Kalitta Motorsports News

IMG_6058-3.jpgYPSILANTI, Mich. (November 23, 2016) – Kalitta Motorsports is pleased to announce that current Top Fuel driver J.R. Todd is moving to the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car seat vacated by Del Worsham. In turn, Troy Coughlin Jr. will move from the planned part-time sixth team to a full-time seat aboard the SealMaster Top Fuel dragster.

Todd is making his return to the Funny Car class, but for the first time as a driver. He worked on Bob Gilberston’s Funny Car during the 2003-2005 NHRA seasons with current Kalitta employees Nicky Boninfante and Tommy DeLago.

“Connie told Jim O the DHL Toyota is a special car and that I was the right guy for the job, which was a huge compliment to me,” said Todd, who will make his Funny Car debut at the Circle K Winternationals in February. “I am going to miss Del as a teammate as he has always been one of my heroes. I want to also say a huge thanks to SealMaster and their awesome franchisees. They are great people and it was an honor to represent them.” 

Todd turns to the Funny Car class after a career season aboard the SealMaster Toyota Top Fuel dragster. In 152 Top Fuel events, Todd has earned nine victories, 19 final round appearances, nine No.1 qualifiers and 149 round wins. He was the 2006 AAA Road to the Future rookie winner and has placed in the top five in the point standings two times, including a fourth-place effort this year. 

“Ever since I worked with Nicky and Tommy D on a Funny Car, driving one has been in the back of my mind and most people have known that. The DHL Toyota has quite the legacy and it is a huge honor to be picked to drive it.”

DHL will continue as the primary sponsor on Todd's Toyota Camry Funny Car for the entire season.

TJ-sealmaster-3.jpgCoughlin, Jr. will have an elite team to drive for during his rookie season. In 2016, Todd took the SealMaster machine to a race win in Sonoma, 37 round wins and a top five finish in the point standings. 

“I am thrilled to be competing full-time for Kalitta Motorsports in 2017 with an incredible backer like SealMaster and their franchise owners,” said Coughlin, Jr. “The car is one of the best looking machines on the race track and it is awesome to be able to know I will have a car that can compete for the title.”

Coughlin, Jr. won the 2013 Super Gas title in division 3 and is a two-time NHRA U.S. Nationals winner. In, 2015, he drove in the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod series and was named Rookie of the Year. In his career, the 26-year-old driver has driven Junior Dragsters, Super Comp, Super Gas, Top Dragster and Pro Mod machines. Earlier this year, he earned his Top Fuel license.

NHRA Lifetime Achievement award winner and drag racing legend Connie Kalitta will continue alongside Rob Flynn in their roles after their outstanding 2016 season. SealMaster remains as the primary sponsor on the machine for all 24 events. 

“I am excited for the future of our team,” said Jim Oberhofer, Vice President of Operations, Kalitta Motorsports. “First, I want to thank our incredible partners, DHL and SealMaster, for helping make this transition seamless. Both J.R. and Troy are ready for the 2017 season. J.R. is a very motivated driver and continues to be a perfect fit at Kalitta Motorsports. I know he will be a great ambassador for DHL and Toyota and I look forward to see what the season holds.  I am also thrilled to be able to get Troy into a full time seat. He proved to be a very precise driver during our test session in Las Vegas and I know he is going to do a great job in the SealMaster Top Fuel dragster.”

Finally, the Kalitta Motorsports Funny Cars will also see a reorganization of the team’s crew chiefs. Todd’s DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car will be led by Jon Oberhofer and Todd Smith as co-crew chiefs. Smith comes from teammate Paul Lee’s Funny Car. Former DHL co-crew chief Nicky Boninfante will join Tommy DeLago on the Tequila Patrón Toyota Camry Funny Car driven by Alexis DeJoria and Glen Huszar will lead Lee’s McLeod Racing Funny Car. All five Funny Car crew chiefs are former NHRA champions. 

Both Coughlin, Jr. and Todd will have solid teammates backing them up. Coughlin, Jr. will partner with 2016 championship runner-up Doug Kalitta in the Top Fuel ranks, while Todd will be joined by Alexis DeJoria and Paul Lee in the Funny Car ranks. Coughlin, Jr., DeJoria, Kalitta and Todd will all compete full-time with Lee planning a part-time run. 

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YPSILANTI, Mich. (November 22, 2016) – Kalitta Motorsports announces today the departure of 2015 NHRA Funny Car Champion Del Worsham. Worsham will remain a valuable part of the NHRA community as he rejoins his family-owned Funny Car team.

“It was a hard decision to leave a championship-caliber team such as Kalitta Motorsports,” said Worsham. “However, there is so much unfinished business with my family’s team and I felt now is the time to do it. I am excited to see what the future holds. I cannot thank Connie Kalitta enough for giving me a shot in Scott’s car, and helping me achieve one of my ultimate goals: a Funny Car championship. I also want to thank Jim O (Oberhofer), Jon O (Oberhofer), Nicky Boninfante, the ‘YellaFellas’ and my Kalitta Motorsports teammates.”

“I walked away from one of the best rides in 2011 after I won the Top Fuel championship, and I feel the same way now. The time is just right and I know this is the right decision for me and my family.”

After claiming his 2011 Top Fuel Championship with Al-Anabi Racing, Worsham joined Team Kalitta as crew chief for Alexis DeJoria’s rookie NHRA Funny Car season. In 2013, Worsham moved back to the driver’s seat as driver of the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car. Last season, Worsham delivered Connie Kalitta his first Funny Car championship as an owner. From 2013 through 2016, Worsham claimed six victories, 10 additional final round appearances, eight No.1 qualifiers and 120 round wins.

“Del has been a big part of the Kalitta Motorsports family for many years and we are sad to see him go,” said Jim Oberhofer, Vice President of Operations, Kalitta Motorsports. “He gave Connie his first Funny Car championship and has been a valuable asset for DHL, Toyota and our entire group of supporters. We wish him the best of success in his next endeavors.”

The new driver for the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car has already been selected and will be announced at a later date.

Kalitta honored with first-ever NHRA Lifetime Achievement Award

LOS ANGELES (November 14, 2016) – Kalitta Motorsports founder and owner Connie Kalitta was honored last night at the season-ending Mello Yello Awards banquet with NHRA's Lifetime Achievement Award. This is the first time in NHRA history that this award has been given.

Kalitta's honor received the first standing ovation of the evening as NHRA President Peter Clifford addressed the crowd with some of Kalitta's incredible achievements. A video tribute followed with all four of Kalitta's current full-time drivers: Alexis DeJoria, Doug Kalitta, J.R. Todd and Del Worsham, team Vice-President of Operations Jim Oberhofer, NHRA legends Don Prudhomme and Tom McEwen, and rival team owners John Force and Don Schumacher speaking on what Kalitta meant to the sport and how far reaching his impact has truly been.

Escorted to the stage by Oberhofer, nephew Doug Kalitta and grandson Corey Kalitta, son of the late Scott Kalitta, Connie Kalitta received his one-of-a-kind trophy and made remarks.

"I am not usually at a loss for words," said Kalitta. "Thank you for this. I appreciate everything that each of you said in that piece. I am honored to receive such an award."

Kalitta, known as “The Bounty Hunter” as a driver, was the first racer to reach the 200 mph mark at an NHRA sanctioned event. He was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1992 and won the U.S. Nationals in 1994. On NHRA’s 50th anniversary in 2001, he was named one of the NHRA’s Top 50 Drivers.

His team, Kalitta Motorsports, ended 2016 with their most successful season on record as Team Kalitta's four full-time teams earned a combined 131 round wins. Kalitta will continue to have a major part of the NHRA for many years to come as his team expands to six entries beginning in the 2017 season with rookie driver Troy Coughlin Jr. and veteran Paul Lee joining Team Kalitta on a part-time basis to compete alongside DeJoria, Kalitta, Todd and Worsham.

Doug Kalitta

Kalitta scores first Auto Club Finals win

Race Recap: Kalitta came into the final race of the season looking to move the Mac Tools Toyota team back into the top two in the standings.

Although he had a rough Friday qualifying session, Kalitta was very strong on Saturday. After recording a solid pass in the first session to clinch a spot in the show, Kalitta, Jim Oberhofer and the Mac Tools team were focused on moving up in the order. They did just that by running a 3.709 second pass moving up to the second spot, and helping Team Kalitta sweep the top two spots in the field for the first time since 2014.

His first opponent on Sunday was Shawn Reed. The Mac Tools team were ready. Kalitta was solid on the tree, and the Mac Tools dragster was solid downtrack with a 3.755 second pass. The winning ways continued in the second round with Kalitta leaving on Schumacher and leading all the way to the stripe. That round win, Kalitta's 587th, was enough to move Kalitta to the top ten all-time in NHRA history and clinch a top two spot in the standings for the Mac Tools team.

Kalitta moved to the semi-finals. The second pair of the semis, Kalitta watched his teammate, J.R. Todd, earn a finals berth and the Mac Tools driver was focused to follow suit. The Mac Tools driver beat Shawn Langdon off of the line and led wire-to-wire earning Team Kalitta their second all-Kalitta Top Fuel final of the season.

In the final, the Mac Tools driver left first on the starting line and got his fourth win of the season and first Auto Club Finals trophy defeating his teammate on a holeshot. It was his fourth win of the season; the most he has earned since 2006. He also earned his top points placement since the 2006 season.

Qualified: No. 2 (3.709 sec., 327.90 mph)

  • E1: Kalitta defeated Reed - 3.755 sec., 326.40 mph to 4.774 sec., 157.04 mph
  • E2: Kalitta defeated Schumacher - 3.742 sec., 328.86 mph to 3.778 sec., 324.90 mph
  • E3: Kalitta defeated Langdon - 3.734 sec., 326.95 mph to 3.747 sec., 325.53 mph
  • Final: Kalitta defeated Todd - 3.745 sec., 326.63 mph to 3.704 sec., 327.90 mph

Quotable: “I am so proud to drive this Mac Tools dragster. I have a heck of a group, Jim O, Troy, this entire team is awesome. The guys worked so hard, and to close the season with a win is great. This is a trophy I have been chasing for a long time, and I am so glad to earn it. I am a winner till the Winternationals and I am so excited to close the season on a high note."

Final Point Standings: Second

 JR Todd

Todd advances to career-best sixth final of the season

Race Recap: Focused on ending a career-best season strong, Todd was very excited to get to one of his favorite tracks: Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

Todd and the SealMaster team were stout throughout qualifying. Connie Kalitta and Rob Flynn tuned the SealMaster ride to the second-best pass of the first session, but really laid down a jaw dropping pass in the heat of Saturday afternoon. Todd drove the SealMaster ride from start-to-finish in an incredible 3.680 seconds. That reset Todd's career-best and also gave him the Auto Club Raceway track record. It is tied for the fifth-best run in NHRA history. Todd would hold on and record his first no.1 qualifer of the season, first at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona and ninth of his career. With Doug Kalitta qualifying second, Team Kalitta swept the first two spots in qualifying for the first time in over two years.

Todd and the SealMaster team got the 16th seeded Troy Buff in the first round. Buff hit the tree early giving the round win to Todd who recorded a solid 3.811 seecond pass. Fellow Toyota driver Richie Crampton was next, and Todd moved to his fourth semi-final or better in the last five events with a nice 3.762 second run.

But Todd was not down there. Taking on the new champion Antron Brown in the semi-finals for the third consecutive race, the SealMaster team laid down low elapsed time of the round with an incredible 3.708 second pass to earn lane choice over his teammate, Doug Kalitta, in the final. It was Todd's second straight final, sixth of the season and 19th of his career.

However, a second win of the season was not in the cards as Kalitta's Mac Tools dragster was able to get off of the line first and take that to the finish line for the win. Even in the loss, it was an outstanding season for Todd who reached new career-highs in round wins and finals.

Qualified: No. 1 (3.680 sec., 327.82 mph) **CAREER-BEST and TRACK RECORD ET**

  • E1: Todd defeated Buff - 3.811 sec., 308.43 mph to foul
  • E2: Todd defeated Crampton - 3.762 sec., 316.90 mph to foul
  • E3: Todd defeated Brown - 3.708 sec., 329.26 mph to 3.765 sec., 324.44 mph
  • Final: Todd defeated by Kalitta - 3.704 sec., 327.90 mph to 3.745 sec., 326.63 mph

Quotable: “I believe we definitely had the car to beat all weekend, we just screwed up in the final on the starting line and let one get away. It was a mistake (in lane choice due to the sun), but we can’t make any excuses, you’ve got go up there and be a pro and hit the gas on time. All in all, a good weekend for Kalitta Motorsports having both Toyota dragsters in the final and that got us both in the top five in points. We just wanted to come out of here with a trophy. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come for next year. The performance of the car over the last three races has really come around. It’s a shame we didn’t start off the Countdown the way we finished. I think we’ve definitely got a championship caliber team here and hopefully we’ll go out and win a handful of races before the Countdown next year and set ourselves up in a better position. We’ve been to a lot of semis and a quite a few final rounds. I don’t think our overall point position reflects the kind of season we had. We stumbled at the beginning of the Countdown and Antron got rolling like he did, it just makes it harder on the rest of us. You’ve got to stop him early. The way we finished the year, I like the direction we’re going for 2017.”

Point Standings: Fourth

Del Worsham

Tough end to another outstanding season for Worsham

Race Recap: Last season's Auto Club Finals victor, Worsham was looking to end the season strong once again. The DHL Toyota team struggled throughout qualifying on Friday, but were able to lay a clean 3.912 second pass in the early session on Saturday to lock themselves in the top half of the field. When the dust was settled, Worsham was ranked eighth, and earned a first round draw of fellow Countdown driver Tim Wilkerson.

The last nitro pair to see the track, Worsham and Wilkerson left together, but Worsham experienced tire smoke eventually and Wilkerson ran the low elapsed time of round one to move on.

Overall, it was another successful season for Worsham. He recorded 36 round wins which ranks among Worsham's top three most successful Funny Car seasons. He earned his first win in Brainerd and had four additional final round appearances.

Qualified: No. 8 (3.912 sec., 327.35 mph)

  • E1: Worsham defeated by Wilkerson - 6.290 sec., 108.28 mph to 3.922 sec., 325.77 mph

Quotable: "Not the way we wanted to end the season with this DHL Toyota Camry. Great effort by all of my guys; I have a great group. We will work hard this off-season and come out swinging in 2017."

Final Point Standings: Seventh

PR Contact:

(Doug Kalitta, Del Worsham, J.R. Todd)
Cody Poor
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 Jeff Arend

Arend solid in fill-in duty

Race Recap: Due to injuries suffered at the Toyota Nationals in Las Vegas, DeJoria sat out the Auto Club Finals. Team Patrón still competed with former Team Kalitta driver Jeff Arend chosen to fill the seat.

Arend recorded his first three second pass and qualified a solid tenth. First up was former champion Matt Hagan. Hagan encountered tire smoke and the Patrón Camry was stout with a clean 3.971 second pass. In the second round, Arend ran another solid 3.979, but it was not enough against Courtney Force.

Qualified: No. 10 (3.930 sec., 317.19 mph)

  • E1: Arend defeated Hagan - 3.971 sec., 314.97 mph to 6.367 sec., 118.41 mph
  • E2: Arend defeated by C. Force - 3.979 sec., 323.97 mph to 3.922 sec., 319.75 mph

    For further requests for Jeff Arend or Alexis DeJoria, please contact:

Allison McCormick
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Paul Lee

Lee ends season with consistency

Race Recap: Lee returned to the McLeod Racing Toyota for Team Kalitta after an awesome debut in Las Vegas. However, Lee, crew chief Todd Smith and the McLeod Racing team was not about to be outdone. The team scored four straight three-second passes in qualifying to solidly qualify 11th in the quickest Funny Car field in NHRA history. In his first round matchup with Robert Hight, Lee was prepared, recording the top reaction time of the round, but encountered tire smoke down track giving the round win to Hight.

Qualified: No. 11 (3.935 sec., 305.36 mph)

E1: Lee defeated by Hight - 4.460 sec., 195.28 mph to 3.929 sec., 326.40 mph

For further requests for Paul Lee, please contact:

Krista Baldwin
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All Photos courtesy of Gary Nastase Photography.


POMONA, Calif. (November 12, 2016) – J.R. Todd, driver of the SealMaster Toyota Top Fuel dragster claimed his first no.1 qualifier of the season earlier today at the Auto Club Finals.

Friday saw team SealMaster make two nice runs and had Todd seeded sixth heading into Saturday. With the sun beating down on the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona surface, crew chiefs Connie Kalitta and Rob Flynn were not afraid. Todd drove the SealMaster ride straight down the strip in an incredible 3.680 seconds at 327.82 MPH. That run not only reset Todd's career-best and the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona track record, but also tied the fifth-best run in NHRA Top Fuel history.

"That surprised me. When I drove by the scoreboards and saw the 3.68, I thought that was pretty impressive from Connie, Rob and all of the SealMaster Toyota guys," said Todd. "This thing has been trying to run really well for a long time now and here these last couple races it has really come together. Hopefully we are going in the right direction for 2017 in this SealMaster Toyota machine."

This is Todd's first no.1 qualifier of the season, first at Auto Club Raceway and ninth of his career. For Kalitta Motorsports, it is the team's ninth no.1 qualifier of the season and 96th in the team's history. With this no.1 spot, all full-time Team Kalitta drivers have earned a no.1 qualifier and a win this season.

Additionally, Doug Kalitta qualified second in his Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster giving Team Kalitta the sweep of the top two positions in qualifying for the first time since they qualified one-two in Dallas of 2014.

Todd will race Troy Buff in round one of eliminations of the Auto Club Finals.

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Mello Yello Championship Points

Top Fuel (Unofficial)

1. Steve Torrence (954)
2. Leah Pritchett (943)
3. Antron Brown (934)
4. Tony Schumacher (801)
5. Doug Kalitta (678) 
6. Brittany Force (649)
7. Clay Millican (639)
8. Troy Coughlin Jr. (443)
9. Scott Palmer (432)
10. Terry McMillen (424)
11. Shawn Langdon (323)

Funny Car (Unofficial)

1. Ron Capps (1044)
2. Matt Hagan (881)
3. Jack Beckman (748)
4. Robert Hight (707)
5. Courtney Force (704)
6. Tommy Johnson Jr. (663)
7. John Force (641)
8. Tim Wilkerson (490)
9. J.R. Todd (476)
10. Cruz Pedregon (397)
14. Alexis DeJoria (327)