Todd hoping to contend for Funny Car title in his first season
J.R. Todd made his mark in NHRA’s Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel category, but in 2017 will get the opportunity to drive former teammate and 2015 Funny Car champ Del Worsham’s Toyota Camry. Anne Proffit reports.
His new career begins with the season-opening 57th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals on the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona dragstrip, where the season starts on Feb. 10.
Coming off a stellar season during which he finished fourth in overall Top Fuel points with a win and six final-round appearances, Todd is filling some big shoes as he takes over from Worsham, who returns to his family Funny Car squad. With nine career dragster Wally trophies, Todd has confidence in his ability to take the reins of the Camry, as driving a Funny Car has been a life-long dream.
“Getting the opportunity to wheel a championship-winning Funny Car kind of sets the bar high as far as expectations,” he said. “Funny Car is an extremely tough and competitive class, so I’d like to be able to qualify in the top half and turn on win lights on Sunday.”
Unfortunately for Todd, he’s not the only driver with those aspirations, as he’ll have to compete against 16-time champ John Force, his daughter Courtney Force and son-in-law, 2009 champ Robert Hight of John Force Racing, newly minted 2016 titleholder Ron Capps, Capps’ title-winning teammates Matt Hagan and Jack Beckman, together with Tommy Johnson Jr. from the Don Schumacher Racing stables. He also has teammate Alexis DeJoria to battle as well as Worsham, and the always competitive Tim Wilkerson, among others.
Since gaining his Funny Car license in Worsham’s family Funny Car in December, Todd has worked closely with the Kalitta Motorsports team to have the car fitted for him.
“As long as I can get good and comfortable by the Phoenix test [held in early February], I don’t see any reason why we can’t be a threat early on in the season,” Todd said.
Regarding Pomona, he added: “I’m excited to get back to one of my favorite tracks and see the great So Cal fans. Hopefully, by the time we return there for the Finals, we’re talking about running for the championship.”
Todd is eager to live up to the big expectations for any DHL Camry driver, which carries the name of Kalitta’s late son Scott over its driver’s “door”.
“Connie told Jim [Oberhofer, VP of operations at Kalitta Motorsports] the DHL Toyota is a special car and that I was the right guy for the job, which was a huge compliment. Driving a [Funny Car] has been in the back of my mind and most people have known that. The DHL Toyota has quite the legacy and it is a huge honor to be picked to drive it.”
The NHRA’s season starter takes place February 10-12 and final Sunday eliminations will, for the first time, be shown live on FOX television, with three hours of coverage beginning at 4pm ET.
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