For anyone following the 2023 NHRA season, it’s no secret that the season is not going as planned, so far, for J.R. Todd and his DHL Toyota team, but while last weekend’s New Hampshire weather was unfortunate, running two races in one weekend is an opportunity for Todd and team. The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series resumes this weekend with the NHRA New England Nationals and the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals June 9-11 at Thunder Valley Dragway in Bristol, Tenn.
With persistent rain and temperatures hovering in the high 40s, not completing the New Hampshire race was not surprising. Running both the New England and Thunder Valley Nationals in the same weekend becomes quite an opportunity for a team whose season hasn’t gone so well in the first six races.
“For us, I hope it’s a time for this DHL Toyota team to turn around our season,” J.R. Todd said. “It would be nice to do really well in Bristol this weekend. We were the runner-up there a couple of years ago – doing well in two races in the same weekend would be a really good way to get us back on track.
“I was trying to think if there was ever a time when we had to run two complete races in the same weekend. I think it was the first year I drove for Connie (team owner Connie Kalitta) when we got a round win, I think in Charlotte, and then finished the rest of the race in Dallas, but I don’t remember doing two complete races in the same weekend before.”
The key to success in this most unusual format might be the first round of qualifying Friday afternoon which is only Bristol qualifying before Epping eliminations begin during the second round of Bristol qualifying.
“It makes Q1 (first round of qualifying) super important to get down the track and get yourself qualified well,” Todd added. “Other than that, you have to kind of go into race mode. A lot will depend on whether you’re in or out of the field after that first qualifying attempt as far as how you approach the second qualifying round that’s also be the first round of Epping eliminations.
“You have to try to win the (Epping) round, but you also have to make the (Bristol) race so that first qualifying round will be really important. It’s definitely a bonus for the fans, but at the end of the day, you have to be aware if lane choice matters for the next round, for example. Bristol is one of my favorite tracks, but the surface is one of the hardest tracks we compete on each season. It is definitely tricky especially when it gets warm there. It’s bumpy, and you kind of have to tip-toe your way down there to make it to the finish line under power. It’s definitely gonna be interesting racing there during qualifying, that’s for sure.”