Team Kalitta looks to continue 2019 season success which includes two Top Fuel wins and recent Las Vegas Funny Car win by World Champion J.R. Todd.
J.R. Todd Focused on Another Back-To-Back Victory Weekend in Houston
J.R. Todd, the reigning NHRA Funny Car world champion, is hoping history will repeat itself heading into the NHRA SpringNationals at Houston Raceway Park. Last year Todd picked up his first Four-Wide win in Las Vegas and followed it up with a win at the NHRA SpringNationals. He is halfway there coming in to the Lone Star State with a back-to-back win last weekend in Vegas and some positive momentum behind the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car.
“We struggled early this year with cold tracks and shaking the tires,” said Todd after the Vegas win. “I knew that it was eventually going to warm up and sure enough, it was hot and nasty in Las Vegas. That’s been an equalizer for us. We got the win and that 3.97 in the final was stout. We’ll see what we can do in Houston. I have a lot of confidence in (crew chiefs) Jon O (Obberhofer) and Todd (Smith) because if you give them enough shots at it, they’re going to figure it out.”
Todd is in select company at Houston Raceway Park as one of only two drivers to win at the famed Texas track in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. Todd joined former driver and current Kalitta Racing crew chief Del Worsham on that list last year when he defeated Robert Hight in the Funny Car final. Todd picked up his lone Top Fuel win in Houston in 2007.
Last year Todd entered race day as the No. 10 qualifier but made quick work of the competition defeating Tommy Johnson Jr, Jeff Diehl, Tim Wilkerson and Hight for the win. It was Todd’s first win streak wheeling a Funny Car and showed the young driver what his team was capable of.
“We didn’t qualify that great last year at Houston but on race day we turned it around with some great numbers,” said Todd. “We stepped up in the first round and never looked back. The Vegas and Houston races last year really gave us some confidence that we carried all year. I want to keep that No. 1 on the side of this Toyota Camry so I am going to keep digging this weekend.”
2018 Houston Highlights: Qualified No. 10; WINNER; Beat Tommy Johnson Jr., Jeff Diehl, Tim Wilkerson and Robert Hight
Last Event Recap (2019 Las Vegas Four-Wide): Qual 4: WINNER; Beat Gary Densham and Jim Campbell in first quad, Matt Hagan and Jeff Diehl in second quad and in the final quad beat Tommy Johnson Jr., Jack Beckman and Tim Wilkerson.
Quotable: J.R. Todd on feeling more comfortable in a Funny Car: “I think I still have a lot of work to do in the car, especially when it comes to pedaling it and things like that. We came out and blew the tires off in the first round (in Las Vegas). I’m really hard on myself in keeping our DHL Toyota in the groove. Anytime it smokes the tires, I’m the first one to blame myself. It was spinning pretty good in the first round. I lifted and pedaled it, but I probably should have just run right through it. I pedaled it and it backfired the super charger. But it was good enough to hang on and turn on the win light and get us into the second round. That was our lucky break for the day. I robbed us there in the second round. The crew chiefs really had my back in the final round. That was awesome and a hell of a way to cap it off.”
Career Stats: 204 Races; 18 Wins; 13 Runner-ups; 10 No. 1 qualifiers; Career round wins 218; in Funny Car 51 Races; 8 wins, 4 Runner-ups, 1 No. 1 qualifier and 69 round wins
Winternationals: Qual. No. 9; Lost to Bob Tasca III
Arizona Nationals: Qual. No. 5; Beat Terry Haddock, Tommy Johnson Jr., Robert Hight, Lost to Matt Hagan
Gatornationals: Qual. No. 11; Lost to Jack Beckman
Las Vegas1: Qual. No. 4; WINNER; Beat Gary Densham and Jim Campbell in first quad, Matt Hagan and Jeff Diehl in second quad and in the final quad beat Tommy Johnson Jr., Jack Beckman and Tim Wilkerson.
Noteworthy: Todd is looking for his second consecutive win at Houston Raceway Park; he is one of two drivers to win in Top Fuel and Funny Car at HRP (joins Del Worsham)
Doug Kalitta Gunning For Fourth Houston Win
The winningest active Top Fuel racer in Houston Raceway Park history is looking for more success this weekend at the NHRA SpringNationals. Current Top Fuel points leader Doug Kalitta will be racing a new look, red and white Toyota dragster this weekend in Houston as he tries to take sole possession of the No. 1 spot in Top Fuel victories. Currently the veteran racer is tied at three wins apiece with NHRA legends Kenny Bernstein and Larry Dixon.
Kalitta opened the 2019 season in dominant fashion winning the NHRA Winternationals and since then he has picked up two additional semifinal finishes. The race day success has the top fuel pilot feeling confident coming into Houston.
“We are really hitting our stride I think,” said Kalitta. “I really wanted to get that first four-wide win last week but it just wasn’t in the cards. I am excited to be racing this Toyota dragster this weekend and I know we are going to give it our best shot.”
While the Kalitta dragster has been running consistently it has been the right foot of the Ypsilanti-based racer that has drawing the attention of his competitors. Kalitta advanced out of both the first two quads in the unique four-wide format in Las Vegas on hole shot wins. This season Kalitta won over half of his rounds of elimination on hole shots.
“I am just really trying to do my job on the starting line,” said Kalitta, when asked about his reaction time advantage. “You have to bring your best to the starting line. This category is so tough and there are a lot of good racers and dragsters racing now. You can’t take anything for granted or you will have a very short race day.”
Last year Kalitta rolled into race day as the No. 7 qualifier and unfortunately had to race teammate Richie Crampton in to opening round. He took the first round win but was upended in the quarterfinals by eventual event winner Brittany Force.
2018 Houston Highlights: Qualified No. 7; Beat Richie Crampton; Lost to Brittany Force
Last Event Recap (2019 Las Vegas Four-Wide): Qual. 7; Beat Terry McMillen and Steve Chrisman in first quad, beat Steve Torrence and Richie Crampton in second quad; in the final quad finished behind Mike Salinas and Brittany Force and ahead of Clay Millican
Quotable: “I am really looking forward to getting back to the race track. You want to start racing a few races in a row to get into a groove. I feel really confident in the car and with my guys. I just can’t wait to get to Houston, especially in our new colors with Toyota. They’ve been such valuable partners with Team Kalitta and we’ll do everything we can to make them proud.”
Noteworthy: Kalitta previously won at Houston Raceway Park in 2016, 2015 and 2003
Shawn Langdon Ready for Victory Lift Off in Houston
Shawn Langdon is continuing to improve behind the wheel of his Global Electronics Technology Toyota Camry Funny Car. The second year Funny Car driver has consistently led the category in reaction time and Langdon knows that his team is poised for a breakthrough. The multi-time world champion at a variety of NHRA competition levels is battling some of the fiercest competition in the Funny Car class. Adding world champion racer and crew chief Del Worsham as co-crew chief alongside Nicky Boninfante has shown early season positive results. Langdon is confident success is just few win lights away.
“I learn something every time they lower that Toyota Camry body on this Global Electronic Technology Funny Car,” said Langdon. “Adding Del to the team led by Nicky has been great and I feel like we are just about to turn the corner. The performance is coming around and I am working on doing my job on the starting line.”
Langdon was upended three races ago in the second round at Phoenix by eventual race winner Matt Hagan and last weekend at the NHRA Las Vegas Four-Wide Nationals Langdon was first off the starting line but lost traction in a tricky lane three. He narrowly missed getting to the stripe second which is all any team needed to advance at the four-wide.
Last year in Houston Langdon qualified No. 11 and squared off with Tim Wilkerson. He took a strong starting line advantage with a quicker reaction time but smoked the tires. He pedaled the Toyota Camry trying to chase down Wilkerson but the gap was a little too wide for the then rookie Funny Car driver.
“I am ready to get back to Houston. I am glad we are going to be back on the track just a few days after Las Vegas. Nicky and Del are working great together and I think we will be a great shape once we get to Houston Raceway Park,” added Langdon.
2018 Houston Highlights: Qualified No. 11; Lost to Tim Wilkerson
Last Event Recap (2019 Las Vegas Four-Wide): Qual. No. 8; Lost Tim Wilkerson and Jeff Diehl
Quotable: Langdon on the addition of Del Worsham as co-crew chief: “The addition of Del is monumental for this team because what he brings to the table. He fully understands these cars and can help each individual crew guy to be better in their area. I think for me one of the huge plusses is the fact that Del is a championship driver…we speak that driver language to one another…he understands exactly what I’m saying and he can tell me how to improve.”
Career Stats: 236 Races, 14 Wins, 16 Runner-ups, 18 No. 1 qualifiers, Career round wins 265 (includes 18 Funny Car round wins)
Winternationals: Qual. No. 6; Beat Jim Campbell; Lost to Tommy Johnson Jr.
Arizona Nationals: Qual. No. 7; Beat Cruz Pedregon; Lost to Matt Hagan
Gatornationals: Qual. No. 10; Lost to Cruz Pedregon
Las Vegas1: Qual. No. 8; Lost to Tim Wilkseron and Jeff Diehl
Noteworthy: Langdon is looking to become just the 17th racer to win in both Top Fuel and Funny Car.
Richie Crampton and DHL Racing To Get Back To Winning Ways
For nine-time Top Fuel winner Richie Crampton the start of the 2019 season has been a feast or famine situation. Two races ago the young driver from Australia captured the win at the historic Gatornationals and last weekend at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals he was unable to advance to the final quad wrapping up his race day with a quarterfinal finish.
“We got out of the first quad and in the second quad we were running with Doug and two other dragsters,” said Crampton. “Our goal was to get both Kalitta dragsters to the last quad but we just came up a bit short. The four-wide keeps you on your toes and I am looking forward to getting to Houston.”
Sitting in the No. 5 position in the Mello Yello point standings just over one round of racing from the No. 3 spot Crampton has a good feeling going into the SpringNationals. Last year Crampton qualified No. 10 and was matched up with teammate Doug Kalitta in the first round. Crampton knew he would need every advantage to take out his veteran teammate and unfortunately double-stepped the throttle for a red-light start. Crampton has put that behind him and is focusing on getting back into the winner’s circle.
““For sure heading to Houston for the first back-to-back races of the season is something I am looking forward to. It helps me as a driver staying in a rhythm. It has been a long two weeks since Gainesville. It is refreshing to think we will be back on the track in Houston in a couple days,” said Crampton.
2018 Houston Highlights: Qualified No. 10; Lost to Doug Kalitta
Last Event Recap (2019 Las Vegas Four-Wide): Qual No. 6: Beat Scott Palmer and Cameron Ferre in first quad; Lost to Doug Kalitta and Brittany Force in second quad
Quotable: Crampton on heading to Houston: “The momentum of the last two races is big going into Houston. What you want to do is minimize those first round losses. We didn’t go all the way in Las Vegas but we didn’t lose in the first round which is key in maintaining our place within the top ten. More round wins equals more points. I have had mixed results at Houston. I know they have a new race track surface so we will just see how we do there.”
Career Stats: 107 races, 9 wins, 2 Runner-ups, 5 No. 1 qualifiers and Career Round wins 93
Winternationals: Qual. No. 6, Lost to Terry McMillen round one
Arizona Nationals: Qual. No. 15, Lost to Terry McMillen round one
Gatornationals: Qual. No. 12, WINNER, Beat Antron Brown, Leah Pritchett, TJ Zizzo and Clay Millican
Las Vegas1: Qual. No. 6, Beat Scott Palmer, Cameron Ferre; Lost to Doug Kalitta and Brittany Force