J.R. Todd Up For Challenge at New England Nationals
The NHRA has brought the Camping World Drag Racing Series to New England Dragway nine times since 2013 but during those nine national events only four drivers have hoisted the coveted Wally trophy. This weekend at the New England Nationals J.R Todd would like to turn on four win lights in his DHL Toyota GR Supra Funny Car and become the fifth different Funny Car winner. The victory would also give the brand-new Toyota GR Supra Funny Car its first NHRA win since its debut at the season opening NHRA Winternationals.
“I have a couple Toyota Funny Car teammates out here and I definitely would like to be the first driver to win in this GR Supra,” said Todd, who had input throughout the design process. “So many guys from Toyota Gazoo Racing North America have worked really hard on this new body. We definitely want to start racking up some wins with it. I know they are out there and we just need to string some good runs together on race day.”
Over the past three races Todd has seen both his qualifying efforts and round wins on race day improve keeping the 2018 NHRA Funny Car champion solidly in the Top Ten in points. The talented driver who has won in Top Fuel and Funny Car is just over three rounds out of the Top Five. Three races ago at the SpringNationals in Houston Todd started race day from the No. 13 spot, lowest to date of the season, but battled his way to a semifinal finish. The following two races, in Charlotte and Richmond, saw Todd start from No. 6 and No. 5 and record an additional quarterfinal finish.
“We are making good runs with this DHL Toyota Funny Car and I feel really good in the car,” said Todd. “Some things have just bitten us on race day or in qualifying that have knocked us back a little. The season is just really getting started now and I know my DHL guys are ready to get after it. We have a great mental attitude over here and everyone is on the same page. The best part is no one is getting too low or too high. You have to keep the goal in sight and our goal is winning races and being in a position to get another championship.”
Three years ago Todd powered his way to the No. 1 qualifier spot with his DHL Funny Car and a repeat performance this weekend could put the 10-time Funny Car winner in a prime spot to record his 11th Funny Car win. The cooler temperatures in the forecast could provide just the boost his crew chiefs Todd Smith and Jon Oberhofer could take advantage of to position Todd for a run to the title. A win on Sunday will no doubt have a path through multiple previous world champions but the challenge does not intimidate Todd.
“You look at the people racing Funny Car right now and it seems like everyone has at least one Funny Car world championship or multiple championships,” said Todd. “There are no easy round wins out here. That is what makes this a blast. The competition has never been tougher and I have a great team behind me. We have a brand-new Toyota GR Supra Funny Car that I think will help us get a lot of wins this season. It will just take one good weekend.”
2021 NHRA New England Nationals Highlights: Qual. No. 9; Beat Cruz Pedregon; Lost to John Force
Last Event Recap 2022 Virginia Nationals: Qual 5; Lost to John Force
Career Stats: 262 events, 254 starts, 286 round wins, 19 wins, 40 finals, 14 No. 1 qualifiers; In Funny Car: 110 events, 110 starts, 10 wins, 20 finals, 138 round wins, 5 No. 1 qualifiers
Winternationals: Qual 8; Beat Bobby Bode; Lost to Ron Capps
Arizona Nationals: Qual 8; Lost to Alexis DeJoria
Gatornationals: Qual 11; Lost to Blake Alexander
Las Vegas1: Qual 9; Beat Tim Wilkerson and Jason Rupert; Lost to Ron Capps and Matt Hagan
Houston: Qual 13; Beat Bob Tasca III, Jim Campbell; Lost to Matt Hagan
Charlotte1: Qual 6; Beat Dale Creasy Jr, Chad Green; Lost to Ron Capps, Mike McIntire
Richmond: Qual 5; Lost to John Force
Doug Kalitta and Mac Tools Team Ready for Busy New England Nationals
Heading into the ninth installment of the NHRA New England Nationals Doug Kalitta and the Mac Tools Toyota Top Fuel dragster team are focused on maintaining their qualifying success and translating that into win lights on race day. This season has seen the Mac Tools team grab a No. 1 qualifier at the NHRA Arizona Nationals, a feat they also achieved at the 2013 New England Nationals. Additionally, this season Kalitta has never qualified lower that No. 6 at the previous seven races.
“We have been getting after it in qualifying for sure,” said Kalitta, who has 51 No. 1 qualifiers to his credit. “We have lost qualifying rounds to weather a couple races, but my Mac Tools guys always give me a great race car. We have had some issues on race day, but we are putting those behind us and focusing on getting the job done at New England Dragway this weekend.”
Kalitta raced to a runner-up finish at the 2014 installment of the New England Nationals. The No. 2 qualifier took out Terry McMillen, Khalid AlBalooshi and Richie Crampton before dropping a close final round to Tony Schumacher. Three years later Kalitta, who is pursuing his 50th Top Fuel national event win, recorded the track speed record with a monster 331.69 mph pass in his Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster.
“These Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars are the fastest race cars on the planet so getting a track speed record is pretty cool,” said Kalitta. “You really want to get those win lights on Sunday. We have been going more rounds lately and I think we have more good things in front of us this weekend.”
Over the off-season world championship crew chiefs Alan Johnson and Brian Husen joined Kalitta Motorsports to lead the tuning duties on the Mac Tools team. The duo has settled in, and the progress and consistency have been improving throughout the season. The tandem has been working closely with all the Kalitta Motorsports teams.
“I think the biggest assets Alan and Brian bring to the team is new perspective and so much experience,” said Kalitta. “We raced against those guys for a lot of years and I am very happy to have them on my team now. I have a lot of confidence every time I hit the gas because I know all my Mac Tools guys are giving me their best.”
Qualifying for the New England Nationals will begin on Friday night with one nighttime session followed by two Saturday qualifying sessions. Sunday’s elimination rounds will begin at 11 a.m. ET and will be broadcast on FS1 at 7:00 p.m. ET.
2021 NHRA New England Nationals Highlights: Qual. No. 5, Beat Shawn Langdon; Lost to Mike Salinas
Last Event Recap 2022 Virginia Nationals: Qual 6; Beat Leah Pruett; Lost to Austin Prock
Career Stats: 551 events, 544 starts, 727 round wins, 49 wins, 107 finals, 51 No. 1 qualifiers
Winternationals: Qual. 5; Lost to Tony Schumacher
Arizona Nationals: Qual. 1; Lost to Rob Passey
Gatornationals: Qual 5; Beat Alex Laughlin; Lost to Mike Salinas
Las Vegas1: Qual 6; Lost to Leah Pruett and Shawn Langdon
Houston: Qual 3; Lost to Billy Torrence
Charlotte1: Qual 4; Beat Alex Laughlin, Doug Foley; Lost to Mike Salinas, Cameron Ferre
Richmond: Qual 6; Beat Leah Pruett; Lost to Austin Prock
Team Effort from Shawn Langdon and DHL on Tap at New England Dragway
The DHL Toyota Top Fuel dragster team and Shawn Langdon are determined to take every advantage of a favorable weekend forecast at New England Dragway. With temperatures predicted to be in the mid-70s the 2013 Top Fuel champion knows that his 11,000 horsepower DHL Top Fuel land rocket can put up impressive numbers. Led by NHRA legend Connie Kalitta as well as crew chiefs Kurt Elliott and Jason McCulloch Langdon’s team has been improving steadily the previous three races.
“We have gone to a couple quarterfinals and lost some close ones recently, but no one is getting discouraged,” said Langdon. “This weekend could be a good turning point for our DHL team and then we are going to get on a good run with lost of races in June and July. There is nothing better than seat time.”
Three years ago Langdon raced to the final round behind the wheel of his Toyota Funny Car but now the Top Fuel world champion is looking to take his long car all the way to the winner’s circle for the 18th time in his career. A Top Fuel win would bring his total to 16 in one of the most competitive groups of races the class has seen in years. Through the first five races there were five different winners and ten different finalists.
“I don’t think I have ever seen this many quality drivers and teams stacked top to bottom in Top Fuel,” said Langdon, who is sitting tenth in the Top Fuel points standings. “We ate focusing on taking it one round at a time and getting the most out of qualifying. You have to try and get in the top half of the field and even then you are going to get a really tough first round opponent. You have to ready for anything every round.”
Langdon has shown off his driving skills throughout the early parts of the season winning races on hole shots as well as pedal-fests. His experience in the sportsman ranks and continued bracket racing exploits keep the only driver who has won a junior dragster championship, a sportsman championship and a professional championship sharp off the starting line.
“I enjoy racing every weekend,” said Langdon. “The bracket racing is a lot of fun because you are literally racing non-stop once you get going. It is a lot of fun and I think keeps you sharp. The concentration you need translates really well from bracket racing to Top Fuel.”
2021 NHRA New England Nationals Highlights: Qual. No. 8; Lost to Doug Kalitta
Last Event Recap 2022 Virginia Nationals: Qual 12; Beat Doug Foley; Lost to Brittany Force
Career Stats: 294 events, 290 starts, 313 round wins, 17 wins, 35 finals, 19 No. 1 qualifiers; in Top Fuel: 246 events, 242 starts, 15 wins, 32 finals, 274 round wins, 19 No. 1 qualifiers
Winternationals: Qual 8; Lost to Josh Hart
Arizona Nationals: Qual 7; Beat Antron Brown; Lost to Mike Salinas
Gatornationals: Qual 21; DNQ
Las Vegas1: Qual 11; Beat Doug Kalitta and Rob Passey; Lost to Steve Torrence and Brittany Force
Houston: Qual 10; Beat Leah Pruett; Lost to Brittany Force
Charlotte1: Qual 14; Lost to Clay Millican, Josh Hart
Richmond: Qual 12; Beat Doug Foley; Lost to Brittany Force