J.R. Todd, Kalitta Motorsports
DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car
– J.R. Todd enters the 2021 campaign looking for his second Funny Car world championship in the last four years after winning the title in 2018.
– Todd currently has 18 victories in the two NHRA nitro classes, having won nine races in both Funny Car and Top Fuel. He’s looking for his first Gainesville Dragway win at the season-opening Gatornationals.
How difficult was it to maintain any form of consistency in 2020?
There was just so much unknown. We didn’t know where we were going to race or when we were going to race. At the end of the day, we were just glad to be able to run the races that we did and have some fans at the track. Moving forward, hopefully, we can run the majority of races that are on the schedule for 2021 and get more fans out to see some NHRA Camping World Drag Racing.
What are your goals for the 2021 season?
Contend for a championship. That’s the goal every season. We need to show up and win races and contend for a championship. Anything short of that is not acceptable for us. We hold ourselves to a high standard. That’s the goal.
A number of teams have had to deal with sponsorship and personnel changes, has it affected your team?
Luckily, we have a great boss in Connie Kalitta. It hasn’t really affected us. All the crew guys have stayed intact and stayed busy at the shop on the race cars, work on airplane stuff with Kalitta Air and Kalitta Charters. All of our great sponsors in DHL, Toyota, Mobil 1, SealMaster, Revchem, etc. are still on board with us. We’re one of the lucky teams out here in NHRA for sure.
What would a win at the Gatornationals mean to you?
For me, Gainesville is right up there at the top with winning Indy. It’s one of the biggest in our sport along with the U.S. Nationals and the Pomona races. It’s one that I’ve always wanted to check off the list, but haven’t been able to. Hopefully, we can do that here in 2021. The Gatornationals is one of the most historic and prestigious races on the tour. It’s like the east coast version of the Winternationals and it brings out a lot of the legends of our sport and some great memories. We’d like to add our name to that list.
While a world champion drag racer, you’re also a huge motorsports fan in general aren’t you?
I was pretty much born and raised at the racetrack watching my dad race flat track motorcycles. Growing up in Indiana, you’re either a basketball fan or motorsports fan and growing up I was always at the track with my dad. I fell in love with dirt track motorcycles and was shied away from that by my parents due to safety concerns. Then I started in junior dragsters. Pretty much the connections I’ve made throughout drag racing and meeting different people is how you grow to love other forms of motorsports like sprint car racing, dirt late model racing. I have a handful of buddies who’ve come up through those ranks and made it onto the NASCAR circuit, so I have interests there. I workout with some of the best drivers in IndyCar racing, so I pay attention to what they do. Pretty much anything with two or four wheels I’m a fan of.
And this off season, you had the chance to attend the Chili Bowl?
I’ve been out to the Chili Bowl a handful of times, but it’s probably been 10 years since the last time I’ve been there. It was nice to get back this year and see some people I haven’t seen in a while and get caught up with guys like Kyle (Larson) and Christopher Bell and watch them do what they do best. It’s great watching them get around that small track in Tulsa. It was a lot of fun.
Would you ever try another form of racing just once?
I’m always open to trying things, but doing something competitively like that would take away from my real job racing in a Funny Car. I’m all about getting seat time or making some laps in things like a dirt midget or a sprint car or whatever, but at the end of the day I have to be more focused on drag racing. I was able to make some laps in an IndyCar two-seater with Mario Andretti at the Speedway and I’ve had the chance to make some laps myself in a stock car with a pace car ahead of me. It was cool to experience what drafting was like going around the Brickyard. I wouldn’t rule out trying to do something that turned left at the end of my career, but not while I’m still a full time drag racer.
Toyota Racing PR