POMONA, Calif. (November 11, 2018) – J.R. Todd, driver of the DHL Toyota Camry for Kalitta Motorsports, captured his first career Funny Car world championship at Auto Club Raceway earlier this afternoon to become the first African-American Funny Car champion in NHRA history.
Todd entered the final race of the 2018 NHRA season in Pomona, California with a 74-point lead in the standings over the defending world champion, Robert Hight.
Todd officially clinched the championship when Hight was defeated in the first round of eliminations in Pomona, ensuring his points lead could no longer be overcome.
“This is what you live your whole life for when you start racing Junior Dragsters at ten years old. You hope that you can get to this point in your life and your career, but you never really think it is going to happen. There were definitely some tough times when I got my start with Top Fuel, and I didn’t know that I would ever be back at this point. I have so many people to think, especially the Kalitta group as a whole, they have your back no matter what. We are going to go try and win a race and have two trophies at the end of the weekend.”
This is only the second year in a Funny Car for Todd, as he drove in the Top Fuel class for nine seasons where he racked up nine wins. Todd’s championship in his second season in the class marks the quickest championship run for a Funny Car competitor since Cruz Pedregon won the class title in 1992, his rookie season as a Funny Car pilot.
“On behalf of our entire DHL family, we are so proud of J.R. Todd and this Kalitta Motorsports Funny Car team,” said Reg Kenney, President of Global Engineering & Manufacturing for DHL. “They are true champions, and fought hard all year long to deliver this superb victory in the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Championship. What a great team!”
In order to position himself as the points leader heading into the NHRA Finals, Todd had reached the final round in five of the previous six events, including four of the five NHRA Countdown to the Championship events. Todd entered Pomona with two wins, two runner-up finishes and one semifinal appearance in the first five playoff events.
“Toyota could not be more proud of J.R. Todd and the entire Kalitta Motorsports team,” said Laura Pierce, general manager of Toyota Motorsports.” J.R. has been the most dominant driver throughout the playoffs and has truly earned the title of world champion. And, we’d also like to thank the dedicated team at TRD, who has played an integral role in designing this Camry Funny Car and for the engineering support they provide at every race.”
With five wins on the season, Todd entered the final race of the year with seven career Funny Car victories and 16 in total.
Todd remains in contention for his sixth win of 2018 at the NHRA Finals, as he will match up with Bob Tasca in the quarterfinals.
This marks the seventh world championship for Kalitta Motorsports, and first since Del Worsham drove the DHL Funny Car into the winner’s circle in 2015.