Pre-Qualifying #SouthernNats

JR Todd

After two races Team Kalitta sits second in Funny Car and second and fourth in Top Fuel in the point standings. Team Kalitta started the season with a dominant Funny Car win by J.R. Todd and a runner-up finish by Shawn Langdon in Top Fuel at the Gatornationals. Doug Kalitta raced to runner-up honors at the Las Vegas Four-Wide Nationals two weeks ago.

Kalitta Eyes Fourth Southern Nationals Title

Doug Kalitta and the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster team will be heading to the 40th installment of the NHRA Southern Nationals this weekend with momentum from their most recent runner-up finish in Las Vegas as well as the confidence from a full day of testing earlier in the week. The Mac Tools team, currently No. 4 in the Camping World Drag Racing Series standing, will be hitting Atlanta Dragway looking for their fourth win at the long-standing NHRA facility which will be hosting its final national event this weekend.

“Winning the last Southern Nationals would be something very cool for sure,” said Kalitta, who has wins at the Southern Nationals in 2005, 2006 and 2016. “My Mac Tools dragster has been running really well, so we will be trying to make sure we are the last dragster down the track at the Southern Nationals. My guys are rock solid and super hungry to win like me. It has been fun working with these guys and going rounds at the first two races of the season.”

The 2016 win was a race that still holds the distinction of being the closest race in Top Fuel history, decided by less than .0001 of a second. Kalitta barely edged out current teammate J.R. Todd to get the win light by a margin that could barely be seen with the human eye. The race is recognized as one of the highlight events of his 20 years with Mac Tools as his primary sponsor.

“It drew a lot of attention since the race was so close. I was just glad we got the win for Mac Tools with my guys,” said Kalitta, who has 49 career victories. “Atlanta Dragway just has a ton of history, and I have won there numerous times. The fans have always been great and super supportive.”

In addition to his three wins Kalitta has two runner-up appearances to go along with two No. 1 qualifier efforts. He put the Mac Tools dragster at the top of the field in 2014 and 2016.

This season the perennial championship contender is off to another fast start. Two weeks ago racing in the unique four-wide format Kalitta outdistanced all his competitors through three rounds of four-wide racing with the exception of Steve Torrence in the final quad. The tough rivalry between the two competitors is sure to be one of the top stories of the 2021 NHRA season.

For Kalitta racing is not about rivalries but more the pure enjoyment of wheeling an 11,000 horsepower race car down the track. His team, led by veteran crew chief Rob Flynn, spent a full day in Indianapolis making solid runs looking to fine tune the Mac Tools dragster for a stretch run of races to get the first half of the season started.

“We made some really good runs on Monday in Indianapolis and we didn’t hurt anything which was huge,” said Kalitta. “Rob runs this Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster hard but smart. We have a lot of horsepower and we just need to apply it to the race track. I feel like we can run with anybody and it is going to start getting warmer. These next couple of races will be a lot of fun starting with the Southern Nationals.”

Atlanta Dragway will host one full day of qualifying on Saturday, May 1, followed by final eliminations on Sunday, May 2. Fans can tune in to FS1 for the broadcast on Sunday afternoon.

2019 NHRA Southern Nationals Highlights (event not contested in 2020):  Qual. No. 3; Lost to Shawn Reed

Last Event Recap (2021 NHRA Las Vegas Four-Wide Nationals): RUNNER-UP; Qual. No. 3; Beat Troy Buff and Rob Passey, Beat Shawn Langdon and Leah Pruett; Lost to Steve Torrence

Career Stats: 526 events, 519 starts, 715 round wins, 49 wins, 106 finals, 50 No. 1 qualifiers

2021 Season:
Gatornationals: Qual. No. 4; Beat Arthur Allen; Lost to Justin Ashley
Las Vegas1: RUNNER-UP; Qual. No. 3; Beat Troy Buff and Rob Passey, Beat Shawn Langdon and Leah Pruett; Lost to Steve Torrence

JR Todd

J.R. Todd and DHL Camry Focused On Victory at Southern Nationals Finale

The DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car team will be looking to pick up the last Southern Nationals Funny Car title this weekend at Atlanta Dragway with 10-time Funny Car winner J.R. Todd looking for his first win in the Peach State. The 2018 NHRA Funny Car champion already has one win this season at the historic Gatornationals and for the multi-category national event winner getting a second win of the season in the third race would set them up for a strong championship run.

“The season is a marathon not a sprint but you definitely want to get off to a strong start,” said Todd. “We got to some finals last year but didn’t seal the deal so winning the first race was a great way to start the 2021 season. We are No. 2 in the points right now but we want to stay at the top all season long. This is a tough class and you have to bring your best to the starting line every run.”

In the season opening win Todd’s DHL Toyota Camry was running flawlessly through the first three rounds and in the final Todd had to get the win with his pedaling skills after he surprisingly smoked the tires early in the run. The savvy driver was able to regain control and race to victory over Robert Hight who also had traction issues a second after Todd.

“That was a wild race and a great win for this DHL Toyota Camry team,” said Todd. “Everyone you pull beside in one of the race cars can put you on your trailer if you aren’t 100 percent ready to go. I worked a lot in the off-season at PitFit to get better as a driver and I think it paid off in Gainesville. I have a lot of confidence in this DHL team.”

Atlanta Dragway is the scene of one of Todd’s closest defeats at the hands of teammate Doug Kalitta. It was the last season Todd would be behind the wheel of a Top Fuel dragster and by less than .0001 of a second Todd was on the losing end of the closest race in Top Fuel history.

“That race was so close people still ask me about it when we come to Atlanta,” said Todd. “You see pictures of me and Doug at the finish line and you can’t tell who won in some of the shots. We were right there with him and it was a great race.”

Since that race Todd has recorded ten Funny Car victories and posted three No. 1 qualifier efforts behind the wheel of the DHL Toyota Funny Car. Getting a Southern Nationals Funny Car win at the final national event is the kind of history Todd would like to leave Georgia with at the end of the weekend.

“You hate to see any event drop off the schedule but to have the chance to be the last Funny Car winner of a race that has been around for 40 years would be awesome,” said Todd. “A lot of legendary Funny Car drivers have won this race. We made some history with our Gatornationals win and I would love to get another big win on the east coast.”

2019 NHRA Southern Nationals Highlights (event not contested in 2020): Qual. No. 2; Beat Jim Campbell; Lost to Tommy Johnson Jr.

Last Event Recap (2021 NHRA Las Vegas Four-Wide Nationals): Qual. No. 9; Beat Cruz Pedregon and Jonnie Lindberg; Lost to Ron Capps and Bob Tasca III

Career Stats: 237 events, 229 starts, 255 round wins, 19 wins, 36 finals, 12 No. 1 qualifiers; in Funny Car: 85 events, 85 starts, 10 wins, 16 finals, 107 round wins, 3 No. 1 qualifiers

2021 Season:
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

shawn langdon

Langdon and DHL Team Racing for Win at Final Southern Nationals

With one final round appearance and a strong showing at the Las Vegas Four-Wide Nationals Shawn Langdon and the DHL Kalitta Air Top Fuel dragster are sitting in second place in the Top Fuel standings and focused on getting four win lights at the 40^th NHRA Southern Nationals. This season after two events Langdon’s Top Fuel team has performed well in qualifying and even better on race days thanks to the consistent tuning input from NHRA Hall of Fame driver and tuner Connie Kalitta.

“Every time I get in this DHL Kalitta Air race car I have a lot of confidence,” said Langdon, a 15-time Top Fuel winner. “Connie and Kurt Elliott have so much experience I can just get in this DHL dragster and focus on my job as a driver. We had a great race at the Gatornationals to start the season and we made some really good runs at the Four-Wide Nationals.”

Leading up to the Southern Nationals the DHL team took a day to test at Indianapolis Raceway Park. The goal was to get more data and fine tune a combination that will carry Langdon and his DHL team to more round wins. After multiple runs down the track Langdon is even more comfortable and confident headed to Atlanta Dragway.

“I love testing because it is just more seat time,” said Langdon. “You don’t have to make killer runs every time down the track in testing. Connie and Kurt are looking to see where we can pick up an advantage early in a run or they might be trying to make it run harder in the middle. The key is you don’t want to hurt anything and you want to learn something with every pass. In that respect our test session was a success and we are ready to get to Atlanta.”

The Southern Nationals is one of a handful of tracks where Langdon has not raced to a final round. In 2013, his world championship season, he was the No. 1 qualifier but did not walk away with the Wally for the event. After a two year hiatus in Funny Car and shortened season last year, this season has Langdon eager to make a run for his second Top Fuel world championship.

“I learned a lot racing a Funny Car but I love being back in a Top Fuel dragster. Last year I was glad we got as many races in as we did but it was a strange season. Now we have a couple events behind us this season and I think we will get into a good groove with races. I am glad we are back on track just a couple of weeks after our last event. You can keep your mind focused and stay mentally sharp when you are getting the race car on a consistent basis,” added Langdon.

2019 NHRA Southern Nationals Highlights (event not contested in 2020): In Funny Car:  Qual. No. 6; Lost to Ron Capps

Last Event Recap (2021 NHRA Las Vegas Four-Wide Nationals):  Qual. No. 6; Beat Troy Buff and Rob Passey; Lost to Doug Kalitta and Steve Torrence

Career Stats: 269 events, 266 starts, 301 round wins, 17 wins, 35 finals, 19 No. 1 qualifiers; in Top Fuel: 221 events, 218 starts, 15 wins, 32 finals, 262 round wins, 19 No. 1 qualifiers

2021 Season:
Gatornationals: RUNNER-UP; Qual. No. 6; Beat Doug Foley, Leah Pruett, Antron Brown; Lost to Josh Hart
Las Vegas1: Qual. No. 6; Beat Troy Buff and Rob Passey; Lost to Doug Kalitta and Steve Torrence