Back-To-Back Finals Have J.R. Todd with Momentum Heading to Brainerd
Another final round appearance jumped J.R. Todd and the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car team into third place and firmly into the battle for the regular season Funny Car title. Todd is less than two rounds out of first with two races before the start of the Countdown. This weekend’s NHRA Brainerd Nationals will be another chance for the DHL Toyota team to continue their success on the track and put more distance between the 2018 Funny Car champion and the rest of their Funny Car competitors.
“There isn’t much separation between the Funny Cars at the top of the points that’s for sure,” said Todd. “This DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car has had two good races in a row and we just need that one last win light. We have been close in both of the last two final rounds. I have a lot of confidence in these Yella Fellas that’s for sure.”
The first win at Brainerd International Raceway is still on the horizon for Todd but the recent success has the 10-time Funny Car winner eager to get to the racetrack. Before he hits the track Todd along with his Kalitta Motorsports teammate Shawn Langdon will spend time with new sponsors Auto Value along with long-time sponsor MAHLE fishing before the sponsor representatives enjoy the weekend in the Kalitta Motorsports VIP hospitality area.
“We have been supported by MAHLE for a while and we are excited to meet the folks from Auto Value this weekend,” said Todd. “They are one all three of the cars just for this race and hopefully we can get them into the winner’s circle.”
The DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car started the season with a victory at the NHRA Gatornationals and has added three more runner-up finishes. They have only failed to advance to the quarterfinals a category leading one time. That consistency can be attributed to their strong qualifying performances and Todd’s solid work on the starting line. Last weekend in Topeka Todd started from the top of the field on the strength of a 3.88 second run on Friday night. It was his second No. 1 qualifier of the season and fifth of his Funny Car career. This season he has only started from the bottom half of the field on three occasions with two of those races slotting him in the No. 9 spot.
“We have been taking advantage of some good qualifying efforts for sure,” said Todd. “I feel like we are running quick enough and (crew chiefs) Todd Smith and Jon Oberhofer have a good handle on the car that we are run with anyone.”
2019 NHRA Brainerd Nationals Highlights (event not contested in 2020): Qual. No. 10; Lost to Ron Capps
Last Event Recap (2021 NHRA Topeka Nationals): RUNNER-UP; Qual. No. 1; Beat Bye, Ron Capps, Blake Alexander; Lost to John Force
Career Stats: 246 events, 238 starts, 269 round wins, 19 wins, 39 finals, 14 No. 1 qualifiers; in Funny Car: 94 events, 94 starts, 10 wins, 19 finals, 121 round wins, 5 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
Denver: Qual. No. 7; Lost to Bob Tasca III
Sonoma: Qual. No. 12; Beat John Force; Lost to Robert Hight
Pomona1: RUNNER-UP; Qual. No. 7; Beat Jeff Diehl, Robert Hight, Jim Campbell; Lost to Ron Capps
Topeka: RUNNER-UP; Qual. No. 1; Beat Bye, Ron Capps, Blake Alexander; Lost to John Force
Countdown Berth and Brainerd Win on Horizon for Langdon
A semifinal finish at the Topeka Nationals last weekend has Shawn Langdon and the DHL Kalitta Air Top Fuel team solidly in the top five in Top Fuel points but more importantly created some momentum for the championship contending team. Back-to-back quarterfinal finishes at the previous two national events laid the groundwork for Topeka’s improvement at just the right time. The defending U.S. Nationals champion will be looking to the NHRA Brainerd Nationals this weekend to continue to grab win lights and consistency with the most prestigious race of the season around the corner.
“Brainerd is an important weekend for this DHL Kalitta Air team,” said Langdon. “We want to build on Topeka’s semifinal finish and keep the consistency that will carry us through Indy and into the Countdown. We are fifth in the points now and we have a good shot at moving up to fourth by the end of the regular season. That would put us forty points out of first place.”
A season opening runner-up finish at the Gatornationals got Langdon off to a hot start. That race was followed up by two semifinal and two quarterfinal finishes. There was a brief three race stretch of early exits before the current three race streak of improvement began.
“We had a few races that didn’t go our way,” said Langdon. “We had some issues in qualifying that put us behind the eight ball and only three qualifying sessions makes it tough to catch up if you don’t make a good right off the trailer. We are making more consistent runs and building momentum throughout the weekend now I feel.”
Brainerd International Raceway is one of the few tracks where Langdon has not raced to at least a final round. The 2013 Top Fuel champion is looking to end that trend this weekend.
2019 NHRA Brainerd Nationals Highlights (event not contested in 2020): In Funny Car – Qual. No. 6; Beat Paul Lee, Bob Bode; Lost to Ron Capps
Last Event Recap (2021 NHRA Topeka Nationals): Qual. No. 7; Beat Antron Brown, Billy Torrence; Lost to Clay Millican
Career Stats: 278 events, 275 starts, 309 round wins, 17 wins, 35 finals, 19 No. 1 qualifiers; in Top Fuel: 230 events, 227 starts, 15 wins, 32 finals, 270 round wins, 19 No. 1 qualifiers
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
Atlanta: Qual. No. 11; Beat Leah Pruett, Mike Salinas; Lost to Steve Torrence
Charlotte1: Qual. No. 11; Lost to Antron Brown and Krista Baldwin
Houston: Qual. No. 7; Beat Josh Hart, Justin Ashley; Lost to Doug Kalitta
Epping: Qual. No. 8; Lost to Doug Kalitta
Norwalk: Qual. No. 16; Lost to Steve Torrence
Denver: Qual. No. 8; Lost to Clay Millican
Sonoma: Qual. No. 9; Beat Clay Millican; Lost to Antron Brown
Pomona1: Qual. No. 5; Beat Jim Maroney; Lost to Antron Brown
Topeka: Qual. No. 7; Beat Antron Brown, Billy Torrence; Lost to Clay Millican
Doug Kalitta and Mac Tools Striving for Third Brainerd Win
This weekend Doug Kalitta and the Mac Tools Top Fuel team will be looking to rekindle some northern magic when they return to Brainerd International Raceway for the NHRA Brainerd Nationals. Kalitta will be vying to join a select group of three-time Top Fuel winners at the track surrounded by 10,000 lakes. A third victory would tie him for second most wins at BIR. The wins for Kalitta came in 2003 and 2005 but the passage of time has made him a better and hungrier driver.
“You like to go back to places where you have won and Brainerd is one of those tracks,” said Kalitta. “It has been a while since we won in Minnesota but we haven’t forgotten how to turn on win lights. We are searching for some consistency right now but we have a couple races before the Countdown so no one is panicking in the Mac Tools pit.”
The Mac Tools team has been in the championship conversation every year for almost two decade and this year is no different. The team isn’t where they want to be in the point standings but a strong performance in Brainerd followed by win lights at the prestigious U.S. Nationals can move Kalitta up before points are reset for a seven-race run to the championship. No matter where Kalitta finishes the regular season as long as he is in the top ten he will get a chance to race for the championship and the furthest he would start that chase would be 110 points behind the point leader heading into the playoffs.
“The Countdown is a huge equalizer,” said Kalitta. “We have gone into the playoffs at the top and this year we definitely struggled in the regular season. We are going to have to get some win lights this weekend and in Indy for sure. I think we just need to get some good runs in qualifying to set our team up for success on race day. I know we can do that.”
Kalitta and the Mac Tools team have earned two No. 1 qualifiers over the years at Brainerd International Raceway. This season Kalitta has started from the top half of the field over fifty percent of the races. He has raced to two final rounds and has advanced to at least the quarterfinals at six events.
“We haven’t had much luck and I know you make your own luck in this sport,” said Kalitta. “We have been chasing a few things but lately we haven’t been hurting the race car so that will help us this weekend in Brainerd. We want to just come out of the trailer on Friday and make a strong run and then build on that for our two sessions on Saturday.”
2019 NHRA Brainerd Nationals Highlights (event not contested in 2020): Qual. No. 7; Beat Terry McMillen, Steve Torrence; Lost to Mike Salinas
Last Event Recap (2021 NHRA Topeka Nationals): Qual. No. 9; Lost to Clay Millican
Career Stats: 535 events, 528 starts, 721 round wins, 49 wins, 107 finals, 50 No. 1 qualifiers
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
Atlanta: Qual. No. 9; Lost to Antron Brown
Charlotte1: Qual. No. 12; Beat Josh Hart, Billy Torrence, Kyle Wurtzel; Lost to Brittany Force, Josh Hart
Houston: RUNNER-UP; Qual. No. 9; Beat Brittany Force, Antron Brown, Shawn Langdon; Lost to Steve Torrence
Epping: Qual. No. 5; Beat Shawn Langdon, Lost to Mike Salinas
Norwalk: Qual. No. 11; Lost to Antron Brown
Denver: Qual. No. 4; Lost to Leah Pruett
Sonoma: Qual. No. 8; Beat Mike Salinas; Lost to Steve Torrence
Pomona1: Qual. No. 6; Lost to Clay Millican
Topeka: Qual. No. 9; Lost to Clay Millican