Doug Kalitta's season-opening Top Fuel victory at Pomona was more than the end of a personal dry spell. It was an anniversary gift, shot in the arm, and hope for the future all wrapped up into one Wally-shaped package.
"That win at Pomona was a long time coming," Kalitta said about a victory that ended a more than one-year winless stretch. "I've tried to win there a lot of years. It was a real momentum builder for me and all my guys. To come out of the box strong was great for all of us."
It's especially great for Doug's uncle and team owner, Connie "the Bounty Hunter" Kalitta, who is celebrating his 50th anniversary in the sport this season.
"It should be a fun year; I'm really looking forward to it," Doug said. "Connie gave me the opportunity to do this and it's great that he's out there supporting us. We're going to have some fun with (the anniversary) this year with the recognition he gets.
"People already have started calling my car the '50 car' this year, so it's sort of taken the name of a NASCAR car. We've had some fun already and we'll keep doing it as long as Connie gives us the hall pass to go to the track."
Kalitta is off to a great start after winning Pomona.
At this point, Kalitta's dragster doesn't have the primary sponsorship to run for a full season, but Kalitta said the team is headed to Gainesville, Fla., this week for the 40th annual ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals operating no differently than before.
Further success -- Kalitta currently sits third in Full Throttle points -- can only open the door for more sponsorship dollars -- another reason why the team's early success has been so vital.
"Until Connie says we're not going to one, I'm under the impression that we're going to them all," Doug said. "It's a normal mindset. Maybe we'll think about them differently if we have to sit one out. Right now we're up on the wheel and staying in the hunt in the points."
Kalitta said thanks to associate sponsorships from Technicoat and Red Line Oil, the team will be able to do some special things this season.
"Technicoat is going to be on our car in Las Vegas, so the Cowboys (Technicoat's Robert Coffman and Glen Williams) will be out there with us," Kalitta said. "Then we're going to do a dedicated car for Red Line Oil at Sonoma, probably."
The team, which has been patched together from personnel who worked on the cars of Kalitta, Dave Grubnic, and Hillary Will in 2008, jelled quickly under the watchful eye of crew chief Jim Oberhofer.
"We shuffled all the guys around," Kalitta said. "There are actually just a few of the guys who were on my team last year. Big Jim had Hillary's car running real well at the end of the year and he's got a good handle on mine so far this year.
"It was good to start out the way we did because now we can build on trying to get another win instead of thinking we're going to go a whole other year without getting one. We're racing with a whole different mindset."
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