Semifinal Finish at Brainerd Nationals Has J.R. Todd Cruising Heading to Indy

photo by Auto Imagery, Inc. 2021 Lucas NHRA Nationals

J.R. Todd and the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car continued to dominate as the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series regular season comes to an end. Today the team raced to an impressive semifinal finish starting from the No. 11 spot in qualifying. Two upset wins in the first two rounds and a close race in the semifinals propelled Todd to the No. 2 spot in the Funny Car point standings. With one race remaining in the regular season the opportunity to enter the Countdown to the Championship as the No. 1 seed is a very real prospect for the 2018 NHRA Funny Car champion.

In the first round Todd was giving up lane choice to Robert Hight but it did not matter to Todd and his DHL Toyota Funny Car team. He took a starting line advantage and never trailed in the race posting a winning time of 3.933 seconds at 325.85 mph. It was a big improvement from his best qualifying time of 3.970 seconds and showed how well crew chief Todd Smith was handling the tune-up.

“That was a big match-up,” said Todd. “Those are guys we are going to be battling with for the championship. Right now, the top six Funny Cars are crazy close for the points lead. Qualifying didn’t work out for either one of us because that is not who you want to race first round. We had some luck on our side. They broke down track and we rebounded from Saturday to make a pretty good run.”

In one of the best races of the second round the DHL Toyota team and Todd combined to work their magic for another close win. Todd was masterful off starting line against No. 3 qualifier Tim Wilkerson grabbing a reaction time advantage of .067 to. 079 which proved to be the difference at the finish line. Todd’s race car hit the finish line stripe posting a 3.931 second elapsed time which was enough to get the win over a quicker time of 3.929 second by Wilkerson. It was a great team effort to advance to the semifinals.

Racing with the possibility of his third consecutive final round appearance on the line Todd squared off with Cruz Pedregon. It was a battle between the Gatornationals victor against the Norwalk Nationals winner. Todd once again had a strong reaction time and his DHL Toyota race car made another good run on a warming race surface posting a 3.955 second pass at 321.73 mph but it was not quite enough to get the win over a slightly quicker 3.933 second run in the opposite lane.

“Our car kind of hurt itself in the semis and fell off a little bit and I feel like I gave up a little bit on the starting line,” said Todd, following the semifinals. “We are definitely running well at the right time of the year. We just need to keep it rolling.”

In two weeks Todd will be racing for his third U.S. Nationals Funny Car title. He will also be looking to secure his final position in a very tight Funny Car field for the seven-race playoff run.

“Going into the Countdown you definitely want to be as close to the top as possible,” said Todd. “We are right in the thick of it. We could go into the Countdown leading the points. More than anything we want to go to Indy and win there. That starts here when we are testing on Monday to get this DHL Toyota ready for Indy and beyond.”

Statistics:
Qualified: No. 11 (3.970 sec., 321.73 mph)
Bonus points: 0

Race Details:

First Round
Driver                                  Qual       R/T         ET           MPH  
J.R. Todd                            11           .064       3.933     325.85 (W)         
Robert Hight                        6             .075       3.988     274.05

Second Round
Driver                                  Qual       R/T         ET           MPH  
J.R. Todd                            11           .067       3.931     326.87 (W)         
Tim Wilkerson                      3             .079       3.929     320.97

Semifinal Round
Driver                                  Qual       R/T         ET           MPH  
J.R. Todd                            11           .074       3.955     321.73
Cruz Pedregon                     2             .058       3.933     322.73 (W)

Kalitta Motorsports PR