Big wins are nothing new for J.R. Todd.
After all, he’s the reigning NHRA Mello Yello Series nitro Funny Car world champion.
Todd added another Wally to his collection by capturing the title at the 20th annual DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Las Vegas Sunday.
In the finals, Todd clocked a 3.970-second lap at 319.07 mph to defeat Tommy Johnson Jr. (3.975), Jack Beckman (4.370) and Tim Wilkerson (4.401).
This was Todd’s third consecutive win at The Strip in Las Vegas.
“It’s all Kalitta Motorsports,” said Todd about his victory binge in Vegas. “It seems like ever since I’ve come onboard with this team that we’ve always run well here. The whole team, all four cars, had a really good handle on this place, especially (crew chiefs) Todd Smith and Jon O (Oberhofer). It seems like the more they come here the better grip they get on of this place.”
This was Todd’s 18th career Wally. Todd also made it to the finals in Phoenix earlier this season before losing to Matt Hagan. Todd is fourth in the season points standings – 83 points behind leader Robert Hight.
“We struggled this year with cold tracks and shaking the tires,” said Todd, who pilots Kalitta’s DHL Funny Car. “I knew it was not going to be cold every where we went and sure enough it was hot and nasty here (Sunday) and that’s kind of an equalizer for us. That 97 in the final there was pretty stout. Wilkerson ran well all weekend and I really expected him to step it up and throw down in the final, but you can never count out Todd Smith and Jon O and we had our act together this weekend.
There’s nothing that you do to really prepare yourself for the Four-Wide. You just make yourself aware of where you are on the track, what lane you’re in, who you’re racing against and do what you do and hit the gas when the yellow light comes on. It (the Four-Wide) is different, but the fans seem to like it and it packs the house here in Vegas, so if that’s what we have to do to put some butts in the seats, I’m all for it because we need to take this sport to the next level.”
Todd has won nine national events in Funny Car in his last 38 races.
“I still think I have a lot of work to do inside the car, especially when it comes to pedaling it and things like that,” Todd said. “It went out there and blew the tires off first round and I’m hard on myself about keeping that thing in the groove. Any time it smokes the tires, I’m the first one to blame myself because I didn’t do a good enough job keeping it straight down the track. This was the fifth-year anniversary of getting the call from (Connie Kalitta). I was at home in Indy eating chicken wings and drinking beer and watching March Madness with my parents. He called me up and asked if I could get on a plane and come out here and drive his car Saturday. That’s where it all started, and I can’t thank him enough.”
During the weekend, Todd also warmed up a Top Alcohol Funny Car – something he thoroughly enjoyed.
“People don’t understand how awesome alcohol Funny Cars are,” Todd said. “I feel like that is probably one of the most underrated classes in our sport. I’ve never driven one and I have been told they are the hardest cars to drive and I believe it. Just warming that thing up it is pretty intimidating. I’m really good buddies with Jonnie Lindberg. He and myself and Richie (Crampton) hang out quite a bit back home in Indy and I was shooting my mouth off the other night that I wanted to warm up a car and Jonnie said come on over and we will put you in it. He let me warm it up Friday morning and it was way cool.”
At the close of his winner’s press conference, Todd did take a moment to address the plight of Chad Langdon, his teammate, Shawn Langdon’s father.
“Chad just had a liver transplant and it was kind of touch and go there for a while, but it is cool he got the transplant done and I hear that’s he’s going to be released from the hospital soon,” Todd said. “It is going to be a little bit of recovery for him and it’s kind of a miracle what happened there with him. I know Shawn has been going through some tough times the last six months or so and I’m glad it all worked out and I can’t wait to have him back out here at the track.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019