Published On: Sun, Oct 16th, 2011

Talking Sports with Kalitta Air Top Fuel Dragster driver David Grubnic

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Phil Wilgus Mustafa “Matt” Abdullah

David Grubnic, a Top Fuel dragster driver for Kalitta Motorsports, recently took time to do an interview with The Capital Sports Report. His interview is about his racing career.

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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About the Author

- Anthony Caruso III is the Publisher for The Capital Sports Report. He has covered local and national events, including numerous Heisman Trophy ceremonies, two Little League World Series, and the Army-Navy college football game.