ENGLISHTOWN, NJ – JUne 6, 2017 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – It has been a season of learning for J.R. Todd, who made the move from Top Fuel to Funny Car at the start of the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series campaign.
That includes last weekend’s first-round loss in Epping, where Todd immediately realized an aspect he has to improve while driving his 10,000-horsepower DHL Toyota Camry. But it’s that willingness to accept the challenge and a confidence in his Kalitta Motorsports team that gives Todd belief things are on the right track, and he hopes to show that progress at this weekend’s 48th annual NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.
“I need to be more aggressive with the steering wheel,” said Todd, who has nine Top Fuel wins. “I feel like I didn’t do a good job getting after the wheel early in the run (in Epping) and the end result ended up with me driving out of the groove and having to lift and giving up the important round win. My focus is and always is doing the best that I can inside the car. I never want to be the weak link and I’ve definitely cost us some runs this year so I’m always working on what I can do to improve.
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Angelle Sampey (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including finals coverage starting at 6:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday. It is the 10th of 24 events in 2017, and Todd currently sits eighth in points in his debut season in the loaded Funny Car class.
There have been highlights, including a semifinal appearance at the Four-Wide Nationals, along with some bumps in the road, like last weekend’s opening round defeat. But with three more races coming on this current four-race swing, Todd is confident he can make significant improvements over a short time during this key stretch, starting with this weekend in Englishtown.
“Each race we keep working on making our stuff better,” Todd said. “We unloaded a brand new car in Epping and I think that’s a big key for us in taking the next step and getting this DHL team back at the top. The four-race swing helps put the issues behind and hit the reset button. I enjoy consecutive races because it allows you to get into more of a rhythm. The more laps in the car, the better for me so I’m hoping we can start clicking off round wins heading into summer.”
Getting that first Funny Car win will be difficult for Todd, as he’ll face off against the likes of points leader and reigning world champ Ron Capps and Matt Hagan, who won in Epping and has three victories in 2017. Other challengers include Courtney Force, John Force, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Jack Beckman, but winning the Summernationsls has long been one of Todd’s goals. Doing it while racing for Connie Kalitta and the Kalitta Motorsports team would make it even more special.
“Englishtown is one of the majors on our tour and you always want to win the big ones,” Todd said. “That race always draws a big crowd and they are really passionate about drag racing. The race also means a lot to everybody at Kalitta Motorsports. It would be right at the top of biggest wins for me if we were able to win with the DHL Toyota Camry and give the Wally to Connie at the end of the day.”
Torrence won the Summernationals for the second time in Top Fuel last year and has two wins in 2017. Others to watch include eight-time world champ Tony Schumacher, points leader Leah Pritchett, back-to-back world champ Antron Brown and Brittany Force, who won last weekend.
Greg Anderson’s seventh Pro Stock win at Englishtown came in 2016 and he is after his third straight victory at the track against the likes of points leader Bo Butner and rookie Tanner Gray.
Angelle Sampey’s first Pro Stock Motorcycle victory since 2007 came at last year’s race, but she’s chasing points leader Eddie Krawiec and L.E. Tonglet, who has won two straight events in 2017.
The NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series makes its sixth of 12 stops in the 2017 season in Englishtown. The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport. After Nitro qualifying on Friday, fans can watch the spectacular Larsen Motorsports jet dragsters sponsored by Florida Tech and Matrix System. Jet cars are thrust driven propelled by jet engines with exciting pre-run flame shows.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports 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.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 3:45 and 6:15 p.m. on Friday, June 9 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, June 10, at 1:45 and 4:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 11.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call Old Bridge Township Raceway Park at (732) 446-7800. Tickets also are available online at www.racewaypark.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
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