National Hot Rod Association Media Conference
October 16, 2013
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Doug Kalitta, who is currently second in points in his Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster. Kalitta has one win this season and one runner‑up finish along with five No.1 qualifying positions. He's finished second in the points three times in his career and is battling for his first championship. Doug, you have one of the fastest cars all season, you've been part of some incredible racing, but since the Indianapolis event you guys have really made a strong championship push. What did you guys hit upon here in the back end of the season?
DOUG KALITTA: Yeah, I think it's just hopefully all kind of coming together for us, really Jim Oberhofer, my crew chief, and Troy and really all the guys. We just keep doing what we've been doing, just try to not make any mistakes along the way. Obviously just hoping that the win light comes on each time.
But real proud of the effort that everybody has got going on. We're real focused at trying to do the best we can, and like you say, it's getting better for us since Indy, and definitely really looking forward to the next couple races.
THE MODERATOR: You guys had great consistency the past couple of races. I think people are amazed that you can be consistent in an 8,000 horsepower Top Fuel dragster. How do you hit upon that consistency?
DOUG KALITTA: You know, as far as tuning the thing, obviously Jim and Troy and all the guys, they work real hard at it. It's a fickle machine. Some days it responds good to what you're trying to do, and we've just come across a setup that I think we're trying not to veer too far from, and Jim‑‑ some days some of these guys make it really good easy, and some days it's obviously a little bit harder. But it's really just hats off to my guys there.
We're trying obviously real hard. Everybody is focused, and that hopefully has something to do with just how bad my Mac Tools team, how bad we want to do well out there. That's kind of what we're up to.
Q. You haven't been in contention that often. Do you change your strategy at all knowing that you've got a chance for the big prize?
DOUG KALITTA: You know, it definitely helps your confidence going into these events, and right now we're feeling pretty good about it. Obviously I wish we were going to LasVegas here this coming weekend because I know me and all my guys are ready to go. It's just the wanna‑win, do‑the‑best‑you‑can attitude we have right now, and obviously when you know your car is running as good as anybody out there, you're just trying your best, and right now I've probably got one of the better opportunities to hopefully run with Sean and whoever else is coming up, because I think second on back, everybody is within a round of one another, and Sean has pulled away a little bit, but we're hoping that we can definitely gain on him, and I think we can.
Q. With your good results, how long does that take to transfer to your team?
DOUG KALITTA: You know, it's hopefully been building all year. Definitely there's a bunch of great Top Fuel drivers at the top of the pack here, so I know as the guy driving that thing, I'm going to definitely have to be as good or better than some of these guys. Each round is pretty tough these days. Personally I'm trying real hard to do the best I can, and at the same time I love doing what we're doing. It's fun. I wouldn't want to do it any other way. To have an opportunity with two races to go to be in the position we're in, we're all having fun, we've got a good competitive car, and we're just really hoping for good results, and I'm confident about it.
Q. Tony Schumacher always talks about these big moments, and that's what he likes to call the big moments. You're not nearly as boisterous as Tony Schumacher, but do you frame these down‑to‑the‑wire championships the same way that he does?
DOUG KALITTA: You know, obviously there's not too many rounds left, so it's definitely time to lead, follow or get out of the way. I personally feel that we're up for the challenge, and I look forward to going to these next two races and hopefully running towards the front of either one of the two. Anything can happen. I mean, we've seen over the years how the points have gone at the last two races. You've just got to stay upbeat about what we're doing, and I'm confident, and yeah, I feel real comfortable going to the next two with the group of guys that I've got and making some good out of it.
We've got a little bit different paint scheme this weekend, or next weekend, with the Vegas weekend with a Chip Foose designed car. That'll make it a little more fun and change it up a bit. But I think we'll be ready.
Q. Is there a crazy guy inside Doug Kalitta going, give me the ball, coach, I want to get this last shot?
DOUG KALITTA: I guess time will tell. But it'll be fun. I think we're in a good position. Like I said, one of my better opportunities I've had in a few years to be in this position, so hopefully we can take advantage of it.
Q. What do you draw on as you go down‑‑ like Tony has got maybe past history or something. What do you have to draw on, like motivation or inspiration? Do you think of Scott or do you think of Connie? Do you have an inspiration like that, or is it just confidence in your crew and your team?
DOUG KALITTA: Yeah, it would be obviously great to bring it home. No one in the Kalitta family over the years has been able to do it, so it would certainly be a proud moment for me to be able to do it. Yeah, it's been a personal goal. You always try to accomplish all your goals, so this is definitely one of them that's still standing out there. So really it's just having confidence in your ability and feeling confident about it, and that's pretty much how I feel going into the next two races.
Q. Just a thing here, it said you finished second in the points three times in your career. Are you just tired of being a bridesmaid here that you want to get to the championship Wally?
DOUG KALITTA: Yeah, it would be a huge relief. I've looked at that championship trophy a few times and wished it was on my mantle. Yeah, you know, there's always a first for everything, and it might as well be our turn, I think.
Q. Last time you were in this position in this tight of a battle I believe it was 2006. How many of the guys that are on your team right now were with you then when you came so close to getting that big Wally?
DOUG KALITTA: Probably not that many. There's a couple guys back at the shop, obviously Jim Oberhofer, he's been with our team I think at that time. He was tuning for Hillary or Scott, one of the two. But amongst our organization, there's probably four guys that are still there.
Q. And do they want to win this as bad as you do and overcome the disappointment from 2006?
DOUG KALITTA: Yeah, I mean, just as hard as we've been trying with really all of our teams and just building Kalitta Motorsports, obviously this would be a great morale booster for really all four of our teams. I'm real proud of obviously the effort that we've got going on with our other cars, but it would be awesome to pull that thing‑‑ bring it home for Connie, who's obviously supported me for a lot of years, obviously with drag racing and sprint car and midget racing, he's backed me then when I was doing the open wheel stuff, as well. Yeah, it would definitely be a proud moment to bring Connie home that kind of hardware. I'm sure Scott and the other people that have brought home those end‑of‑the‑year championships to Connie, he'd definitely like to see another one.
Q. Towards the end of last season, it seemed as though Oberhofer stumbled onto something on that car, and that car has been very consistent and has been really fast all season. Has he told you what he found? Was it a batch of clutch disks? Find something in the blower? What did he stumble onto, because that thing has really been working?
DOUG KALITTA: You know, I think it's just a little bit of everything. We've just kind of narrowed in on the clutch, the motor combination, superchargers. Obviously everything in drag racing is always advancing, the quality of the heads, and it's just‑‑ he's pretty proud of it. He's got his hands around the whole thing really well. And Troy, who manages all the guys on the team, is doing a great job getting the car back consistent each time we take it apart and put it back together. That's obviously just as important as anything.
But no, we're proud of him. Yeah, he's hungry as ever. I talked to him a little bit yesterday, and looking at that paint job, hoping that maybe it's going to be a fast car for Vegas. I think it will be.
Q. With everything that you have going on at home, with your business and with your family, the kids, the whole deal, how much do you think about racing and about this championship when you're not at the racetrack?
DOUG KALITTA: Every day. It's coming down to the wire here. But no, the shop is real close to the airport, so I'm by there periodically throughout the week and trying to see how the guys are doing. Yeah, they're looking forward to obviously getting a couple weekends off and kind of get recharged.
But no, I'm real focused on trying to be ready for these last two races. Fortunately with the airline work that I do, I'm surrounded with a group of very good people. Obviously it's a very busy time, but it's what I enjoy doing. You know, aviation is kind of in my blood, as well, and then my family, they're doing real well. I've got a 10 and a 12 year old, Mitch and Avery, and they're doing great.
Yeah, right now it's business as usual. Get a couple weekends off and be ready for LasVegas with our Foose car. It should be fun.
Q. You just always seem to mellow and so laid back. What gets you charged up before you get in the car?
DOUG KALITTA: This opportunity here is kind of what I've been hoping for and dreaming about. Just knowing that it's time to, like I say, lead, follow or get out of the way. It'll be a lot of fun at the next couple events just to see how it all shakes out. I've really enjoyed doing what we're doing, so it's a lot of fun for me. Hopefully as far as the pressure goes, just really looking forward to it.
Q. Will Mitch and Avery be able to come?
DOUG KALITTA: We'll see how it goes through Vegas, and maybe we'll have them out to Pomona. But right now they're not planning on coming out, no.
Q. You've talked a couple of times or three times about the Chip Foose paint scheme, design. It's like when girls get dressed up in a new outfit they feel a little different. Does a new paint scheme on the car, like in this particular case, something from Chip, who's done your stuff before, does that really give you an extra sense of, like putting on a new suit or something? Does it make you feel better?
DOUG KALITTA: You know, the car looks great. As far as‑‑ obviously Mac Tools and Chip work together very closely with a lot of their projects, so we're just honored to have him part of our deal, for me personally. He's a pretty amazing guy. He's quite an artist. He would definitely be proud to see that car in the winner's circle.
Just a little extra motivation really for me and all my guys to try to accomplish that with Chip being involved. I'm not sure if he's going to come to that particular race or not, but he'll be watching and rooting us on. Just appreciate the opportunity that Mac is giving us to work with Chip again.
Q. Looking ahead a little bit, you've got Richard Crampton coming in and taking over for Morgan Lucas; Brittany Force will have some work; Larry Dixon might be back; the Torrences want to make a bigger statement, I'm sure. So do some other people, I'm certain. But do you look ahead and go, oh, my gosh, it's hard enough to get to where I am right now, let alone next year is going to be even more competition in sheer numbers but also good quality there, too? Do you think, oh, my gosh, I have to do this now because next year is going to be really impossible to do it?
DOUG KALITTA: Yeah, well, there's definitely plenty of competition out there throughout the years that I've been driving. Obviously you get these younger guys, and I'm probably one of the older guys out there, so they definitely are making me realize I've got to step my game up, and I am certainly trying to do that.
Yeah, the more the merrier as far as I'm concerned. There's 16 spots on Sunday, and you certainly hope to be in one of them is kind of usually the way I look at it. And then obviously just trying to get that win light each round and trying not to get too nervous about who you're racing or whatever you want to call it. We're pretty much on our side of the lane and hoping the win light comes on. I've never really tried to get too nervous about who you're racing against or who might be showing up. I appreciate the opportunity.
Q. Doug, Susan mentioned Morgan Lucas and the announcement yesterday that he was not going to race full‑time beginning next year. Was that something that was kind of known in the fraternity, or did that catch you off guard like it caught me off guard?
DOUG KALITTA: It caught me off guard. I am kind of a fly‑in guy on the weekend, so I don't really get a lot of the gossip or whatnot, but I'm sure it was probably milling around, but no, that was the first I heard of it, too. It's obviously a tough decision. It kind of sounds like he might race periodically, so he'll stay in it.
And the Lucas family, obviously to be able to support his family with working with the business, it'll probably be a good thing all around. It certainly looks like there's plenty to do with what Lucases have going on there. Morgan will be a great spokesman just as he is, doing what he's doing week in and week out at the track.
But I would imagine he'll be out there as much as he can, and knowing him he'll be very competitive. It's a tough decision. I'm proud of the fact that he's going to try something a little bit different and see how it goes, and I'm sure he'll do fine at it.
Q. You mentioned that some of the newer competition, some of the younger guys really make you stay on your game and realize that you need to step up your game. What do you do to step up your game?
DOUG KALITTA: Yeah, obviously just trying to get the focus level and the consistency with your reaction time. As far as driving the thing, keeping it in the groove and all that, that's the easy part for me, really. It's just getting the consistency on the line, and I've certainly been working at that.
So a lot of times you try different things. They're a lot of little things, but obviously very highly secretive information amongst all the drivers, whatever it is that works for them. But I don't really have a lot of lucky things I drag around with me, but just trying to improve on the focus, and it seems simple, but just go when that light comes on and being able to do it consistently is the name of the game, obviously.
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