For more than 50 years, Connie Kalitta has spent his life in drag racing, first as a successful driver and then as an equally successful multi-team owner.
The first driver to break the 200 mph barrier in a sanctioned race and the founder of the highly-respected Kalitta Motorsports, the Michigan native was honored Monday at the annual NHRA post-season awards banquet with the sanctioning body’s first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award.
Kalitta received a standing ovation by the several hundred friends and peers in attendance. Prior to receiving his award, Kalitta was praised by NHRA President Peter Clifford, and a video tribute of Kalitta’s career was also played.
The video contained tributes from a number of drag racing luminaries, including Kalitta Motorsports’ four current full-time drivers – Alexis DeJoria, Doug Kalitta, J.R. Todd and Del Worsham – as well as team Vice-President of Operations Jim Oberhofer, NHRA legends Don Prudhomme and Tom McEwen, and fellow team owners John Force and Don Schumacher.
“I am not usually at a loss for words,” Kalitta said during his acceptance speech. “Thank you for this. I appreciate everything that each of you said in that piece. I am honored to receive such an award.”
Long known as “The Bounty Hunter” as a racer, this is the latest in a number of honors Kalitta has earned over the years. Those include induction into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1992 and won the U.S. Nationals in 1994. On NHRA’s 50th anniversary in 2001, he was named one of the NHRA’s Top 50 Drivers.