YPSILANTI, Mich. (Aug. 9, 2023) – J.R. Todd is still basking in the glow of his win two weeks ago in the Denso Sonoma NHRA Nationals in California, but the DHL Funny Car driver rolls into Topeka hoping to keep the roll going. The 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing season resumes with the final race at Heartland Motorsports Park Aug. 11-13 in Topeka, Kan.
After experiencing multiple challenges in an emotional rollercoaster of a season, the DHL Toyota team was trending towards and finally delivered Todd’s first win since Gainesville, Fla., two years ago at Sonoma, Calif., two weeks ago, the final race of NHRA’s western swing. As luck would have it, the win came prior to an off week giving Todd time to savor the win.
“Being on the road for three weeks and then getting to come home after a win was definitely rewarding,” Todd said. “It was nice to sit back, enjoy the texts and calls and do the different media interviews, and it’s been nice to reflect on the great western swing we had. In the past, we haven’t had the best western swings with the DHL Funny Car, but this one was the best we’ve had since 2006 when we had a shot at sweeping the swing after winning the first two.”
It’s been quite a run for the DHL GR Supra team. After reaching at least semifinals at four of the five races prior to Sonoma, including a final-round appearance in Seattle, it just felt like this team was knocking on the door and that a win was imminent.
“I started to feel that way in Sonoma because people were talking about it by then,” the 2018 NHRA Funny Car champion said. “We definitely had a car capable of winning at Denver and then went to the final in Seattle and probably should have won there, but when we got to Sonoma, it was kind of like, ‘alright, let’s finish the deal here.’ It’s never over till it’s over, but I definitely felt like we had a good shot to win there, and the stars aligned and we won the race.
“Looking back, I definitely think we could have won all three races. Not to take anything away from Matt Hagan or Tim Wilkerson for winning the other two, I just felt like we had the car good enough to win those other two as well. I really can’t thank Todd, Jon-O (co-crew chiefs Todd Smith and Jon Oberhofer) and all the guys enough for all the work they put in on this DHL Toyota team – they’re making us a consistent race team that can win anytime, and that’s not easy.”
Todd earned 285 out of a possible 387 points on the western swing – more than any other Funny Car driver and second most among all classes. He won nine of the 12 rounds that comprised the swing (Information courtesy of NHRA.com), including the most-important one, the Sonoma final round.
“It’s definitely the right time of the year to be trending upwards,” the Jupiter, Fla., resident added. “We just have to keep our heads down, keep digging and focus on the mission at hand. That’s continuing to win rounds and races from here on out, but if we can put ourselves in position to win another race before the Countdown (Countdown to the Championship NHRA Playoffs), ideally, I think that could set us up for a top-five start in the Countdown. I think that’s where you want to be when the playoffs start, but there’s still a lot of racing before that and a lot of points to accumulate. Right now, I feel like we’re in a good position to make a move, and winning this last race in Topeka would be a great way to do that.
“Earlier this season when we were getting our teeth kicked in, that’s no fun. At the end of the day, driving a nitro Funny Car is the most fun I could ask for, but the competitive side of me wants to win races. You’re not out there just to make runs down the track; you want to win races and contend for championships. We weren’t in a position to do that earlier this year for a lot of reasons so it wasn’t the most fun then. But now, going rounds, winning a race and making moves in the points is a lot of fun. It gives you confidence as a driver and makes you want to get back on the track as quick as possible.”
2022 Menards NHRA Nationals Recap: Qualified eighth; Lost to Alexis DeJoria in the first round.
J.R. Todd Career Stats: 289 events, 317 round wins, 20 wins, 44 final rounds, 14 No. 1 qualifiers
2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Results To Date:
- Gainesville: Qualified sixth; defeated Blake Alexander, Robert Hight, Chad Green; lost to Matt Hagan in final.
- Phoenix: Qualified 15th and lost to Alexis DeJoria in the first round.
- Pomona: Qualified fifth and lost to Alex Laughlin in the first round.
- Las Vegas: Did not qualify.
- Charlotte: Qualified No. 6 but lost to Robert Hight and Mike McIntire in the first round.
- Chicago: Qualified No. 3; lost to Bob Tasca in the first round.
- Epping: Qualified No. 8; defeated Cruz Pedregon and Matt Hagan before losing to John Force in the semifinals.
- Bristol: Qualified No. 7; lost to John Force.
- Norwalk: Qualified No. 7; defeated John Force and Ron Capps before losing to Matt Hagan in the semifinals.
- Denver: Qualified No. 7; defeated Tim Wilkerson and John Force before losing to Alexis Dejoria in the semifinals.
- Seattle: Qualified No. 5; defeated Alex Laughlin, Cruz Pedregon and Chad Green before losing to Tim Wilkerson by .0522 seconds in the final round.
- Sonoma: Qualified No. 8; defeated Blake Alexander, Bob Tasca, Matt Hagan and Chad Green earning his first win of the season.
Current Point Standings: Todd enters Topeka in eighth place in the NHRA Funny Car point standings. He trails seventh place Bob Tasca by three points and leads ninth-place John Force by 56 points.
DOUG KALITTA, MAC TOOLS DRAGSTER SURGING TO SUCCESS, LOOK TO CLOSE OUT TOPEKA TRACK WITH LAST WALLY
YPSILANTI, Mich. (Aug. 9, 2023) – Like he did at the NHRA race in Denver, Colo., last month, 49-time NHRA race winner Doug Kalitta will go to Toepka, Kan., this weekend hoping to win the final NHRA race at Heartland Motorsports Park. The 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing season resumes with the final race at Heartland Motorsports Park Aug. 11-13 in Topeka, Kan.
Kalitta has two wins in five Topeka final rounds, but his cousin, the late Scott Kalitta, won six races in Topeka. Countless stories of the Kansas race track and from the greater Topeka area litter NHRA history. Many memories were made in the Topeka community, but the final chapter of its NHRA history will be written this weekend.
“Topeka’s been a good track for Team Kalitta over the years,” Kalitta said. “My cousin (Scott) won multiple times and always ran so well there, and we’ve always looked forward to racing in Topeka. It’s been a key part of the NHRA schedule for a long time, but it’s good to know we’ll still get to race in the area with that new track coming on line in Kansas City. We’re definitely hoping to go Topeka and win the last one.”
The Mac Tools Toyota team had a very good western swing posting back-to-back runner-up finishes at Denver and Seattle and accruing the third-most points in the Top Fuel class over the three-race span.
“This Mac Tools team is definitely headed in the right direction,” Kalitta said.” We’ve been feeling that way for a while now, and I’m so proud of my guys staying with it and working as hard as they are. Those two runner-up finishes were great, but we want to take that next step. We’re definitely carrying some momentum coming in here, and we’ll keep digging and get it done. I am looking forward to getting back to Topeka where our team has all that great history. It would be a perfect setting for my guys to finish the job and get us back to the winner’s circle.”
2022 Menards NHRA Nationals Recap: Qualified No. 5; lost to Tony Schumacher in the first round.
Career Stats: 578 events, 750 round wins, 49 wins, 109 final rounds, 52 No. 1 qualifiers
2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Results To Date:
- Gatornationals: Qualified third; defeated Spencer Massey, Antron Brown; lost to Steve Torrence
- Phoenix: Qualified No. 1; defeated Rob Passey, lost to Shawn Langdon.
- Pomona: Qualified 11th and lost to Antron Brown in the first round.
- Las Vegas: Qualified 10th; lost to Steve Torrence and Josh Hart in the first round.
- Charlotte: Qualified No. 6, lost to Leah Pritchett and Pat Dakin in the first round.
- Chicago: Qualified No. 3; defeated Kyle Wurtzel, lost to Clay Millican.
- Epping: Qualified 12th; lost to Leah Pruett.
- Bristol: Qualified No. 6; defeated Clay Millican and Steve Torrence before lost to Antron Brown.
- Norwalk: Qualified No. 4; lost to Dan Mercier in the first round.
- Denver: Qualified No. 2; defeated Terry Totten, Josh Hart and Steve Torrence before losing to Clay Millican in the final round.
- Seattle: Qualified No. 2; defeated Ron Smith, had a second-round bye and defeated Clay Millican before losing to Steve Torrence when the Mac Tools Toyota dragster smoked the tires during the final-round run.
- Sonoma: Qualified No. 8; lost to Justin Ashley in the first round.
Current Point Standings: Kalitta enters Topeka in seventh place in the NHRA Top Fuel point standings. He trails sixth place Austin Prock by 43 points and leads eighth place Mike Salinas by 18 points.
AFTER POSITIVE WESTERN SWING, LANGDON LONGING FOR MORE HEADWAY IN THE HEARTLAND
YPSILANTI, Mich. (Aug. 9, 2023) – After a difficult spring, Shawn Langdon and his Kalitta Air Careers Toyota team appear to be headed in the right direction this summer as the team looks to Topeka’s final ride for the team’s next step. The 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing season resumes with the final race at Heartland Motorsports Park Aug. 11-13 in Topeka, Kan.
Langdon has one win in two final rounds at Heartland Motorsports Park, and the team heads to Topeka on the strength of semifinal appearances in two of the last three races. Improved qualifying and more consistent runs appear to show co crew chiefs Jason McCulloch and Kurt Elliott are getting a handle on the Kalitta Air Careers car. The two semifinal berths are an impressive improvement on the races just prior. Race wins, no, but going rounds and mining data are two of the basic building blocks that can lead to more win lights and a return to the winner’s circle.
“Things are definitely looking up for the Kalitta Air Careers team,” the 2013 NHRA Top Fuel champion said. “We made some progress on the Western swing, and that felt really good. I know the crew chiefs and the team have been working hard to get us where we need to be, and it’s nice for everyone to have a little success –consistency and win lights just help everything and motivate all of us to keep getting better. I know I said it after Sonoma, but we’re really looking forward to Topeka because we feel really good about the progress we made on the western swing. We’ll keep working at it until we can make everyone at Kalitta Air, Revchem, Toyota and everyone else that supports us proud of what we’re doing.”
Menards NHRA Nationals presented by Pet Armor
Heartland Motorsports Park, Topeka, Kan.
- Qualifying Show No. 1: 7-9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023 on FS1.
- Qualifying Show No. 2: 1-3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 13, 2023 on FS1.
- Finals: 3-6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 13, 2023 on FS1.
2022 NHRA Menards NHRA Nationals Recap: Qualified ninth; defeated Clay Millican before losing to Mike Salinas in the second round.
Shawn Langdon Career Stats: 321 events, 342 round wins, 17 wins, 38 final rounds, 19 No. 1 qualifiers
2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Results To Date:
- Gainesville: Qualified 11th and lost to Antron Brown by two 10 thousandths of a second.
- Phoenix: Qualified No. 8; defeated Antron Brown, Doug Kalitta and Leah Pruett; lost to Justin Ashley
- Pomona: Qualified No. 7; defeated Tony Schumacher, lost to Brittany Force.
- Las Vegas: Qualified No. 6; defeated Krista Baldwin and Clay Millican before losing to Steve Torrence and
- Josh Hart in the semifinals.
- Charlotte: Qualified 11th, lost to Leah Pritchett and Pat Dakin in the first round.
- Chicago: Qualified No. 6; lost to Clay Millican in the first round.
- Epping: Qualified No. 2; lost to Tony Schumacher in the first round.
- Bristol: Qualified 14th; lost to Steve Torrence.
- Norwalk: Qualified 14th; lost to Brittany Force.
- Denver: Qualified No. 9; defeated Greg Carrillo and Rob Passey before losing to Clay Millican in the
- Seattle: Qualified No. 8; defeated Antron Brown and Mike Salinas before losing to Steve Torrence by .0609 seconds in the semifinals.
- Sonoma: Qualified No. 5; defeated Leah Pruett before losing to Josh Hart in the second round.
Point Standings: Langdon enters Topeka in 11th place in the NHRA Top Fuel point standings. He trails 10th place Clay Millican by 16 points and leads 12th place Tony Schumacher by 103 points.