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Doug Kalitta closes NHRA Top Fuel points gap with Gateway victory

NHRA Gateway Doug Kalitta

MADISON, IL - OCTOBER 04: Smoke erupts from the car of Doug Kalitta (2) Kalitta Motorsports Mac Tools Top Fuel Dragster as he deploys the parachutes after winning the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Midwest Nationals on October 4, 2020, at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway. (Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

MADISON, Ill. -- Doug Kalitta won the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Midwest Nationals on Sunday at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway to move within two points of Top Fuel leader Steve Torrence.

Kalitta won for the fourth time at the St. Louis-area track, beating Torrence, the two-time defending Top Fuel series champion, in the final round with a 3.690-second run at 322.58 mph. Kalitta has two victories this year and 49 overall.

“We needed to get some momentum going and this is going to do a lot for us,” Kalitta said. “The conditions were real good, and my guys had the car running well today.

“We’re all counting points and figuring out what we can do to get ahead, but the only place you can do it is on the starting line. We’re really looking forward to these next three races.”

Tommy Johnson won in Funny Car for Don Schumacher Racing’s 11th straight class victory.

He edged Matt Hagan with a 3.884 at 326.88 in a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat for his second win of the year and 21st overall.

The Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle racers were unable to finish Sunday because of cold temperatures and wind direction.

Earlier in the event Sunday, Leah Pruett was able to walk away from a wicked crash during Top Fuel eliminations.

“The next thing I knew, I’m sky high like I"m flying,” Pruett said. “I knew this wasn’t going to be good. I prayed and hung on (when the dragster) slammed back down. I’m so thankful for all the safety ever implemented for me to be able to walk away.”

With the NHRA Gateway victory, Doug Kalitta is setting up a close battle with Steve Torrence down the stretch in Top Fuel.

There are three more events in the readjusted 2020 NHRA schedule, which was disrupted by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic: Dallas (Oct. 18), Houston (Oct. 23) and Las Vegas (Nov. 1).

The season also is concluding without the traditional Countdown to the Championship playoff format points reset.