Team Kalitta Photo (Crampton, Langdon, Todd, Kalitta): Gary Nastase Photography

NHRA: Kalitta Motorsports leads all teams in combined Top Fuel/Funny Car wins in 2018

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Quick, after the first four races of the 24-race 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, which organization has the most combined wins in the nitro classes of Top Fuel and Funny Car?

You might be surprised if you said John Force Racing or Don Schumacher Racing – because you’d also be wrong with either of those choices.

Of the eight final rounds in Top Fuel and Funny Car in the first four races, Kalitta Motorsports has won the most: three.

Doug Kalitta won the Winternationals in Top Fuel, Richie Crampton won the Gatornationals in Top Fuel and J.R. Todd won this past Sunday’s Four-Wide Nationals in Las Vegas in Funny Car.

It’s only the second time in team history that Kalitta Motorsports has won three of the first four events, and first time by three different drivers.

The other time was 2014 with Doug Kalitta winning Gainesville and recently-retired driver Alexis DeJoria winning Phoenix and Las Vegas.

As for the other winners in the first four races thus far this season:

* DSR has two wins: Matt Hagan (Funny Car) at the Winternationals and Jack Beckman (Funny Car) at Gainesville.

* JFR has one winner: Courtney Force (Funny Car) at the Arizona Nationals.

* Steve Torrence (Top Fuel) has two wins at Arizona and Las Vegas.

To say that the boss man, legendary driver and team owner Connie Kalitta, is happy at how his four-car operation has started this season is an understatement.

But ever the wise man of drag racing, Kalitta knows how quickly good fortune in the sport can turn bad, so he’s taking things in stride.

“I am pleased with the start we have had as an organization, but know this is not our ultimate goal,” Kalitta told MotorSportsTalk. “My desire for this season is to compete for and win championships in both classes, and this is a small sample size.

“I am ready to start our first extended run of the year with three-straight events starting in Houston (next week, April 20-222). The plan is to continue the run of success.”

Here’s a more detailed look at the organization’s run of success to date:

* Doug Kalitta, Connie’s nephew, not only won the season-opening race at Pomona, but was runner-up at Las Vegas on Sunday. He also has six round wins and is fifth in the Top Fuel point standings.

“Starting off the season with a win for the Mac Tools Toyota was huge for our confidence,” Kalitta told MotorSportsTalk. “We know we have a car that can compete for a championship and wins weekly, so to start that way was awesome.”

* Crampton’s win at Gainesville is the lone time he’s reached the finals thus far this season. But he also has five round wins and is also right behind teammate Doug Kalitta in sixth place in the Top Fuel standings.

“It was really excellent to get a win out of the gate with this Kalitta Air Toyota team,” Crampton said. “Ever since I started in 2017 with Kalitta Motorsports, it was evident that we had everything we needed to get wins and contend for the championship. It does not stop here; we plan on scoring a few more wins as the season goes along.

“Having worked with Shawn and J.R. in the past, and racing with Doug, getting to be their teammates is awesome this season. We have a lot that we can feed off from each other, and I have been able to learn a lot.”

* Todd, the most recent winner in the Kalitta stable at Las Vegas, also has reached the final round just once with his win Sunday, but has five overall round wins and is sixth in the Funny Car standings.

“It is nice to get some good momentum rolling early in the season,” Todd said. “It gets team morale up and keeps us hungry.

“In my opinion, we have the best drivers under one umbrella. It is great to be able to go to one another and bounce ideas off each other. Having Shawn (Langdon) in a Funny Car, I think is going to help us become better Funny Car drivers. There is no other place I’d rather be.”

* Lastly, Langdon has yet to reach the winner’s circle in 2018, but has two semi-final finishes in the first four races and is eighth in the point standings.

That’s not a bad showing considering this is the first time Langdon has ever competed in a season in a Funny Car; he previously only drove a Top Fuel dragster in the nitro division.

“It has been a great start to the 2018 season,” Langdon said. “For the team to have wins in three of the first four races is awesome. We are so close to breaking through with the Global Electronic Technology Camry. Two semis in the first three races is solid. We just had a little hiccup in Las Vegas, but we have been working closely with J.R. and the DHL team, who just won Vegas. We are close.”

Todd’s win at Las Vegas was made all the more special because all four drivers were able to celebrate in the winner’s circle afterward.

“I don’t often get to celebrate my teammates wins with our flight schedule, so to be able to be in the winner’s circle with J.R., Shawn and Richie was great,” Doug Kalitta said. “We are proud of the start we have had, but know this is only the beginning of what is a long season.”

Added Crampton, “It is a big family environment, so when J.R. won, we all celebrated with him in the winner’s circle and took a photo. That is what Kalitta Motorsports is all about.”

Added Langdon: “The way I look at we have four great drivers. Doug is great. He has the experience and knows how to win races. Richie is a talented driver and fabricator. He brings additional information to the team on working the car as he was a crew guy for years before jumping in the seat. J.R. is a very experienced driver and has been giving be great info on the learning curve in a Funny Car. We are learning and working closely together. All four drivers give each other tips and help each other out. It is a great place to be.”

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Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.