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.”