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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.

“Toyota could not be more proud of J.R. Todd and the entire Kalitta Motorsports team,” said Laura Pierce, general manager of motorsports, Toyota Motor North America. “J.R. has been the most dominant driver throughout the playoffs and has truly earned the title of world champion. Thank you to everyone at TRD, who has played an integral role, not only in designing this Camry Funny Car, but also for the engineering support they provide at every race.”

Overall, Todd entered today’s race with a series-high five wins and 40 round wins this season, and advanced to the semifinals or beyond in 12 races. His championship marks the second in the last four seasons for a Kalitta Motorsports Camry Funny Car and the third overall Funny Car title for Toyota. In addition, Toyota-supported Top Fuel drivers have earned six world championships.

Todd becomes the fifth Toyota driver to capture a 2018 driver’s championship, joining Tucker Klaasmeyer (POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League), Sheldon Creed (ARCA Racing Series), CJ Greaves (Lucas Oil Midwest Short Course League Pro 4) and Tyler Ankrum (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East).

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