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Kalitta Air Careers team crew chief Brian Husen (right) and Marc Denner are making final preparations as Team Kalitta prepares to depart for the season-opening race in Gainesville, Fla., next week. (Kalitta Motorsports photo)

Crew Chief Changes Take Place At Kalitta Motorsports

YPSILANTI, Mich. — While Kalitta Motorsports will continue to field Doug Kalitta, J.R. Todd and Shawn Langdon in NHRA competition in 2024, the team has made considerable changes to their Top Fuel crew chief lineup.

Brian Husen has been promoted to crew chief, with Mac Savage set to replace him. 

Husen, 50, was named crew chief of Shawn Langdon’s Kalitta Air Careers team.

He will now lead the 2013 NHRA Top Fuel champion’s tuning efforts. The Grand Rapids, Mich., native comes to Langdon’s team after two seasons assisting crew chief Alan Johnson on Kalitta’s Mac Tools team.

Prior to joining Team Kalitta, Husen assisted Johnson at John Force Racing, Scrappers Racing and Alan Johnson Racing. Justin Groat, who came to Team Kalitta after working on Top Fuel teams at John Force Racing and with Clay Millican, is Husen’s assistant crew chief.

With more than a decade as Johnson’s assistant crew chief and another decade working as a crew member on his teams, Husen is more than ready to lead his own team. 

“I’m grateful to have the opportunity to race alongside Alan (Johnson),” Husen said. “There are things I still have to learn; when you have to actually make the decisions for the car, it’s good to have someone to bounce ideas off of and there’s nobody better in that role that A.J.

“He’s the guy that taught me everything I know, but sometimes you need a little reminder to keep you in line. I’m grateful for that, grateful for the opportunity and I couldn’t ask for a better situation to have this opportunity — I’m looking forward to it.”

With Husen’s departure from the Mac Tools team, Savage, 47, returns to Team Kalitta after an eight-year absence as Alan Johnson’s assistant crew chief. He worked on Kalitta’s Mac Tools team from 2003 through 2015.

After a year away from racing, the Salt Lake City, Utah native worked with Clay Millican and later John Force Racing where he worked through last season. 

“When I left Kalitta Motorsports, it wasn’t to pursue another job in racing,” Savage said. “I left for family obligations, and knew that if I ever found another company that treated me as well as Doug and Connie Kalitta, I’d be very lucky. That holds true today. Working for John Force was fabulous, but my roots are at Kalitta’s.

“I spent 2023 on a Funny Car team, but I have a preference for dragsters. It would be hard to argue that Doug Kalitta is the best driver in Top Fuel. For me, it’s about pursuit of championships. We have the best driver; Alan Johnson and Brian Husen are the best in the business so when you put the best driver and the best leadership together, that’s where I want to be.”

“These changes are really good for our entire team,” Kalitta said about the new crew leadership. “Brian and Alan had been together for 20 years so we put Brian over with Shawn, and that car tested very well in Bradenton last month. My car and Shawn’s car are identical now, and we’re really hoping that we’ll have two solid dragsters to go along with J.R. (Todd) in Funny Car.”

Co crew-chiefs Todd Smith and Jon Oberhofer return to the Team Kalitta DHL Toyota GR Supra Funny Car driven by 2018 NHRA Funny Car champion J.R. Todd.

The team won the Denso Sonoma Nationals in California last summer and finished the 2023 season eighth in the final season standings but made changes in the off-season to enhance performance.

“These personnel moves make our team stronger all around,” Team Kalitta General Manager Chad Head said. “With Shawn’s car now set up pretty much identical to Doug’s, the two teams can share data and learn from each other’s runs.

“These personnel changes on our Top Fuel teams and other changes we made on the DHL Funny Car should be really good for Team Kalitta, and if our pre-season testing results were any indication, it looks like we’re on the right path.”