CHAMPS IN Waiting by ProQuest


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									                       From left, Doug Kalitta, Cory McClenathan, Ron Capps, and Kurt Johnson have won a combined 131
                       NHRA national events but no championships, though they have finished second 14 times.

                 ootball’s Dan                                                                                          really doubted that they could
                 Marino, baseball’s        Will 2010 be the year that                                                   pull it off. I was very surprised,
                 Ted Williams,
                 basketball’s Karl
                                         perennial runner-ups Kalitta,                                                  but they made it happen.”
                                                                                                                            Kalitta, McClenathan, and
                 Malone, and
 hockey’s Marcel Dionne are
                                        MCClenathan, Capps, and Johnson                                                 Capps will get another chance in
                                                                                                                        2010, but Johnson, whose 14-year
 among the best that ever played,
 but all retired without winning
                                               finally win it all?                                                      partnership with sponsor
                                                                                                                        ACDelco ended with the 2009
 a championship. Hoping to                                                                                              season, may have to wait. With
 avoid the same fate are four of                                   by Steve Waldron                                     help from longtime associate
 drag racing’s best: Top Fuel’s                                                                                         sponsor Mark Christopher
 Doug Kalitta and Cory                coming within less than a round          Schumacher entering the                  Chevrolet, Johnson will compete
 McClenathan, Funny Car’s Ron         of winning it all.                       season’s final event, Kalitta            in the season’s first two events,
 Capps, and Pro Stock’s Kurt             Capps finished second to              appeared to seal the deal with           then play it by ear. For the other
 Johnson.                             Gary Scelzi by eight points in           his semifinal finish. Schumacher         three, it’s business as usual.
     Winners of a combined 131        2005 in the closest Funny Car            also reached the semifinals and              “Hopefully, this will be the
 NHRA national events, Kalitta,       finish in history and                    won, but he still needed to win          season that one of us breaks
 McClenathan, Capps, and              McClenathan runner-upped to              the final and set a national             through,” said Kalitta, 45, who
 Johnson rank 18th (tie), 20th        Joe Amato by 92 points in 1992,          record to take the title. Sadly for      is entering his 13th season
 (tie), and 14th in NHRA career       when round-wins were worth               Kalitta, he did both.                    behind the wheel of his uncle
 victories, respectively, and sixth   200 points instead of 20. But               “[Crew chief Rahn] Tobler             Connie Kalitta’s dragster. “We
 (tie), fifth, and fifth in their     perhaps the most gut-wrenching           and the whole team had a great           had probably the best
 respective categories. They have     of this foursome’s 14 near               effort all year long, and it was a       [preseason] test that we’ve ever
 finished second in points a          misses was Kalitta’s in 2006.            real heartbreaker,” said Kalitta,        had. The whole team is fired up
 combined 14 times, with Kalitta,        Holding a 45-point lead over          who finished 14 points behind            and ready to go, and we’re
 McClenathan, and Capps each          defending champion Tony                  Schumacher. “Before the final, I         going to give it our best.”

40 National DRAGSTER
          former USAC National Sprint Car
          champion, Kalitta burst onto the Top
          Fuel scene in 1998. Taking over for
his cousin, Scott, Kalitta won the Automobile
Club of Southern California Road to the
Future Award as NHRA’s top rookie and in 12
seasons has established himself as one of Top
Fuel’s top drivers.
    Kalitta has finished in the top 10 in points
every year since finishing sixth in his rookie
season. He finished
second in 2003,
2004, and 2006,
when he tied his
career high for wins
in a season with five,                                                          Kalitta, the Top Fuel points leader with just one round of racing remaining in 2006,
rounds-wins with 43,                                                            watched in disbelief as Tony Schumacher not only beat Melanie Troxel in the final but set
and led the points for                                                          the national record to steal the title.
the entire second
half of the season                                                                something that we can use       won one in 1977 as crew chief for Top Fuel
before losing the title                                                           on my car. Connie’s             champion Shirley Muldowney and two as a team
to Schumacher in the    
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