Talking Sports with Kalitta Air Top Fuel Dragster driver David Grubnic
TCSR: Do you remember your debut in 1995?
DG: “That was my first NHRA National event. That’s when I first started driving a Top Fuel dragster. I also did some races in the IHRA, so that’s when I first started doing this. I got licensed in 1994, then I started doing limited races in 1995. Since that time, I worked my way through other teams, before working my way over here.”
TCSR: Before your debut in a Top Fuel dragster, did you always want to drive a Top Fuel dragster?
DG: “I’ve always been fascinated with mechanical things since I was a child. I started with motorcycles, and then I raced them. At 13-years-old, I went to a drag race and sat down to watch a Funny Car race. That started the whole experience with the atmosphere, the burnout, the speed – it gave me goose bumps – and since then, that’s all that I’ve ever wanted to do. At that time, the needle went in the arm and I was hooked.”
TCSR: Do you remember being the runner-up in your first final to Corey McClenathan in 1998?
DG: “It was good. I remember that race at Houston. We had a great day, and we were going rounds. It was a great experience to get to that Final. As I look back on it, it has moved along so quickly. I have to take a step back and say, ‘Wow! I was in the final and had a chance to win this race.’ But unfortunately, we lost to Corey, and I remember the week prior, we had beaten Corey in the first round at Gainesville in Florida when we used to race a quarter mile. Corey wasn’t taking any chances with us that final round.”
TCSR: Do you remember your first No. 1 qualifier at Memphis in 1999?
DG: “That was with John Mitchell. If I remember correctly, it was a rained-shortened event, and after it had rained, we decided it was going to be the best the track was going to be that day. The Safety Safari did a really good job prepping the track, before my run. I think I ran a 4.57 and got the No. 1 spot. That was a great feeling!”
TCSR: You had a streak of several runner-up finishes without a win, but that streak was snapped with a Budweiser Shootout win. Could you talk about your struggles before the Shootout win?
DG: “Yes, I wanted to win, because I did not want to lose another race. I had 5 runner-up finishes in 2004, and there were a few other runner-up finishes in the previous years, so by that time, I think I had gone to about 8 final rounds without a win. I was close to breaking John Force’s record of being a bridesmaid, so it was starting to have a sociological effect. The Budweiser Shootout paid a $100,000 for the win, so that made up for all of those runner-up finishes. I remember that race vividly, because I got to ride in the Budweiser wagon with the Clydesdales. It was a fun day, because not many people get to do that.”
TCSR: You were the first non-American to win an NHRA race in 2005. What did that mean to you?
DG: “First off, I got wrapped up in the moment. When I won that race, as we were talking about before, I had looked at it as a sociological barrier from stopping me from winning. I remember racing Larry Dixon that day, and I looked over, but couldn’t see his car. I was hoping – even though it was 4 seconds; it felt like 4 minutes – that when I crossed the finish line, I saw the win light go on in my lane. It was like I drove through the bricks and they were flying out of the way. It was this huge cloud that got lifted off of me. I was so excited for the moment – myself, my team, my sponsors. Later on that week, there was an article that came out on NHRA.com saying that I was the first non-American to win a race in NHRA history, adding icing to the cake. It was a very enjoyable win.”
TCSR: Back in Australia, did you race cars there?
DG: “I used to work on cars as a crew guy. I only raced street cars there, but not on a regular basis. It took 15-years to stage a Top Fuel car, making my dream a reality.”
TCSR: Could you talk about being apart of the Kalitta Motorsports team?
DG: “This is an outstanding company. It is as Jeff (Arend) was saying, there is fantastic people and is very family-orientated. Our leader, Connie Kalitta, who I drive for, he was voted as the best owner in this sport by his peers. It is a fantastic organization. I’m very proud to be apart of it.”
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