D. Kalitta wins NHRA Top Fuel final by inches

The final rounds of the 36th Summit Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway had a lot in common with many a NASCAR race as the contenders for the event wins in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock all were teammates. And two of them raced to the closest NHRA Top Fuel final in history.

The Top Fuel final saw Doug Kalitta and J.R. Todd from Connie Kalitta’s team square off, with Kalitta taking the win in a race so close that the official timing system recorded the winning margin as .0000 seconds, a virtual dead heat. It came down to a margin of inches, with both cars running more than 320 miles per hour.

It was the first all-Kalitta final since 2006, Doug Kalitta’s third Atlanta win and his second of the season.

Kalitta said he didn’t see the win light on his side of the scoreboard and initially assumed he had lost.

“I really didn’t think I’d won,” he said. “When I found out it was a big relief.”

He said being a part of a record performance is something to cherish. “The NHRA’s been at it a long time,” he said. “It’s very cool; kind of hard to believe.”

Todd’s trip to the final came despite an issue with his steering just before the start of the semifinals.

It appeared that a steering rod bent on his car as his team was pushing the car back for a lane change. After some debate about whether to continue, Todd’s team and NHRA officials deemed the car safe, and Todd dispatched Shawn Langdon to advance to the final.

In Funny Car, Don Schumacher Racing teammates Jack Beckman and Matt Hagan, both winless on the season when the weekend began, went door to door in the final with Hagan emerging with his first win of the season and first at Commerce.

Beckman advanced to the final despite a first-round run that saw him experience a failure of his parachutes. Despite applying his brakes setting a track record that was later broken, he sped into the sand trap at the end of the track, but the sand slowed him to a stop before he hit the catch fence, and he was able to return for the later rounds – with a new body on his racer.

“I haven’t played in the sand for years, and I don’t recommend it,” Beckman said.

In Pro Stock one-time Atlanta area resident Greg Anderson and Jason Line, his teammate on the Ken Black-owned team, raced for the win with Line getting his fourth win of the season and 41st of his career. He has been to to the final race in all seven events this season.

The Black team has won all seven Pro Stock races this season, as Anderson has won the other three.

The professional women racers on the circuit saw their five-race win streak come to an end.

Pro Stock Motorcycle racers Karen Stoffer and Angelle Sampay had a chance to keep the streak going, but both lost in the semifinals. Eddie Krawiec beat Stoffer and Jerry Savoie beat Sampay to advance to the finals with Krawiec nipping Savoie by .005 seconds.