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J.R. Todd Secures Victory At NHRA Sonoma Nationals, Ending Two-Year Drought

J.R. Todd, driver of the DHL Toyota GR Supra, emerged victorious at the Denso NHRA Sonoma Nationals, marking his first win since March 2021. He last hoisted a Wally in Gainesville, Florida, two years ago. It was also the last time Kalitta Motorsports won a race making today’s win a monumental moment in team history.

“Man I forgot what this was like. It’s been a long road to get here,” Todd said. “We’re getting a good handle on it, and the consistency is coming around. It kinda started there in Bristol. We went to a semi and then another in Norwalk. We started out with a new combination at the beginning of the year, and (co-crew chief) Todd Smith said, ‘it’s gonna take me a while to figure this thing out,’ and I feel like he’s finally getting it dialed in.

This race win follows last week’s runner-up showing in Seattle and semifinal finishes in Denver, Norwalk, Ohio and Bristol, Tenn. Todd collected his 20th-career win by defeating Blake Alexander, Bob Tasca, Matt Hagan and Chad Green. The win follows Todd’s win in Saturday’s Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, giving the Jupiter, Florida, driver a Sonoma sweep in Funny Car. 

J.R. Todd was the No. 8 qualifier at the Denso NHRA Sonoma Nationals. His best qualifying effort came in the first pass of the weekend when he ran a 3.966-second pass at 324.90 mph Friday afternoon. On Saturday, Todd raced in the Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge in a rematch of the semifinals and finals from last week’s race near Seattle. Todd defeated Chad Green in the “semifinals” and followed with a win over Blake Alexander when the DHL Toyota team posted a 3.977-second effort at 322.81 mph.

“He’s been making small changes, and the car responds,” he continued. “We’ve been making good, consistent runs, and that’s something that we lacked early in the season. Now I feel like they have a good handle on it, and it’s a lot of fun driving that DHL Toyota GR Supra right now. When you’re going down the track like we are, it just gives everyone more confidence. I keep saying Funny Car is the toughest class in the sport, and it’s definitely not easy. When you go two-plus years without winning, you don’t know if it’s going to happen again.

“I’ve never had a throttle floored so hard in that thing. I was trying to shove it through the floorboard every time, and when that win light came on, it was instant relief. I’m glad to finally pay these guys back. They’ve been busting their (butts) all season long after what happened in Pomona. That was a big setback. They never gave up; they dug deep, kept their heads down, and kept working, and it feels good to pay them back now. Also really happy for DHL, Revchem, Mobil 1, Toyota – everybody that supports us. They make it possible.”

Todd leaves Sonoma in eighth place in the NHRA Funny Car point standings. He trails seventh-place Bob Tasca by three points and leads ninth-place John Force by 56 points.

This story was originally published on July 31, 2023. Drag Illustrated

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