The NHRA Mile-High Nationals begin this weekend and DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car driver J.R. Todd is eager to make a run at history. The 2018 NHRA Funny Car champion has been rewriting the history books as he has developed first as a Top Fuel driver and over the past five seasons as one of the most competitive and successful Funny Car drivers in recent memory. The 10-time Funny Car winner picked up his latest win at the season opening NHRA Gatornationals and this weekend Todd will be looking to join another elite group of drivers. Only two NHRA nitro competitors, Kenny Bernstein and Mike Dunn, have won the Mile-High Nationals in Top Fuel and Funny Car. Todd could add his name to that list by turning on four win lights in his DHL Funny Car on Sunday.
“I am excited to be going back to tracks that we didn’t get a chance to compete at in 2020,” said Todd. “The Western Swing is grueling but I look forward to it. I feel like it challenges the tuners because you go from Denver where you bring out your one time a year mountain tune up then you go to sea level conditions at Sonoma. That is one of my favorite tracks on the tour. It is a tough three race stretch and I don’t want to say it is a make or break point of the year but definitely if you can come out of there with some good momentum that is the right time of year to do it.”
Todd picked up two Top Fuel wins at Bandimere Speedway including a 2006 win his rookie season and then another win in 2014. Only ten Top Fuel drivers have multiple wins at the race track carved into the side of the mountain. The list of drivers who have swept the three races that comprise the Western Swing is even shorter. For Todd the goal of three critical wins in a row is top of mind every season.
“(Sweeping the Western Swing) would be huge,” said Todd. “There have only been a handful of people to do it. I came somewhat close to doing it my rookie year in 2006. I would be happy winning any one of those races. You take the same approach for the swing that we do for every race. We show up trying to win and it getting harder and harder to win out here. It is definitely hard to win three in a row. Anyone that can pull that off I will tip my hat to them. We are going to go out there and try to win as many rounds as we can and rack up as many points as we can.
The higher altitude creates challenges for all the race teams but the thin air is especially tough on the 11,000 horsepower nitro Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars. The drivers can feel the effects during the weekend and even after a three second run to the finish line. Todd doesn’t let the physical and mechanical challenges distract from the main task at hand.
“You can’t treat any race differently. I just go there knowing the conditions will be tough and I try to spend some extra time in the gym leading up to that race,” said Todd. “We want to make sure you are in good shape because it definitely takes a toll on you up on the mountain. I like going back to tracks where I have had success. It would be awesome to win there in a Funny Car. I am looking forward to getting back to that track because the Bandimere family does such a good job promoting we usually have a packed house.”
2019 NHRA Mile High Nationals Highlights (event not contested in 2020): Qual. No. 11; Lost to Matt Hagan
Last Event Recap (2021 NHRA Norwalk Nationals): Qual. No. 9; Beat Mike McIntire, Lost to Ron Capps
Career Stats: 242 events, 234 starts, 262 round wins, 19 wins, 37 finals, 13 No. 1 qualifiers; in Funny Car: 90 events, 90 starts, 10 wins, 17 finals, 114 round wins, 4 No. 1 qualifiers
Gatornationals: WINNER; Qual. No. 6; Beat Blake Alexander, Tim Wilkerson, Cruz Pedregon and Robert Hight
Las Vegas1: Qual. No. 9; Beat Cruz Pedregon and Jonnie Lindberg; Lost to Ron Capps and Bob Tasca III
Atlanta: Qual. No. 1; Beat Alexis DeJoria, bye; Lost to John Force
Charlotte1: RUNNER-UP; Qual. No.4; Beat Terry Haddock, Jim Campbell, Tim Wilkerson; Beat Mike McIntire, Terry Haddock; Lost to John Force, Beat Cruz Pedregon, Alexis DeJoria
Houston: Qual. No. 8; Beat John Force; Lost to Bob Tasca III
Epping: Qual. No. 9; Beat Cruz Pedregon, Lost to John Force
Norwalk: Qual. No. 9; Beat Mike McIntire, Lost to Ron Capps
Kalitta Motorsports PR