not, Kalitta may have had a last-gasp chance in the season finale, which he ultimately won, defeating teammate J.R. Todd. … Kalitta had three first-round exits in the first 18 races.

What to look for in 2017: With the success he had in 2016, Kalitta will have good momentum coming into the new season. He’ll have a new teammate (Troy Coughlin), who will replace J.R. Todd (moves to replace the departed Del Worsham in one of the Kalitta Motorsports’ Funny Car entries). Kalitta has the team, resources and talent to finally win the championship, but drivers like two-time defending champ (and three-time champion overall) Antron Brown and eight-time champ Tony Schumacher will be among the top obstacles for Kalitta to overcome. But the nephew of team owner Connie Kalitta has one thing to offer inspiration: good friend Ron Capps had to wait for more than 20 years and endure four season runner-up finishes before he finally won his first championship in 2016.

Season reviews already posted:

— Antron Brown (12/12)

— Ron Capps (12/13)

— Jason Line (12/14)

Jerry Savoie (12/15)

Doug Kalitta (12/16)

Tommy Johnson Jr. (12/17)

Greg Anderson (12/18)

Eddie Krawiec (12/19)

Steve Torrence (12/20)

— Matt Hagan (12/21)

— Shane Gray (12/22)

— Andrew Hines (12/23)

— J.R. Todd (12/24)

— John Force (12/25)

— Bo Butner (12/26)

— Angelle Sampey (12/27)

Follow @JerryBonkowski

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.