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 the quarterfinals. The team enters the second race of the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season with title hopes for Funny Car driver J.R. Todd and the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car team as well as Doug Kalitta and Shawn Langdon in the Top Fuel ranks, racing the Mac Tools and DHL/Kalitta Air dragsters, respectively.
Points Leader J.R. Todd Looks To Continue Winning Ways in Las Vegas
Funny Car point leader J.R. Todd is looking forward to getting back to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for a variety of reasons. The Gatornationals winner has a great history of success at the NHRA Vegas Four-Wide Nationals. The race was skipped last season due to the pandemic but Todd had won the previous two four-wide races and will be looking for his third win in the desert this weekend at the unique event. No one has raced four-wide in over a year but Todd feels the playing field will be relatively level once race cars like his DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car hit the track.
“Everyone is in the same boat really,” said Todd. “I try and do the same thing and not worry about the fact there are a couple more race cars on the track. You want to get off the line quick and keep it straight. The Four-Wide Nationals does offer a different variable which is cool. You have to pay more attention and really listen to your crew chief or crew guys when they are telling you who is in the other lanes. I know it will be interesting for sure. We will have a lot of Funny Cars and it has been a while since we raced.”
Nearly 20 Funny Cars will be vying for one of the coveted 16 qualifying positions this weekend. The field will be stacked with veteran teams and a handful of rookies or new teams on the tour. The variety of other drivers doesn’t offer any distraction to Todd and his DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car team.
“I have had success in Las Vegas because I think (crew chiefs) Todd (Smith) and Jon O (Oberhofer) have a good handle on their tune-up,” said Todd. “We won this race the last time we were here and it was a team effort. We had a good race car and I was doing a decent job driving. I am ready to get back to racing especially coming off a win like the Gatornationals. You just want to get back to the track right away. I don’t care if it is four-wide or two-wide it has been a long time between races and I am excited to be heading back to a race track.”
Todd’s history at The Strip is impressive whether there are four or two cars on the track. He has two wins in the four-wide format as well as a runner-up finish in 2018 at the fall event when he won the Funny Car championship. Prior to his move to Funny Car Todd picked up a couple No. 1 qualifiers racing Top Fuel and was runner-up at the Fall Vegas race three times 2016, 2014 and 2006 in a dragster.
“This is a cool place to race whether it is in my DHL Camry Funny Car or a Top Fuel dragster,” said Todd. “I have been racing here for a long time and I am glad we are getting the chance to get this four-wide race in. I know the guys running the track have been doing a lot of work to make sure this race happens and everyone at Kalitta Motorsports really appreciates it.”
2019 NHRA Vegas Four-Wide Highlights (event not contested in 2020): WINNER; Qual. No. 4; Beat Gary Densham and Jim Campbell, beat Matt Hagan and Jeff Diehl, beat Tommy Johnson Jr., Jack Beckman and Tim Wilkerson
Last Event Recap (2021 NHRA Gatornationals: WINNER; Qual. No. 6; Beat Blake Alexander, Tim Wilkerson, Cruz Pedregon and Robert Hight
Career Stats: 236 events, 228 starts, 254 round wins, 19 wins, 36 finals, 12 No. 1 qualifiers; in Funny Car: 84 events, 84 starts, 10 wins, 16 finals, 106 round wins, 3 No. 1 qualifiers
Gatornationals: WINNER; Qual. No. 6; Beat Blake Alexander, Tim Wilkerson, Cruz Pedregon and Robert Hight
Vegas Four-Wide Win Priority for Shawn Langdon and DHL Top Fuel Team
The last time Shawn Langdon wheeled a Top Fuel dragster to the starting line was three years ago but the 2013 NHRA Top Fuel champion isn’t worried about getting back into the four-wide groove. Last year four-wide racing was a casualty of the pandemic and the previous two seasons Langdon was battling it out in the Funny Car category. This weekend at the NHRA Vegas Four-Wide Nationals Langdon and his DHL/Kalitta Air Top Fuel team will be looking to add a Top Fuel four-wide win to his resume.
“I am glad to be getting back to racing,” said Langdon. “This was a long lay-off but I am looking forward to getting back to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Four-Wide Nationals. I like four-wide racing because it is different. There are some guys that I think it bothers but I am fine with it. I don’t change anything when I am inside the race car.”
Langdon picked up his first career Funny Car win at the Charlotte Four-Wide Nationals in 2019 and followed that up with another Funny Car win later that season in St. Louis. There isn’t much the reigning U.S. Nationals champion hasn’t done behind the wheel of a race car. He hasn’t picked up a four-wide Top Fuel victory and that is definitely on his mind heading into race weekend considering he had a strong car at the season opening Gatornationals.
“We got off to a good start in Gainesville and I know this DHL dragster will keep running good,” said Langdon. “You always feel better when you get off to a good start. Vegas is a track I would definitely like to pick up a win just like any track on the tour. We were runners-up at the last race and we will be trying to get the win this weekend for sure.”
In Florida last month Langdon drove his DHL dragster to his 32nd career final round on the strength of consistent runs and timely driving. During the Four-Wide Nationals the team will need that combination to have success on Sunday. Three qualifying runs will lead up to race day and then Langdon just needs to be a top two finisher in each of the first two rounds to have a shot at winning his first four-wide Top Fuel race.
“We want to make good qualifying runs for sure and also share info with Doug Kalitta’s team since there will be one lane we won’t get to make a pass in,” said Langdon. “I am glad we have some great teammates and crew chiefs. This Kalitta Motorsports team does a good job or working together to get the job done.”
2019 NHRA Vegas Four-Wide Highlights (event not contested in 2020): In Funny Car: Qual. No. 8; Lost to Tim Wilkerson and Jeff Diehl
Last Event Recap (2021 NHRA Gatornationals: RUNNER-UP; Qual. No. 6; Beat Doug Foley, Leah Pruett, Antron Brown; Lost to Josh Hart
Career Stats: 268 events, 265 starts, 300 round wins, 17 wins, 35 finals, 19 No. 1 qualifiers; in Top Fuel: 220 events, 217 starts, 15 wins, 32 finals, 261 round wins, 19 No. 1 qualifiers
Gatornationals: RUNNER-UP; Qual. No. 6; Beat Doug Foley, Leah Pruett, Antron Brown; Lost to Josh Hart
Doug Kalitta Dialed in For First Las Vegas Four-Wide Nationals Win
Doug Kalitta and the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster team will roll into The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend looking for one more round win as they tackle four-wide racing for the first time in 2021. It has been over a year since any NHRA teams have made runs in the unique four-wide format and for Kalitta who raced to a quarterfinal finish at the season opening Gatornationals the Vegas race will be a welcome challenge. The veteran driver has raced to the final quad on three occasions including the 2014 Vegas Nationals but he has never been first to the stripe. In all three races Kalitta grabbed runner-up honors.
“I have come close a couple times in the four-wide races but you never know what can happen when you get four race cars on the track at the same time,” said Kalitta, who has one win at The Strip. “There is a lot going on for sure. I just try and do my regular routine. Not much changes other than you have a couple more race cars out there. I know my crew chief Rob Flynn and Troy Fasching have a good Las Vegas tune-up so we will see what happens.”
In 2019 Kalitta was runner-up at the last Four-Wide National event contested in Charlotte. The pandemic cancelled both four-wide races in 2020. His previous successes in the unique format include the runner-up finish in Las Vegas in 2014 and another runner-up in Charlotte in 2010. The four-wide race gives drivers and teams the benefit advancing to the next round if they are either first or second to the finish line in each of the first two rounds or quads. The final quad sets up the winner, runner-up and semifinalists.
“You have to pay attention when you are getting staged and remember what lane you are in,” said Kalitta. “You just have to run your race and know that if you smoke the tires you need to try and recover because you don’t know what could be happening in the other lanes. It makes it exciting for the fans for sure.”
The past three seasons Kalitta won the season opening Winternationals, traditionally contested at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona. The revised schedule for 2021 started the season at the historic Gatornationals nearly a month ago and has teams racing in Las Vegas this weekend and then on to Atlanta in two weeks. Kalitta’s streak of winning the first race was broken with a quarterfinal finish in Florida but the championship contending team is focused on the long term season results.
“We have had good luck starting the season with wins at the Winternationals. We will get back to Pomona at some point hopefully and we’ll see how it goes. We had a great race car at the Gatornationals and I have a lot of confidence in this Mac Tools team,” added Kalitta.
2019 NHRA Vegas Four-Wide Highlights (event not contested in 2020): Qual. No. 7; Beat Terry McMillen and Steve Chrisman, beat Steve Torrence and Richie Crampton, Lost to Mike Salinas and Brittany Force
Last Event Recap (2021 NHRA Gatornationals: Qual. No. 4; Beat Arthur Allen; Lost to Justin Ashley
Career Stats: 525 events, 518 starts, 712 round wins, 49 wins, 105 finals, 50 No. 1 qualifiers
Gatornationals: Qual. No. 4; Beat Arthur Allen; Lost to Justin Ashley