Team Kalitta sits sixth in Funny Car and fourth and eighth in Top Fuel in the point standings. Doug Kalitta and Shawn Langdon will be racing to see who can add to their Winternationals Top Fuel win totals and J.R. Todd will be looking for Funny Car win number two of 2021
J.R. Todd and DHL Toyota Camry Focused on Another Winternationals Win
Two final round appearances, including a win at the season opening NHRA Gatornationals, so far this season have J.R. Todd ready to continue his pursuit of his second NHRA Funny Car world championship. The multi-talented driver will be working to earn his first Funny Car Winternationals title beginning this Friday at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. In 2007 Todd won the Top Fuel title at the traditional season opening race. With the move of the event to the middle of the summer Todd knows conditions will play a major factor in everyone’s success.
“I bet it is going to be really hot,” predicted Todd, in advance of this weekend’s race. “Those conditions are the kind of conditions I like. I feel like we run really well when it is hot and nasty out like that. There is no doubt in my mind it will be like that and I don’t know what the schedule is but I am sure it is going to be tricky with the sun on the track. I love going to Pomona. It is going to feel weird being there in the middle of the summer and not February to start the season.”
The DHL Toyota Camry team will be battling to move back into position in the top half of the Funny Car Top Ten where they have resided most of the season. Currently, Todd is in sixth place but he is less than three rounds out of third place and less than 100 points behind the Funny Car point leader.
Todd has only failed to reach the quarterfinals one time this season which is a category best record in the first round. His DHL Toyota Camry has shown flashes of dominance and getting back to back races close to sea level will assist the team as they work to make consistent runs every time down the track.
“We just need to get three good qualifying runs and then string together some good runs on race day,” said Todd. “We have been aggressive and I like that. There are a handful of races before the Countdown and we definitely want to be as high up in the points as possible when they get reset. A good weekend at the Winternationals would go a long way.”
A successful weekend at Auto Club Raceway would also add Todd’s name to a legendary group of Winternationals winners. Only three drivers have won in both Top Fuel and Funny Car at the historic event. Hall of famers Don Prudhomme and Kenny Bernstein along with legendary driver Gary Scelzi, have all hoisted a Wally in each class. Todd picked up the Top Fuel title in 2007 and has been working towards a Winternationals Funny Car win since he made the switch. He has a win at the season ending Auto Club Finals but adding another win at the Winternationals would be a special accomplishment.
“You look at the drivers that have won Funny Car and Top Fuel at any event and they are all Hall of Famers like Prudhomme or Bernstein,” said Todd. “You definitely would like to see your name on a list with those guys but we are really just focusing on getting the best qualifying position and then getting as many round wins as possible on Sunday. The rest will take care of itself.”
2020 NHRA Winternationals Highlights: Qual. No. 8; Lost to Tim Wilkerson
Last Event Recap (2021 NHRA Sonoma Nationals): Qual. No. 12; Beat John Force; Lost to Robert Hight
Career Stats: 244 events, 236 starts, 263 round wins, 19 wins, 37 finals, 13 No. 1 qualifiers; in Funny Car: 92 events, 92 starts, 10 wins, 17 finals, 115 round wins, 4 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
Hometown Winternationals Welcome Challenge for Langdon and DHL Top Fuel Team
Shawn Langdon will be piloting the DHL Kalitta Air Top Fuel dragster this weekend at the NHRA Winternationals looking for his third win at the historic event as well as looking to solidify his position as one of the top championship contenders. This season Langdon started off with a runner-up finish at the Gatornationals and since then he has been on the cusp of winning a number of times. Getting back to the southern California track where he will be surrounded by family and friends will definitely be a welcoming environment for the 2013 NHRA Top Fuel world champion.
“Having Sonoma and Pomona back-to-back definitely means I will have lots of friends and family at the track, which is great,” said Langdon. “I spend a lot of time in California with my nephew and family so I am really glad we are racing again at Pomona this year. Pomona is basically a home track for me and I love racing there.”
Langdon has driven into the winner’s circle twice at the Winternationals picking up victories in 2015 and 2013 to go along with a runner-up finish in 2011. His most recent win in Pomona came from his lone No. 1 qualifier at the race.
“Any time you can get multiple wins at an event you feel good about going back to that race,” said Langdon. “Our DHL dragster just needs to find a rhythm and we will be in great shape. We are No. 4 in the points and we would love to close the gap on No. 3 with some round wins.”
Langdon will get his first shot at winning the Winternationals for a third time when qualifying begins on Friday night. He will have two more qualifying runs on Saturday before final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. PDT on Sunday. The race will be televised on FOX from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. PDT.
2020 NHRA Winternationals Highlights: Qual. No. 4; Lost to Justin Ashley
Last Event Recap (2021 NHRA Sonoma Nationals): Qual. No. 9; Beat Clay Millican; Lost to Antron Brown
Career Stats: 276 events, 273 starts, 306 round wins, 17 wins, 35 finals, 19 No. 1 qualifiers; in Top Fuel: 228 events, 225 starts, 15 wins, 32 finals, 267 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
Winternationals Dominant Streak on the Line for Kalitta and Mac Tools Top Fuel Team
The NHRA Winternationals, historically the first race of the season, has been Doug Kalitta’s go-to race to grab early season momentum throughout his career. The perennial championship contender has appeared in nine final rounds since 2004 and has four wins including a current three race win streak in the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster. With the switch to July for this year’s edition Kalitta is hoping to use his dominance at Auto Club Raceway to rev up his championship hopes heading to the end of the regular season.
“That place has a ton of history for a guy like me,” said Kalitta. “I have had good luck there. You go to a place like Pomona, where you are real confident and it has been really good to you. Getting back there is another great opportunity to win again. It is going to be a lot of fun for sure and end the Western Swing there.”
After two races in row where the Mac Tools team did not reach their full potential on race day Kalitta feels like the Winternationals could be the race his team turns a corner. Last weekend they made a strong run in the first round and lost a close quarterfinal race. The improvements to the tune-up led to minimal engine issues and the feeling that the team can once again get aggressive without risking carnage.
“We had a good run first round,” said Kalitta, following the Sonoma Nationals. “We are finally to a point now where we can actually race this Mac Tools dragster. There were a few races we were out there in survival mode and I think we have that behind us now. We can start turning the screws up on this race car and see what we can do.”
The Mac Tools Top Fuel team has secured two runner-up finishes and in a tight Top Fuel leader board Kalitta sits in the No. 8 position in point just 40 points out of fourth place which is two rounds of racing. The battle for the championship and positioning for the Countdown, the NHRA playoffs, will be fierce over the final four races of the regular season.
“We are looking forward to these next few races leading up to Indy,” said Kalitta. “This weekend our focus is 100 percent on doing well at the Winternationals and finishing the Western Swing on a high note.”
2020 NHRA Winternationals Highlights: Qual. No. 5; WINNER; Beat Brandon Welch, Justin Ashley, Brittany Force and Austin Prock
Last Event Recap (2021 NHRA Sonoma Nationals): Qual. No. 8; Beat Mike Salinas; Lost to Steve Torrence
Career Stats: 533 events, 526 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