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J.R. Todd Sets Sights on Race Wins, Championship No. 2 as New Season Begins

One year ago at the season’s opening race, 2018 NHRA Top Fuel champion J.R. Todd posted a runner-up finish in his DHL GR Supra Funny Car, and while the pre-season goal is always championship No. 2, the first aspiration is one more round win and a race win to kick off the new year. The 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing season begins at the Amalie Oil Gatornationals set for March 8-10, 2024, at historic Gainesville Raceway in Florida.

Todd won in Sonoma last summer, but despite three additional final-round appearances, the wine country win was his sole 2023 triumph. With Gatornationals success one year ago, useful pre-season testing as well as the energy and excitement of the new season could propel Todd and his DHL team to the Gatornationals winner’s circle.

“It would be great to come out and win Gainesville – we’ve done it in the past (in 2021),” Todd said. “We went to the final round last year so hopefully we can go back to last year’s notes and pick up on that performance this weekend. We’re definitely trying some different parts and pieces in pre-season testing. We didn’t get to try everything we wanted to try in Bradenton (pre-season testing in Bradenton, Fla.) so we’re going to test Tuesday and Wednesday before we race in Gainesville. Hopefully, that brings us some good results heading into the race.

“It’s definitely nice to shake the rust off in pre-season testing so you don’t have that kind of nervous, anxious feeling at the first race of the season. It kind of makes everything smoother when you get in the car and hit the gas for that first qualifying session, and you hope you can make a good, clean, solid pass in that first run so you can go to work on the race day setup. The nerves and anxiousness are out of the way so we can focus on the mission at hand.”

And the mission at hand is winning more races and contending for a championship. Todd finished eighth in points following each of the last two seasons, and since winning the 2018 NHRA Funny Car title, he finished sixth, seventh or eighth each year. That’s solid but nowhere near what the DHL team expects of itself.

“It was great to get a race win last year, but we want more,” Todd added. “This team deserves more and expects more. At the end of the day, we need to work on our consistency and win more races throughout the year. That’s where we’ve been struggling the last handful of seasons. When it comes down to playoff time, we kind of fumble so one of our goals is being better when it counts most.”

The first race of the season is the perfect time to take the first step towards a successful season, and the Gatornationals would be a special time and place to get it started.

“The Gaters is kinda like one of the majors for us to borrow a golf term,” the 20-time race winner said. “It’s a big one; the Gatornationals is always kinda like the East Coast version of the Winternationals because it draws a lot of people from the Northeast and the Midwest – we had sellout crowds last year. We were lucky enough to win it a few years ago – anytime you can win a race like that and put your name next to the guys like Big Daddy, Snake and all those greats that won that race in the past, it’s pretty special.”

This story was originally published on March 7, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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