LAS VEGAS – In his first year competing in Funny Car, J.R. Todd has managed to carve out a handful of big moments.
He’s won a pair of races, including the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, and qualified for the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.
But there have been bumps as well, including first-round losses at each of the past three playoff races.
Determined to put those behind him heading into the final two events, Todd is hunting for one final highlight in his 10,000-horsepower DHL Toyota Camry to cap off his 2017 season.
Getting one at this weekend’s NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, replicating his first Funny Car win at the Toyota-sponsored race in Sonoma, would make for an added bonus.
“We always want to perform well in front of our sponsors,” said Todd, who is ninth in points. “Toyota is a great supporter of Kalitta Motorsports and all of our cars have run well at the Vegas race so we’re hoping to check off another win in front of the higher ups from Toyota. Our DHL/WIX Filters team is a winning team and we want to finish strong with a top five finish in points.”
The NHRA’s return to Sin City marks the 23rd of 24 races during the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season and the fifth of sixth playoff events, leaving Todd little time to make that final jump into the top five.
His string of first-round exits dropped him from fifth to ninth in the standings, but the good news is Todd is still within striking distance of that spot, sitting only 70 points behind fifth-place Matt Hagan.
Todd, who had nine career Top Fuel wins before making the move to Funny Car this year, won’t be tracking down points leader Ron Capps, but he still has plenty to race for in Vegas.
That includes showing more consistency and possibly closing out the season with a third victory.
“We show up to every race to win,” said Todd, who has 11 career victories. “Finishing strong at the end of the year, it gets everybody a little more pumped up for 2018. I’d love to win in Vegas this weekend. I’ve done well in the past but have never won there.”
His Kalitta Motorsports teammates have done well at the facility, with championship contender Doug Kalitta and retiring Funny Car teammate Alexis DeJoria combining for three wins at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway since 2014.
Todd would like to add his name to that list, extending the team’s success at Toyota-sponsored events, but doing so won’t be easy. Reigning world champ Capps has posted eight victories this season, holding a slim 24-point lead against hard-charging Robert Hight, representing a pair of tough standouts Todd has faced off with all season.
The class is loaded with talent and the 330-plus mph Funny Cars present a major challenge, but Todd has enjoyed the journey so far.
“I knew switching to Funny Car this year would be a challenge,” Todd said. “We are constantly working on things to help me drive better. In order to beat great drivers like Matt Hagan and Ron Capps, you need to find every little advantage you can inside in the car.”
CREDIT: NHRA Communications