It was another Kalitta mosh pit at Sunday’s Gatornationals finals.
After Alexis DeJoria won in the Funny Car category in Phoenix, the Kalitta Motorsports Team brought home their second Wally in two races, this time with a Top Fuel win by Doug Kalitta. The teams of Kalitta, DeJoria, & David Grubnic cheered and tackled each other at the start line when defending event winner Antron Brown smoked the tires and Kalitta took the win with a 3.83 second pass at 323.87 miles per hour.
“I would not want to be at the bottom of that pack!” Kalitta said after the race.
Kalitta, a former USAC sprint car champion, beat out Brittany Force in the first round before defeating teammate Grubnic and then Steve Torrence to arrive in the final. The win is his third in this event and ties him with drag racing legend and local resident Don Garlits for most Gatornationals wins ever.
“He and [Team owner] Connie [Kalitta] were rivals – somebody I’ve always looked up to and still do. So it’s pretty cool,” Kalitta said.
In the Funny Car category, John Force Racing had a stellar day, putting all three of their cars into the semi-finals and winning the Wally with Robert Hight’s victory over his boss, John Force. Force smoked the tires and Hight came out on top with a solid 4.074 run at 314.46 mph.
“If you had told me this morning both John and I would be in the final, man I don’t know if I’d have taken that bet. I know our teams work really hard and work well together but were really struggling,” Hight said after the race about the team’s performance early in the weekend.
John Force beat out daughter Courtney in a close race in the semi-finals before going on to lose against his son-in-law. The win is Hight’s first of the season and gives him a berth into the Traxxas Nitro Shootout later this season that he missed last year.
“The final – I had a little motivation. I remembered last year going to US Nationals and not being in that Traxxas shootout,” Hight said. “It’s not much fun to be on the sidelines when everyone else is racing for a hundred grand.”
“Shoot, John’s already in there, he doesn’t need another win!” Hight said.
Hight has now advanced to the final 30 times in his career, tying him with Kenny Bernstein for most Funny Car Final appearances just behind Don “The Snake” Prudhomme.
“I can’t even believe my name is associated with guys like that. Those were my heroes,” Hight said.
In the Pro Stock cars and bikes, two (unrelated) Johnsons raced to victory. Allen Johnson got his second consecutive victory in Gainesville and his second consecutive victory this year.
Hight’s win also means a win for the debut of the Dodge Dart. Two weeks ago in Phoenix, Hight won with a different car and Hight said the team has been working nonstop to quickly make the car competitive.
“[The win] says a tremendous amount for our crew, the engineering efforts behind it. Everything to do with the design of the Dart. They took our input and really came up with a great car,” Hight said. “To be able to do that is a really great accomplishment.”
In the bikes, Steve Johnson broke an 86-race win streak to bring home his third Gatornationals Wally.
“I forgot what this was all like,” Johnson said entering the press room after the race.
Last year, he lost to Hector Arana Jr. in the final and this year Johnson got his revenge, defeating Arana Jr. in the semi-finals.
“I was more proud of the semi’s than anything,” Johnson said. “I felt like we should have won that one [last year].”
The NHRA Mello Yello series heads next to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in two weeks.