POMONA, CA – January 25, 2017 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – J.R. Todd took full advantage of his first opportunity with Kalitta Motorsports, and the new Funny Car driver plans to make the most of his next one with the organization as the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season is set to begin.
Shortly after the conclusion of a successful 2016 campaign, Todd moved from Top Fuel to Funny Car after being named the driver of the team’s 10,000-horsepower DHL Toyota Camry, filling the role vacated by former world champion Del Worsham.
Todd recognizes the big shoes he has to fill, but the chance to drive a Funny Car has been a longtime dream, one he will fully realize at the 57th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals, Feb. 9-12, at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
“Getting the opportunity to wheel a championship-winning Funny Car kind of sets the bar high as far as expectations,” said Todd, who posted a win and six Top Fuel final round appearances in 2016 en route to a fourth-place points finish. “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.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) were victorious at last year’s tradition-rich event, which will for the first time in its history feature Sunday’s eliminations live on the FOX national broadcast channel. It is the first of 24 races in 2017 and the event will air on FOX Sports 1 on Friday and Saturday, and FOX on Sunday.
It’s a big opportunity for Todd to grab the spotlight right out of the gates in his new role, but that’s been an area where he has excelled since getting the call from team owner Connie Kalitta to drive for the team in 2014. Todd jumped at that chance, winning once that year and finishing a career-high second in points.
Todd, who has nine career Top Fuel victories, followed that up with two more strong seasons, giving him confidence the team can start well in Pomona. He drove the Worsham family’s Funny Car in December to crossover his license, and has worked closely with the Kalitta Motorsports team to get fitted for the car. It all has him eager to perform at a high level immediately.
“As long as I can get good and comfortable by (the) Phoenix test, I don’t see any reason why we can’t be a threat early on in the season,” Todd said. “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.”
Getting to that point will be a difficult task in the loaded Funny Car class. Capps started his dream 2016 season with a Winternationals victory, using that momentum to help claim his first Funny Car world championship. The loaded Pomona field includes Worsham, John Force, Matt Hagan, Courtney Force and many more, making even qualifying in the talent-rich class difficult. But Todd is eager to live up to the big expectations expected of the DHL Toyota Camry driver, something he plans to show right off the bat at Pomona.
“Connie told (VP of Operations) Jim (Oberhofer) the DHL Toyota is a special car and that I was the right guy for the job, which was a huge compliment,” Todd said. “Driving one 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.”
In Top Fuel, Torrence defeated Doug Kalitta in the event’s final round en route to three wins and a third-place finish in 2016. He’ll square off against the likes of back-to-back world champ Antron Brown, Tony Schumacher, Brittany Force and Leah Pritchett.
The duo of Anderson and Jason Line dominated the first year of the redesigned Pro Stock class. Anderson, a four-time world champ, won the season-opener, but Line claimed the world title. Past champs Erica Enders, Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Allen Johnson hope for a different conclusion in 2017.
The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. As always, fans have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers with an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 10 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Feb. 11, also at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 12.
Kids 12 & under get in free with a general admission ticket, while students save 50 percent on general admission at the gate with a student ID. Military and first responders save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate. To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. For more information, visit www.NHRA.com.
CIRCLE K NHRA WINTERNATIONALS
|WHAT:||57th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals, the first of 24|
|events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.|
|Drivers in three categories – Top Fuel – Funny Car –|
|Pro Stock – earn points leading to 2017 NHRA Mello Yello|
|Drag Racing Series world championships|
|WHERE:||Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, CA. Track id located off|
|I-10 at Fairfax Dr.Go north on Fairfax Dr.|
|COURSE:||Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 1,100 above|
|sea level; Track direction is north to south.|
|WHEN:||Thursday through Sunday, Feb. 90-12|
|SCHEDULE:||THURSDAY, LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying at 8:15 am|
|FRIDAY, LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations at 8:15 am|
|MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 12:30 and 3:30 pm|
|SATARDAY, LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations at 8:15 am|
|MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 12:30 and 3:30 pm|
|SUNDAY, Per-race ceremonies at 10:00 am|
|MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11:00 am|
|TELEVISION:||Friday, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying at 7 pm ET|
|Sunday, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying at 2 am|
|Sunday, FOX will televise three hours of live eliminations|
|Coverage at 4:00 pm ET|
|2016 EVENT WINNERS:||Steve Torrence, Top Fuel; Ron Capps, Funny Car;|
|Greg Anderson, Pro Stock|
|MOST VICTORIES:||John Force, Funny Car 7; Bob Glidden, Pro Stock 7;|
|Greg Anderson, Pro Stock 6; Don Garlits, Top Fuel 5;|
|Warren Johnson, Pro Stock 5; Don Prudhomme, Top Fuel|
|Funny Car 5; Larry Dixon, Top Fuel 4; Jason Line,|
|Pro Stock 4|
|TRACK RECORDS:||Top Fuel – 3.680 sec. b J.R. Todd, Nov 2016 and|
|332.34 mph by Shawn Langdon, Nov 2015|
|Funny car – 3.825 sec. by Jack Beckman, Nov 2016 and|
|332.84 mph by Beckman, Nov 2016|
|Pro Stock – 6.480 sec. by Erica Enders, Nov 2014 and|
|213.84 mph by Drew Skillmen, Nov 2015|
|NATIONAL RECORDS:||Top Fuel – 3.671 sec. by Steve Torrence, July 2016 and|
|332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug 2015|
|Funny Car – 3.822 sec. by Matt Hagan, Aug 2016 and|
|335.57 mph by Hagan, May 2016|
|Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March 2015 and|
|215.55 mph by Erica Enders, may 2014|
|TICKETS:||For tickets call 800-884-NHRA (6472)|
|Tickets also available online|
About National Hot Rod Association
Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. NHRA presents 24 national events featuring the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series. NHRA provides competition opportunities for drivers of all levels in the NHRA Summit Racing Series and the NHRA Drags: Street Legal Style presented by AAA. NHRA also offers NHRA Jr. Street program for teens and the Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League for youth ages 5 to 17. In addition, NHRA owns and operates five racing facilities: Atlanta Dragway in Georgia; Gainesville Raceway in Florida; National Trail Raceway in Ohio; Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis; and Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California. For more information, log on to NHRA.com, or visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Source: National Hot Rod Association