POMONA, CA – Toyota driver Doug Kalitta took the lead at the start, then fought off Steve Torrence after hazing the tires to win the Top Fuel finals at the rain-delayed Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals Monday.
With the victory, Kalitta becomes just the second Top Fuel driver ever to win back-to-back Winternationals. It marks his third overall Winternationals crown, having also won the event in 2009.
Kalitta drove his Mac Tools Toyota dragster to a first-round victory over Scott Palmer to set up a second-round match-up with Billy Torrence. Kalitta used an exceptional .048 reaction time to take an early lead and then held off the elder Torrence to win on a hole-shot by .002 seconds (approximately 13 inches). In the semi-finals, Kalitta registered his second consecutive holeshot round win as he edged Terry McMillen. Kalitta registered the best Top Fuel reaction time of the day with a .043-second light on the way to a margin of victory of .011 second to send the Mac Tools Toyota dragster driver to his 97th final round.
In the finals, Kalitta had the starting line advantage, but started to haze the tires after the 330’ mark, but he never came off the gas. Shortly afterward, Torrence started to haze his tires as the two fought toward the finish line. Kalitta would hold on and win with the official margin of victory was .019 seconds or approximately seven feet.
Todd Begins Title Defense…
J.R. Todd will begin his title defense at the same Pomona track where he clinched his first Funny Car championship with a victory in November. In just his second season in a Funny Car, Todd stormed to the title by winning three of six races in the Countdown and advancing to the finals in five. He earned a 20-3 record in the Countdown. Overall, Todd led the series in wins (six), round wins (44) and semi-final round appearances (13). He will head into the season-opener off a strong showing at the NHRA Spring Training in Phoenix, where he ran the second-quickest pass of the week and registered a top-three pass in Thursday, Friday and Saturday’s testing.
Langdon Ready To Break Through in Funny Cars…
After going through expected growing pains in his inaugural season in a Funny Car in 2018, Shawn Langdon appears ready to break through to earn his first win in the upcoming season. Langdon, the 2013 Top Fuel world champion, was second-quickest in Saturday’s Spring Training testing session despite an early shut-down and also placed third in Friday’s testing. Langdon’s Global Electronic Technology Camry team was strengthened early last week with the announcement that Del Worsham would join the Kalitta Motorsports operation as a co-crew chief on the car along with Nicky Boninfante. The Worsham/Boninfante duo has already captured one world championship for the team back in 2015, when Worsham drove to the Funny Car title with Boninfante serving as co-crew chief.
Todd/Langdon Seek To Join Select Company…
DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car Quotes
What was your off-season like as the reigning NHRA Funny Car champion?
I wouldn’t say it was any different than any other off-season. I actually went on vacation, traveling over to Qatar. I raced there in 2011 and hadn’t seen a lot of the people over there since then and it was nice to go over there and support their race series. It was a cool venture. It seemed like the off-season flew by and I’m not opposed to that. I’m glad to be back out here testing and getting ready for the first race of the year.
From a personal standpoint, how does it feel to know that you’ve won the world championship and nobody can ever take that away from you?
That’s pretty much been a life-long dream since I was 10 years old and started racing junior dragsters. You hope that you can make it as a professional some day, then when you get to that point, you want to win your first race. After you do that, you want to contend for a championship and win a championship. I’m glad that we could do it and it definitely doesn’t get old when people start calling you champ. I’m trying to enjoy everything that comes with being a Funny Car champion. I’m just trying to represent the sport the best that I can and defend the championship.
Global Electronic Technology Toyota Camry Funny Car Quotes
How different does it feel for you than it did a year ago when you made your first real runs in the Funny Car?
It feels quite a bit different. Obviously, having a year under my belt gives me a better understanding of how these cars react. We’re taking baby steps early and adjusting to some of the changes we made in the off-season. I feel great. I’m ready to go and I’m really excited about this season.
What was it like moving from a Top Fuel car to a Funny Car in 2018 after winning a championship in Top Fuel, as well as in the Junior Dragster and Super Comp classes?
I tried to prepare myself for the transition. I talked to a number of other drivers who made the move and I expected it to be a big learning curve. Yet, at the end of the year, it had been an even bigger adjustment than I had ever thought it was going to be. It was a MAJOR learning curve. Even with a year under my belt, I’m still learning.
TODD’S DOMINATING RUN GIVES TOYOTA NINTH NHRA WORLD CHAMPION; TOYOTA NHRA DRIVERS COMBINE FOR 10 WINS IN ‘18
Todd dominated throughout the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs, earning three victories in five final round appearances, culminating with his sixth victory of the season at the Auto Club NHRA Finals in Pomona to capture the title. The playoff wins were just part of a brilliant campaign that saw the DHL Toyota Camry driver lead the series in victories, as well as win-loss record in elimination rounds (44-18, 71%) in just his second season in Funny Car. The championship was the second in four years for a Toyota Camry Funny Car driver and the third since 2008. Overall, Toyota-supported drivers have now won nine NHRA world championships.
“I never imagined a run like this, but the DHL Toyota guys are great at what they do,” said Todd. “I saw these guys do this with Del Worsham in 2015, so I knew that the opportunity was there. I just didn’t want to be the reason for it not to happen. It’s pretty special. It was really a complete team effort. I feel like we have a huge advantage from the input we get from having TRD involved. Those guys working with the track conditions takes weight off the crew chiefs shoulders, so they don’t have to worry about it. TRD relays the information back to them and it’s a huge asset. I feel like it’s only going to get better.”
POMONA, CA –Camry driver J.R. Todd defeated Tommy Johnson in the Funny Car final in winning the Auto Club NHRA Finals Sunday to culminate a championship-winning performance at the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Sunday. He had clinched his first Funny Car championship in the opening round today.
Todd defeated Jim Campbell and Bob Tasca in the first two rounds before dispatching Ron Capps in the semifinals to set up his final round match-up with Johnson. In the final, he had a .006 advantage at the tree and never trailed as he registered the quickest time of the day with a 3.872-scond pass with a final margin of victory of .023 seconds or approximately 11 feet.
“The DHL Toyota guys are great at what they do,” said Todd, who became the first African-American driver to win a Funny Car championship and just the second African-American driver ever to win a major U.S. auto racing title. “Todd Smith and Jon Oberhofer really have a handle on the tune-up. They were almost calling their shots today. When we ran the .889 in the semis, they said they were shooting for a .90, so they overachieved a little there. In the finals, I had it way out of the groove, driving like an idiot. I thought for sure I was going to smoke the tires. Then the win light came on and I thought to myself, ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’ and then to see that we ran a .87. That was a big-time run. They just have a really good handle on the car, racing smart. The Yella Fellas just do a great job of preparing our Camry. They definitely stayed focused with a lot of distractions around our pit area.”
POMONA, CA – Five years ago, J.R. Todd’s future in the NHRA was uncertain. Today, he is the Funny Car world champion after clinching the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series title in the first round of Sunday’s Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona.
Todd becomes the first African-American Funny Car champion and just the second African-American driver to win a major U.S. auto racing championship, joining fellow Toyota NHRA driver Antron Brown.
“This is what you live your whole life for when you start racing Junior Dragsters at ten years old,” said Todd, who went without a full-time NHRA ride from 2009-2013 after earning Rookie of the Year honors in 2006. “You hope that you can get to this point in your life and your career, but you never really think it’s going to happen. There were definitely some tough times when I got my start in Top Fuel and I didn’t know if I’d ever be back at this point. I have so many people to thank, especially the Kalitta group as a whole.”
The newly crowned champion has stormed through the first five races of the Countdown to the Championship playoffs earning two wins and advancing to four final rounds.