The DHL Toyota Camry and driver J.R. Todd will be in hot pursuit of their second NHRA Funny Car world championship this weekend at the NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona. Todd will be looking to become the first driver since icon Don Prudhomme to win the historic event in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. He picked up his Top Fuel win in 2007 and will be looking for his tenth career Funny Car victory this weekend.
“We have the same goal we start every season off with – looking for another shot at the championship like we won with the DHL Toyota in 2018,” said Todd. “We didn’t have the season we were hoping for last year, but we’ve regrouped. We have some new crew guys this year and we’ve added some key associate sponsors on board. Things are looking up and we’re hoping on hitting the ground running in Pomona.”
A Funny Car win at the Winternationals would mean a lot to Todd. As a student of NHRA history and a fan of the legends that raced before him he understands the impact of a win to start the season.
“With the 60th anniversary of the Winternationals this year, it’s a big race where everyone wants to get a win under their belt,” said Todd. “I’ve been fortunate to win the Winternationals in dragsters, so if I could add my name to that list to win in both nitro classes that would be pretty special. You always want to start the season off with good momentum going into the year. It’s a long season, but if we can come out of Pomona with a win, it will set the bar high for us.”
This year Todd will be the lone Funny Car in the Kalitta Motorsports camp with the move of Shawn Langdon to the DHL Top Fuel dragster. Being the only Kalitta-backed Funny Car will not affect how Todd approached the season.
“There are pros and cons of multi-car teams. I think for us, with Toyota and TRD’s support and their focus on our DHL Toyota Camry, that’s a good thing for us,” said Todd. “I don’t think it will hinder our performance being a one-car Funny Car team. We have two great dragster teams here at Kalitta Motorsports that we work really well with.”
The synergy between sponsors like Toyota Racing Development and the DHL team give not just Todd but the entire team added confidence. The constant race informational updates go hand in hand with the research and development elements of the partnership.
“We have a TRD-support center parked right next to us at every race,” explained Todd. “The information they provide us, whether it’s track conditions or different ideas on things we can try with the body and chassis, is great. I don’t think there’s any other manufacturer that provides support like that to the other teams out here. I’m really looking forward to this season. We have some things in the works with Toyota and TRD for 2021, so I expect to be testing some new things later this season.”
In addition to the support from DHL and TRD Todd has seen new names and companies join the racing operation in the off-season. Moving into 2020 season he knows that there will be new faces and sponsors to represent on and off track. He sees the new team partners as an extension of the success the team has experienced over the past few seasons.
“It’s great because the products they supply to us our exclusive to Kalitta Motorsports. Getting NGK on board is huge. They’ve been around the sport for a long time and have a great history,” said Todd. “Mobil 1 has already put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into making sure this product was right. We did some testing with it last season and they perfected it. It’s a great product and exclusive to our team, so I think that could be crucial for us in the performance area. We’ve seen the benefits of their oil by not tearing up parts with issues we’ve had in the past. When you look at things like that in the long run, it’s going to save our teams money and gives the crew chiefs a bit of advantage where they can stand on the tune-up a little harder because they know the oil is going to hold up to whatever they’re giving it. That can make hundredths or thousandths of a second difference at the finish line. Little things like that can mean a lot and go a long way in this sport.”
2019 NHRA Winternationals Highlights: Qual. No. 9; Lost to Bob Tasca III
Last Event Recap (2019 NHRA Auto Club Finals): Qual. No. 10; Beat Tommy Johnson Jr.; Lost to Jack Beckman
Career Stats: 224 events, 216 starts, 237 round wins, 18 wins, 33 finals, 12 No. 1 qualifiers; in Funny Car: 72 events, 72 starts, 9 wins, 13 finals, 88 round wins, 3 No. 1 qualifiers