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J. R. Todd Looking for U.S. Nationals Hat Trick

J.R. Todd remembers watching the U.S. Nationals as a child from the top end of the race track and waving at the teams and drivers as they went by. The first time he went to the U.S. Nationals, at age 10, he drove a Junior Dragster in an exhibition race, and the Lawrenceburg, Ind., native was hooked. He knew, one day, he’d race at the U.S. Nationals. The 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series closes its regular season with this weekend’s Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals Sept. 1-4 at Lucas Oil Raceway Park in Indianapolis, Ind.

The 2018 NHRA Funny Car champion comes home this weekend for the 2023 edition of the largest and most-prestigious drag race in the world – a race he won in 2017 and ’18. His DHL Funny Car enters the race having won three races ago in Sonoma, Calif., and having advanced to at least the semifinals at six of the last eight races. The DHL Toyota team had a good summer, but finishing the regular season with a U.S. Nationals win would give Todd a U.S. Nationals hat trick.

“It’s my home race, and I’ve been going to the U.S. Nationals since I was a kid,” Todd said. “I’ve seen a lot happen there; I got to win it twice and understand how important it is. It’s the one race, all year long, that everybody’s geared up to try to win so it definitely holds more importance than any other race during the season.

“It’s special because of its history – how long it’s been around, the legends that have won the race, and a lot of them still come back to hang out at the race just to be a part of it. Some people even compare it to winning the championship. There’s those who have won the U.S. Nationals and not the championship and vice versa – that’s the kind of importance some people put on winning this race. It’s definitely a really important race – it’s the biggest win of my career, and I’ve been fortunate enough to win it back-to-back in Funny Car which is really hard to do. I wouldn’t trade a championship for it, but it’s definitely my biggest win and my favorite win for sure.

“I’d like to think we have a good shot at the win this weekend. We’ve had a really good car for the last couple of months, and there’s points and a half on the line at this race so it would be really good to go to some later rounds and try to make up some ground on the cars in front of us going into these final six races. That’s where it really counts, and you need to make it happen. If you can win Indy, I feel like that kind of sets the tone for the final six.”

This story was originally published on August 30, 2023. Drag Illustrated

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