The time has come for the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car and reigning champion J.R. Todd to reach back and build on the successful results that catapulted him to the top of the Funny Car standings last season. After picking up his second consecutive U.S. Nationals title last year Todd and his Yella Fellas team took the win at the NHRA Nationals in Reading. It was that race that continued to keep the Funny Car team in championship form. This year they are looking to recreate the Reading magic albeit with a little tougher path to follow.
“Last year we were coming off a win in Indy but this year I think we still have an amazing team and race car,” said Todd. “We almost made it to three finals in a row at the U.S. Nationals and we aren’t hanging our head in this DHL pit. A whole new season starts this weekend and I have a lot of confidence.”
The win last year at the NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway put Todd in select company as one of only three drivers to have a Top Fuel and Funny Car win at the eastern Pennsylvania track. He is in good company with Hall of Famers Kenny Bernstein and Gary Scelzi. Todd’s teammate, Shawn Langdon, is also in the running to add his name to this illustrious list.
“I think having success at a race track in Top Fuel and Funny Car is cool,” said Todd. “The race cars are so different you can’t really compare them. Any time your name is on a list with Bernstein and Scelzi it is pretty awesome. I am going to be focused on getting a second Funny Car win this weekend. That would go a long way in making a second championship a reality.”
It has been sixteen seasons since a Funny Car driver has won back to back Mello Yello championships. John Force wrapped up his streak of ten championships in a row with championships in 2001 and then 2002. Since then nine different drivers have added their names to the list to Funny Car world champions.
“Our goal is to win another championship this season,” said Todd. “I think we have the team and Funny Car to get the job done. We have been making good runs lately and I think I have been doing a good job behind the wheel. This is where you have to get it done. You have to avoid first round losses and you need to get some of those qualifying bonus points. This class has never been tougher and I think you will see four or five Funny Cars in contention for the championship when we get to Pomona. My job is to make sure this DHL Camry is one of those race cars.”
In order to be in the championship hunt Todd and his DHL team will need to make up some ground. Heading into Reading as the No. 8 Funny Car he is 80 points away from Robert Hight, the regular season champion. Todd has a history of making jumps in the Countdown including the second biggest move when he was racing Top Fuel in 2014 when he jumped from the No. 10 spot to the No. 2 spot. Last season Todd took the championship from the No. 5 starting spot in the Countdown.
“You can’t look at how many people you have to jump over,” said Todd. “You have to look at what you can control. Last year we won the first race and that moved us up. We went to four more finals after that in the Countdown. That kind of performance is going to put you in a position to win the championship. It all starts this weekend and we are going to be looking at qualifying on Friday as the jumping off point for our championship run.”
2018 NHRA Maple Grove Highlights:Qual. No. 8;WINNER; Beat Bob Tasca III, Mike Smith, Ron Capps and Tim Wilkerson
Last Event Recap (2019 NHRA U.S. Nationals): Qual. No. 5; Beat Cruz Pedregon, Ray Martin; Lost to Jack Beckman
Quotable: J.R. Todd on heading into Countdown: “Getting a good start in Reading will be key. You can’t win the championship in the first race but you can put yourself in a great position with a strong finish at the first Countdown race.
Career Stats: 218 events, 210 starts, 230 round wins, 18 wins, 32 finals, 12 No. 1 qualifiers; in Funny Car: 66 events, 66 starts, 9 wins, 12 finals, 80 round wins, 3 No. 1 qualifiers
Winternationals: Qual. No. 9; Lost to Bob Tasca III
Arizona Nationals: Qual. No. 5; RUNNER-UP; Beat Terry Haddock, Tommy Johnson Jr., Robert Hight, Lost to Matt Hagan
Gatornationals: Qual. No. 11; Lost to Jack Beckman
Las Vegas1: Qual. No. 4; WINNER; Beat Gary Densham and Jim Campbell in first quad, Matt Hagan and Jeff Diehl in second quad and in the final quad beat Tommy Johnson Jr., Jack Beckman and Tim Wilkerson.
Houston: Qual. No. 4; Beat Jim Campbell; Lost to Robert Hight
Charlotte1: Qual. No. 8; Beat Bob Tasca III and Bob Glibertson; Lost to Shawn Langdon and Robert Hight
Atlanta: Qual. No. 2; Beat Jim Campbell; Lost to Tommy Johnson Jr.
Richmond: Qual. No. 4; RUNNER-UP; Beat Bob Tasca III, Shawn Langdon, Jonnie Lindberg; Lost to Ron Capps
Chicago: Qual. No. 6; Lost to John Force
Topeka: Qual. No. 1; Beat bye; Lost to Robert Hight
Bristol: Qual. No. 5; Beat Terry Haddock; Lost to Jack Beckman
Norwalk: Qual. No. 7; Beat Robert Hight; Lost to John Force
Epping: Qual. No. 1; Beat bye; Lost to Tim Wilkerson
Denver: Qual. No. 11; Lost to John Force
Sonoma: Qual. No. 11; Lost to Matt Hagan
Seattle: Qual. No. 2; Beat Jeff Diehl; Lost to Ron Capps
Brainerd: Qual. No. 10; Lost to Ron Capps
Indianapolis: Qual. No. 5; Beat Cruz Pedregon, Ray Martin; Lost to Jack Beckman
Kalitta Motorsports PR