GAINESVILLE, FL –Antron Brown qualified fifth in Top Fuel to lead Toyota in front of a sell-out crowd Saturday in preparation for Sunday’s 50th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway.
Brown jumped up to third on his first run on Saturday, earning one bonus point with a 3.726 run. He then followed up with a 3.728-second pass in round four to finish fifth. He’s now qualified in the top five in each of the season’s first three races.
“We struggled a little bit on Friday, but we had two good back-to-back runs today, although, we would have liked to have run a little better in the last run,” said Brown, a three-time Top Fuel world champion. “The track was really good today and it’s going to be good tomorrow. We’re just going to push hard and see what we can do. Our Matco Tools Toyota boys are doing a good job and I think we’re in a good position for Sunday.”
PHOENIX, AZ – Toyota Funny Car driver J.R. Todd advanced to his seventh final round in the last nine NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events before eventually falling to Matt Hagan in Sunday’s finals at the Magic Dry Organic Absorbent NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix.
After qualifying fifth, Todd defeated Terry Haddock in the first round and Tommy Johnson in round two to set up a match-up with rival Robert Hight in the semifinals. Todd had a big starting line advantage and never trailed, running his best time (3.919) of the day and fastest speed (327.19 mph) of the weekend. With Todd and Hagan registering times just .003 seconds apart in the semis it set up what seemed to be an epic final, but Todd appeared to have an ignition problem at the light and the car was unable to leave the starting line.
“That was not the way you want to close out the weekend,” said Todd, the reigning Funny Car world champion. “We had a nice run in Q3 to put us in a pretty good position coming into today. We got lucky in the first round and were able to win a pedal fest. We had a good car in beating Tommy Johnson in round two and then my guys gave me a great Camry in the semifinals to outrun Robert (Hight). We’re still not certain what happened in the final round. We hit the gas and it just didn’t go. On the bright side, it was a good points weekend and to make our seventh final round in the last nine races is hard to even imagine. I can’t say enough about all these DHL Toyota Camry guys. Now we just have to figure out what happened, fix it and get ready for Gainesville.”
PHOENIX, AZ –Antron Brown qualified third in Top Fuel, while J.R. Todd placed fifth in Funny Car to lead Toyota in preparation for Sunday’s Magic Dry Organic Absorbent NHRA Arizona Nationals at the Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix.
Brown jumped up to third on his final qualifying attempt when he registered a 3.718-second run at 322.34 mph. It marks the second consecutive race that Brown has earned the number three starting position. He will match up against Steve Torrence in the first round.
“It’s going in the right direction, but we had a little banger at the end there,” said Brown after his run which was second quickest of the session, earning him two bonus points. “All in all, it was another great qualifying effort for our Matco Tools/Toyota DSR dragster. We’ve qualified in the top three two races in a row. We don’t have a favorable first-round match-up (vs. Torrence), but you have to beat them all to win. We’ll just take it one round at a time and you might as well start with the champ. In the first round, we’re going to go after it and we’ll take it from there.”
Doug Kalitta wasn’t far behind Brown in the fifth spot with a 3.738-second pass. He will face off with Jim Maroney in his opening run of eliminations. His Kalitta Motorsports teammate Richie Crampton placed 15thand races Terry McMillen on Sunday.
Chandler, AZ – Kalitta Shoots For Two in a Row…After winning the season opening Winternationals in Pomona, Doug Kalittawill look to become just the second driver in more than 20 years to open the season with two consecutive Top Fuel wins this weekend in Phoenix. Kalitta earned his third Winternationals title in spectacular fashion as he became just the third Top Fuel driver to earn three wins on hole-shots in one event – no driver has ever had four. The win was the 45thof his Top Fuel career.
Brown Looks For Fourth Phoenix Win…Antron Brownwill be shooting for his fourth Top Fuel win at Wild Horse Motorsports Pass. The three-time world champion won at the track in 2009, 2012 and 2014. Only Tony Schumacher has more Top Fuel wins at the Arizona track.
Overall, Toyota-supported drivers have won five times at the Arizona Nationals, Larry Dixon also winning in Top Fuel in 2011, while Alexis DeJoria won the 2014 crown in her Camry Funny Car.
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.
Brown jumped up to third on his final qualifying attempt when he registered the fastest speed run by any car this weekend with a 333.08 mph pass in running a 3.696-second pass to climb into the third spot. He will open Sunday’s eliminations against Don Schumacher Racing teammate Leah Pritchett.
“We’re definitely getting where we want to be at,” said Brown, a three-time Top Fuel world champion. “We learned a lot of stuff in the off-season. You never get somewhere without trying. That’s our main focus. A lot of people forget that and want instant results. I know all the work that my team’s done and I’ve got all the confidence in the world in these Matco Tools/Toyota guys. We’re doing this one step at a time and tomorrow we’re just going to try to race smart and go rounds. That’s our game plan – go rounds. (In racing teammate Leah Pritchett) It’s just another competitor. You’ve got to race them all.”
Joining Brown in the top half of the field are fellow Toyota Top Fuel drivers Richie Crampton in sixth and Doug Kalitta, who placed seventh. Crampton will race Terry McMillen, while Kalitta faces Scott Palmer. All three Toyota Top Fuelers earned bonus points for placing in the top three in a session over the weekend, with Kalitta earning four points and Brown and Crampton each earning one point.
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…