Doug Kalitta and Tony Schumacher toppled the kings of Top Fuel drag racing Sunday in the 22nd annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.
And, Kalitta came away with the crown as he defeated Schumacher in the finals even though both ran identical times of 4.698.
But Kalitta's .044 reaction time compared to Schumacher's .057 was enough to take home the championship. Kalitta's speed of 311.20 mph outmuscled Schumacher's 304.19 mph.
"I just had to get down (to the finish line) and hope the people came running to my car," said Kalitta. "We changed everything around for that final. The track was pretty good and we were able to get the win.
"I tape my face shield up and I can't ever seem to see the win light so I had no idea who won until we got to the top end and made the turn. I really wanted to win this race."
Kalitta has a 4-4 record in final rounds this year and has won 15 national events in his career.
Kenny Bernstein, the legendary king of drag racing, fell to Kalitta in the semifinals and the current king, Larry Dixon, was shocked by Tony Schumacher, also in the semifinals.
Sunday marked the fourth straight event Bernstein has made the semifinals this year. But Kalitta came away with a hole shot victory, edging Bernstein by a mere .0044 seconds. Kalitta clocked in with a 4.773 at a speed of 309.27 mph while Bernstein registered a 7.706 at 310.98 mph.
Crew member Jon Oberhofer (left) hugged Top Fuel winner Doug Kalitta after Kalitta beat Tony Schumacher's time of 4.698 and 304.19 mph with a 4.698 and hit 311.20 mph in the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway Sunday. (Dispatch Photo by Steve Kohls)
Kalitta's other wins came against Josh Starcher in the first round, Doug Herbert in the quarterfinals and Bernstein in the semis.
Schumacher used his best time of the day (4.669) and top speed (310.98 mph) to beat the current points leader as he made only his second final of the season. Dixon, who had won the last three NHRA events, blew a cylinder as soon as he hit the gas. He still finished the run with a 4.714 time and a speed of 309.27 mph.
The No. 3 Schumacher, in only his second final of the season, defeated Cory McClenathan in the first round, Scott Palmer in the quarterfinals and Dixon in the semis.
Dixon still sits atop the Top Fuel points standings with 1,540 points. With the win, the second-place Kalitta closed the gap on Dixon with 1,269 points. Schumacher pulled into fourth place in the points standings.
"They just don't make many mistakes," Kalitta said of Dixon's crew. "Weekends like this might bring some hope back. We're not giving up, I can tell you that. We'll run her to the end. There's plenty of good cars out here."
Kalitta was happy to see Dixon out of the running. But he knew as long as he ran his race, he had a shot to beat anyone across the lane.
"I didn't see what happened with his run," Kalitta said of Dixon. "To win four races in a row is pretty tough. I was happy to see him go out though. Just keeping it consistent on Sundays has been big for us."
Palmer made one of the more surprising passes of the day. Sitting in the 12th position, Palmer upset No. 5 David Bacca 4.88 to 4.89 with a .0179 margin of victory. It was Palmer's first elimination round win in two tries this year.
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