With a fast and fun future ahead, Grubnic looking for 2004 to be pivotal season Pomona, Calif., Feb. 24, 2004 -- In January, native Australian David Grubnic, known by most American drag racing fans as "Aussie Dave", was announced as driver of the ...
With a fast and fun future ahead, Grubnic looking for 2004 to be pivotal season
Pomona, Calif., Feb. 24, 2004 -- In January, native Australian David Grubnic, known by most American drag racing fans as "Aussie Dave", was announced as driver of the new Kalitta Air Top Fuel dragster. The new racecar debuts under the guidance of crew chief, team owner and drag racing legend Connie "Bounty Hunter" Kalitta with assistance from co-crew chief Jon Oberhofer. The team plans to run the entire 2004 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series schedule.
Deemed as a research and development car to provide support for David's new Kalitta Motorsports teammates Doug Kalitta, driver of the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster and Scott Kalitta, driver of the Mac Tools/Jesse James Top Fuel dragster, his new digs will be a contender to win any NHRA national event due to Connie's legendary success in turning the knobs on all of Kalitta Motorsports' racecars.
In this question and answer session, David reflects on his past and looks forward to his bright future in his new ride. The unselfish and energetic Aussie is hopeful that 2004 will be the year that he not only gets his first win, but many wins for his teammates.
Q: When and how did you find out that you were going to be driving the Kalitta Air Top Fuel dragster?
Grubnic: I was in Australia. I was down there on a two-week trip visiting my parents and friends. A friend of Dave Griffiths (crew member on the Mac Tools dragster) found out my parents' phone number and called me. He told me that Connie was looking for me and wanted to talk to me. As soon as I hung up the phone, another person called and told me the same thing. I didn't know either of these people, so I figured it might be important. I gave Connie a call on his cell phone, and he told me he was considering a third car and jokingly asked if I knew anyone that would want to drive it. After I picked myself up off of the floor, I was just ecstatic. He told me he would know for sure by the time I got back to the States. I got back on Dec. 21 (2003). Jim (Oberhofer, team manager and co-crew chief on the Mac Tools/Jesse James) called me the day after Christmas and told me that Connie said it was go and to make it happen. It was a great Christmas present.
Q: The Kalitta Air dragster is a research and development racecar. Does it worry you being a "guinea pig"?
Grubnic: No, not at all. To be quite honest it's more exciting. I have an enormous amount of respect for Connie as a tuner and how he runs his team. Doug's car is the quickest in the world, and Scott's car is the fastest in the world. For Connie to have an R & D car for the benefit of those cars is very exciting to me. We may go out and not qualify at some shows (events), but then in the next week, we may set low E.T. of the world.
We are all working together toward one goal here -- to get a championship for either Doug or Scott. I want to see Connie win it and see everyone involved with Kalitta Motorsports accomplish that goal and do whatever it takes from me and our car to make that happen for them.
Q: How did you get involved in drag racing?
A: I saw my first drag race when I was 14. I watched some sedans go down the strip at Surfer's Paradise International Raceway which was the closest big drag strip to where I lived. Then there were two nitro Funny Cars there doing a match race. I was absolutely floored after watching them. Every since then I have been hooked.
I started working on Top Fuel cars at the age of 16 through a local team in Brisbane. Then, I got involved with a Funny car team in Melbourne. They noticed that every time they would show up for a race in Brisbane I was there when the gates opened staring at the car--just staring at the car. Then one day, they asked if I wanted to help and I said sure. I mainly helped getting the clutch in and out of it. We did not do as much servicing as we do these days, but there were still maintenance-type things to do that I helped with.
I had a muscle car that I would race at street meets. It was fun, but after I got involved with nitro cars, I made a commitment to myself that the car I wanted to stage on the drag strip next would be a Top Fuel car. It took my 15 years, but when I came to the States, Phil and Chris McGee made that come true when they had me license for a fuel car in Palmdale, Calif.
Q: What did you do professionally in Australia before coming to the U.S. to go big-time drag racing?
Grubnic: I was a regional field representative near Brisbane for Ford Motor Company. I would go out and talk to dealers and make sure they were happy and so on. It was a great gig. It was a suit-wearing deal, but I really enjoyed it. But, then I decided to totally commit to my dream of racing fuel cars in the U.S.
Q: What's the main difference between drag racing here and drag racing in Australia?
Grubnic: I never raced a fuel car over there, so I can't really compare the two from a driver's seat point of view.
The main difference generally is money and parts. Because of the exchange rate, it is difficult for teams in Australia to run top-notch parts. The racing is just as exciting down there, but the times and speeds are not quite as impressive as they are here. The population is just not there either. Although the fans in Australia are just as enthusiastic, the attendances are smaller there because of the smaller population as a whole. If you look at the percentage of fans from the general population that attends drag races in each country, the numbers are probably pretty close to the same.
The race tracks in Australia are not quite up to the standards of the NHRA in either preparation or safety. However, I have met some Australians that have come over here to learn from the NHRA Safety Safari about how to improve safety on their tracks. There is a new track in Sydney (Western Sydney International Dragway) that I have heard is great, and it's just as good as the tracks here in the States.
Q: How often do you get back home?
Grubnic: I get back once a year around Christmas time to visit with my parents. I have a handful of good buddies that I get together with and socialize for a couple of weeks. It is summertime there then, so the weather is always great when I go back.
My only brother works in Holland with Shell Oil. He is right up there pretty big with Shell, so I only get to see him every five years or so.
Q: What are your goals as driver of the Kalitta Air dragster in 2004 and beyond?
Grubnic: I have some personal goals like setting my best low E.T. and top speed and possibly doing the same for national records, but I will leave that up to Doug and Scott (laughing).
I would really like to get my first win. We certainly have the capabilities to do it, but my overriding goal is to help Kalitta Motorsports win the Top Fuel championship. If at the end of the year Connie wants me to come back and do the same again in 2005, I certainly will.