Veteran Doug Kalitta entered this weekend's NHRA event in the Chicago area with a comfortable lead in the championship standings in drag racing's premier class, top fuel.
But it's only early summer and Kalitta, still searching for his first top-fuel title, has several rivals trying to narrow the gap in the standings.
"We're all chasing Doug Kalitta, who is way out in front of us in the championship standings," seven-time champion Tony Schumacher said in notes released by his team.
"Kalitta has been in eight finals this year and that's what enabled him to build such a big lead," Schumacher said. "If we want to catch him, we have to get him knocked out early and keep going rounds ourselves."
Heading into the O'Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals in Joliet, Ill., Kalitta held a 157-point lead in the top-fuel standings over Antron Brown, a former champion and Schumacher's teammate.
Shawn Langdon is third in the standings, followed by Spencer Massey and Schumacher, who won last weekend's New England Nationals.
Kalitta, 49, has finished second in the title standings three times, but his last runner-up finish was in 2006.
In funny cars — the National Hot Rod Assn.'s other 300-mph class — former champion Robert Hight holds a 254-point lead over Alexis DeJoria. Hight already has four wins this season and DeJoria is a two-time winner.
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