J.R. Todd drove his DHL Camry to victory at the 52nd annual Amalie Oil Gatornationals at the Gainesville Raceway to kick off Toyota’s 20th season of NHRA competition in fine fashion Sunday. With the win, Todd completed the NHRA Grand Slam of winning the four biggest events in the sport – the Gatornationals, the Winternationals, the U.S. Nationals and the NHRA Finals.
Todd began the day as the sixth seed and opened up with victories over Blake Alexander and Tim Wilkerson in the first two rounds. In the semifinals, he left the line even with Cruz Pedregon before surging ahead by the 60’ mark and never trailed. That would set up a match-up with Robert Hight in the finals. Todd enjoyed a .010-second advantage on the tree, only to see both cars smoke the tires quickly. Todd was able to recover first, though, and led by more than three-tenths at the 330’ mark and drove off to an easy victory.
Todd wasn’t the only Toyota driver to have success on Sunday, though, as each of the five Toyota-backed drivers won at least one round and Shawn Langdon fell just short of making it a Toyota sweep on the day, advancing to the Top Fuel final before falling to Josh Hart.
Langdon’s day included wins over Doug Foley and Leah Pruett before facing fellow Toyota pilot Antron Brown in the semifinals. In the heat of the finals, Langdon appeared to overpower the track midway down the track with Hart taking the win.
Antron Brown opened his day with a holeshot victory over Mike Salinas, running a 3.759 and then knocked off Billy Torrence in round two before falling to Langdon in the semifinals.
Doug Kalitta won his opening round match-up with Arthur Allen, but smoked the tires early in round two giving the win to Justin Ashley.
Alexis DeJoria registered the second-quickest Funny Car pass of race day with a 3.918-second pass in her opening round win over John Smith. Unfortunately, she had a problem early in round two and fell to Pedregon.
Next up on the Camping World Drag Racing Series schedule is the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif., April 9-11.
Toyota Driver Results – NHRA Gatornationals Eliminations Round-by-Round
|Funny Car||Qual/Fin||Rd. 1 Results||Rd. 2 Results||Semis||Finals|
|J.R. Todd||6/Winner||W– Alexander, 3.933-4.032||W-Wilkerson, 3.940-3.977||W-Pedregon, 3.970-4.781||W – Hight, 5.184-6.591|
|Alexis DeJoria||2/Rd. 2||W – Smith, 3.918-5.457||L – Pedregon, 3.989-4.031||—||—|
|Top Fuel||Qual/Fin||Rd. 1 Results||Rd. 2 Results||Semis||Finals|
|Shawn Langdon||6/Finals||W – Foley, 3.752-3.801||W-Pruett, 3.764-3.887||W-Brown, 3.821-4.450||L – Hart, 3.826-4.244|
|Antron Brown||10/Semis||W-Salinas,3.759-3.737||W-B. Torrence, 3.803-4.500||L-Langdon, 3.821-4.450|
|Doug Kalitta||4/Rd. 2||W – Allen, 3.746-6.093||L-Ashley, 3.833-7.895||—||—|
2021 Toyota Wins:
Funny Car (1): J.R. Todd, Gainesville
– Today’s win marks J.R. Todd’s first-ever Gatornationals and gives him a sweep of the NHRA Grand Slam of the four biggest races in the sport – the Winternationals, the Gatornationals, the U.S. Nationals and the NHRA Finals. He also won the 2018 Funny Car world championship.
– Todd’s win is his 19th career NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series victory and his 10th in a Funny Car since moving to the series in 2017. He becomes just the 18th driver in history to win 10 Nitro Funny Car events.
– Today’s win is the third for a Kalitta Motorsports Nitro entry in the last four Gatornationals. Richie Crampton previously won in Top Fuel in 2018 and 2019.
– Shawn Langdon earned his 300th career round win in defeating Antron Brown in the semifinals on the way to the final round today.
– After qualifying second, Alexis DeJoria registered the second-quickest Funny Car pass of the day in advancing to round two. She has now qualified her ROKiT Toyota Camry in the top five in each of the last six races – the only driver in the series to do so.
– All five Toyota-supported drivers won at least one round today and each will leave Gainesville in the top seven in their respective classes. After one race, J.R. Todd leads the Funny Car standings, while Alexis DeJoria sits sixth. In Top Fuel, Shawn Langdon is second, with Antron Brown in third and Doug Kalitta is seventh.
J.R. Todd, DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car: Opening Statement
It was nice to put our DHL Toyota Camry in the winner’s circle. Our goal every week is to show up and win. 2021 is a new year and it’s a good way to start off the season with a win here at one of the biggest races of the year. Now we need to ride that momentum as long as we can. This is one you want to check off the list when you see the schedule whether it’s the first race or the third race. It’s the first time this has ever been the first race of the season and I guess we’re the points leader until we get out west.
Tell us about the final run vs. Robert Hight
It was a little warm and the sun was on the track and at this place, the later in the day with the sun out, the track can just get hot and nasty. That was definitely the case in the final. The starting line wasn’t as good as it was early and we both blew the tires off. I thought for sure that he was going to be driving away from us. I never saw him and just rolled back onto the throttle and was able to go all the way down with it and turn on the win light. It’s pretty special to do here in Gainesville.
On winning a pedalfest:
My first Funny Car win came on a pedalfest at Sonoma back in 2017. We don’t get a lot of practice to do that. It just comes with seat time. It was more lucky than anything.
This was your first Gatornationals win and in the process you have now swept the four biggest races on the NHRA schedule, how does that feel?
To be able to win all the majors that are on the schedule, that’s pretty awesome. This is Don Garlits country. When you think of the Gatornationals you think of all the legends of the sport that have done well here. Connie (team owner Kalitta) has won this race and I lost my really good friend Eric Medlen here, so it’s a pretty special event for me. For whatever reason, I’ve always had terrible luck here in the past. It’s nice to finally turn that around for the DHL Toyota guys.
How was it to face Robert Hight and the Force team in their return?
Everybody out there in Funny Car is tough, but in my opinion, Robert Hight is the best driver in the category and that team sets the benchmark for the rest of us. When you beat them in the final round, you feel like you really accomplished something.
Did you feel this weekend was somewhat of a return to normalcy?
I hope so. The crowd today looked more like the normal crowd that we’re used to seeing in Gainesville. I hope this is a sign of things to come in the future so we can run all of the events on the Camping World schedule and we can get fans back in the stands because they are the ones that make this happen. I have a lot of friends from my hometown of Lawrenceburg, Indiana, that came down here and it felt great to put our DHL Toyota into the winner’s circle in front of them.
Shawn Langdon, DHL Toyota Top Fuel dragster: “We had a great car all day. I felt like we were going to get the win. I think we just had a little too much in the final. Congrats to Josh Hart. I can’t say enough about this DHL team. We were looking for that double up win. I am very happy for J.R. and his DHL Funny Car team. This was a great day for Kalitta Motorsports. We are leaving the Gatornationals No. 1 in Funny Car and No. 2 in Top Fuel.”
Antron Brown, Matco Tools/Toyota Top Fuel dragster: “All-and-all it was a pretty good race weekend for this Matco/Toyota team here in Gainesville. Anytime you get to the semifinals, you’ve done a good job given how stout the competition is in this Top Fuel class. We learned a lot and that’s the mission. These were tricky, tricky conditions here in Gainesville today and our Matco Tools car just keeps getting better and better. The more laps we make I feel we’re just going to stronger. We’ll go back to the shop and work hard and come out swinging at the next race. Today we got a piece of the steak, but we didn’t get dessert. Next race we need to get the whole meal.”
Alexis DeJoria, ROKiT Phones Toyota Camry Funny Car: “We have a really fast hot rod with this ROKiT Bandero Tequila Toyota Camry Funny Car. It is really consistent. In the second round we had a little issue which we are trying to figure out. It just fell off on performance at 200 feet. I know my Toyota Funny Car is running good and it is so consistent that gives me a lot of confidence. I have been racing long enough to know what to do and we will get everything working together. Having Mobil 1 and TRD onboard is incredible because they bring the science and technology with what they do to help our team. It is very beneficial to us. We have the whole crew from past year which is nice since all these guys work really hard and are a joy to work with. We all gel and this is going to be a good year. We qualified well, we have a good car and it is just a matter of time for us.”
Doug Kalitta, Mac Tools Toyota Top Fuel dragster: “I am not sure what happened in the second round. This Mac Tools Toyota dragster was so consistent all weekend. I am excited about getting the season started and we were trying to keep that season-opening win streak alive. We will get back in the shop and figure out the issue. We are leaving the Gators in the top ten and we will be ready to go for the next race.”
|Toyota Drivers Top Fuel||Points – Hart (113)||2021 Wins||2021 W-L||Career Races||Career Wins||Career Win-Loss|
|2. Langdon||94 (-19)||0||3-1||268||17||300-248|
|3. Brown||72 (-41)||0||2-1||442||67||743-372|
|7. Kalitta||54 (-59)||0||1-1||525||49||712-469|
|1. Todd||114 (+19)||1||4-0||236||19||254-213|
|6. DeJoria||60 (-54)||0||1-1||153||5||110-144|
Toyota Racing PR