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.
Todd extended his championship lead back to 74 points heading into tomorrow’s eliminations, the equivalent of over two rounds. He can clinch the 2018 Funny Car championship by advancing to the semi-finals or beyond on Sunday.
“Nothing’s changed for our DHL Toyota,” said Todd, who registered a 3.897-second pass in his final qualifying run on Saturday. “We’re going to go out there and run hard. We’re not going to let up. Our goal for tomorrow is to win the race.”
Todd will open eliminations against Jim Campbell on Sunday.
Shawn Langdon qualified ninth and will open up Sunday’s action with Matt Hagan, while Cruz Pedregon placed 14th and will square off against Tommy Johnson in the opening round.
Pomona, CA – Todd Looks For First Title…J.R. Toddwill be looking to secure his first NHRA Funny Car World Championship this weekend in Pomona. After winning the most recent event at the Toyota Nationals, he enters the weekend with a 74-point lead, the equivalent of just over two rounds. If Todd captures the title, he would become the first African-American driver to win a Funny Car title and just the second to win a major U.S. auto racing championship, joining fellow Toyota driver Antron Brown. He also would be the second DHL Camry driver to win a Funny Car title in the last four years, joining Del Worsham who won the title for Kalitta Motorsports in 2015.
Todd By The Numbers…Todd has earned two victories and advanced to four final rounds in the first five Countdown to the Championship events. He also has compiled a 16-3 round win-loss record during the playoffs. For the season, Todd leads all Funny Car drivers in wins (five) and round wins (40) and has advanced to the semi-finals or beyond 12 times – also a series high.
LAS VEGAS – J.R. Todd defeated Matt Hagan in the final to win the NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Sunday and take over the Funny Car point lead in the process. The victory is a series-high fifth of the season for Todd and his third in the last six races.
Todd turned in a dominating performance on Sunday, defeating Richard Townsend in the first round and followed up with victories over Kalitta Motorsports teammate Shawn Langdon and then Jack Beckman in the semifinals. That set up his final round battle with Hagan. Hagan had a slight advantage off the line, but Todd pulled almost even by the 60’ mark. He took the lead by 660’ and then pulled away for the victory, winning by .145 seconds or approximately 56 feet.
“It really started on Friday when we didn’t have a good day at all,” said Todd, who now has a 74-point lead over second place Robert Hight. “We qualified 16th and then we were bumped from the field before we ran in Q3 on Saturday. We were really aggressive in Q3 and ran a 3.91 and ended up second. That just goes to show how hard these DHL Toyota guys work. We had some issues on Friday and they stayed late and changed the entire fuel system. We came out and made two really good runs on Saturday.”
LAS VEGAS – J.R. Todd jumped from outside of the field all the way up to second in Funny Car with a 3.911-second pass to lead Toyota in qualifying for Sunday’s NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
With Saturday’s strong showing, which also saw him tie for the third-quickest run in the final session, Todd closed to within six points of the Funny Car point lead. It also sets up a potential second-round showdown for the point lead if both Todd and current leader Robert Hight each win their opening match-ups. Todd will face Richard Townsend the first round.
“Obviously, today’s first round was an important run because at that point our DHL Toyota Camry wasn’t qualified and you’ve got to be in the show to win,” said Todd. “It was really important to get that run down the track. We knew we could do it. We just had an issue on Friday that doesn’t normally happen. We got some bonus points as well to cut into Robert’s lead a little bit. Now we need to go out and try to turn on four win lights tomorrow.”
Todd Eyes Vegas Sweep…J.R. Todd will be looking to finish off a 2018 sweep at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend after winning the inaugural Four-Wides at the track this spring. A second win at the track also would likely propel him into the Funny Car championship lead heading into the season finale at Pomona. The DHL Camry driver enters the Toyota Nationals just 11 points out of the top spot after advancing to the finals at three of the four Countdown to the Championship playoff races, including a win at Reading. He has scored more points than any other Funny Car driver during the Countdown with a 12-3 won-loss record. For the season, Todd has earned four wins and amassed 36 round wins – more than doubling the total of his rookie season in a Funny Car in 2017.