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J.R. Todd: “Consistency is the Big Thing”

J.R. Todd didn’t win the season-opening Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals – he made it to the final round, and that’s an extremely solid way for the DHL Funny Car team to start the season. The 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Season resumes March 24-26, 2023 at the NHRA Arizona Nationals set for Chandler, Ariz., just outside Phoenix.
 
Todd was the No. 6 qualifier, but on race day, the DHL Toyota Supra was a model of consistency with Todd recording elapsed times of 3.891, 3.913 and 3.903 to reach the final round – all within three hundredths of a second. In the final round, Todd was ahead of race winner Matt Hagan until late in the round when the DHL Funny Car spun the tires causing the engine to backfire allowing Hagan to surge ahead and win the race.
 
“Considering how last year went, it was a really good way to start off the season,” the 2018 NHRA Funny Car champion said. “It’s always a bummer going to the final round but not winning, but I’ll take that for sure heading into Phoenix. It would have been really cool to celebrate a win with all the guests we had with us from DHL, CMR, Toyota, Clean Harbor, Revchem, Fifth Third and Mac Tools, but it definitely felt good to give them a reason to cheer.”
 
The next step is to take the consistency the DHL team enjoyed in Gainesville and replicate it in Phoenix and beyond. Easier said than done? Perhaps, but should the consistency become common, this team would be headed for great things as the season unfolds.
 
“The consistency is the big thing we’ve been lacking so as long as we can maintain that, we should be in good shape,” Todd added. “It all starts there in qualifying; make some good, hard runs in qualifying, hopefully top five. That’s step one; step two is to repeat our race-day consistency and turn on win lights. With the changes Todd (co-crew chief Todd Smith) and John-O (co-crew chief John Oberhofer) made over the off season with the new chassis, parts and pieces, the car is definitely responding to the adjustments they’re making, and I definitely felt like our car was deadly consistent on race day. I know it didn’t make it down the track in the final round, but up until it blew up, it was right on pace to make another 3.90-run which is where we were all day on race day.”
 
When Todd advanced to the semifinals, he earned a spot in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge at this week’s race. During Saturday’s qualifying sessions in Phoenix, the drivers who reached the Gainesville semifinals will re-run the semifinals and final earning additional purse and bonus points. Todd will race Chad Green in Saturday’s first qualifying round, and if he wins, he could have a rematch with Hagan in the final qualifying attempt with the winner taking home a $10,000 bonus.
 
This weekend’s race will reportedly be the final NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series race at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. Following this season of events, the facility will be replaced by an overpass and Interstate 10 extension.
 
“I’ve heard about it going away and not going away – I hope it doesn’t; you never want to lose a race track,” Todd said. “I haven’t won there but definitely want to so I hope we can keep going there for years to come. Losing a race track is always a bummer; it’s never fun when it’s the last event, but there’s big crowd to give it its farewell which is nice but not the reason you want a big crowd. I definitely hope this Phoenix race isn’t our last.”

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