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Sonoma Winner J.R. Todd Rolling Into Topeka On A Hot Streak

J.R. Todd is still basking in the glow of his win two weeks ago in the Denso Sonoma NHRA Nationals in California, but the DHL Funny Car driver rolls into Topeka hoping to keep the roll going. The 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing season resumes with the final race at Heartland Motorsports Park Aug. 11-13 in Topeka, Kan.

After experiencing multiple challenges in an emotional rollercoaster of a season, the DHL Toyota team was trending towards and finally delivered Todd’s first win since Gainesville, Florida, two years ago at Sonoma, California, two weeks ago, the final race of NHRA’s western swing. As luck would have it, the win came prior to an off week, giving Todd time to savor the win.

“Being on the road for three weeks and then getting to come home after a win was definitely rewarding,” Todd said. “It was nice to sit back, enjoy the texts and calls and do the different media interviews, and it’s been nice to reflect on the great western swing we had. In the past, we haven’t had the best western swings with the DHL Funny Car, but this one was the best we’ve had since 2006 when we had a shot at sweeping the swing after winning the first two.”

It’s been quite a run for the DHL GR Supra team. After reaching at least the semifinals at four of the five races prior to Sonoma, including a final-round appearance in Seattle, it just felt like this team was knocking on the door and that a win was imminent. 

“I started to feel that way in Sonoma because people were talking about it by then,” the 2018 NHRA Funny Car champion said. “We definitely had a car capable of winning at Denver and then went to the final in Seattle and probably should have won there, but when we got to Sonoma, it was kind of like, ‘alright, let’s finish the deal here.’ It’s never over till it’s over, but I definitely felt like we had a good shot to win there, and the stars aligned and we won the race.

“Looking back, I definitely think we could have won all three races. Not to take anything away from Matt Hagan or Tim Wilkerson for winning the other two, I just felt like we had the car good enough to win those other two as well. I really can’t thank Todd, Jon-O (co-crew chiefs Todd Smith and Jon Oberhofer) and all the guys enough for all the work they put in on this DHL Toyota team – they’re making us a consistent race team that can win anytime, and that’s not easy.”

Todd earned 285 out of a possible 387 points on the western swing – more than any other Funny Car driver and second most among all classes. He won nine of the 12 rounds that comprised the swing (Information courtesy of NHRA.com), including the most important one, the Sonoma final round.

“It’s definitely the right time of the year to be trending upwards,” the Jupiter, Fla., resident added. “We just have to keep our heads down, keep digging and focus on the mission at hand. That’s continuing to win rounds and races from here on out, but if we can put ourselves in position to win another race before the Countdown (Countdown to the Championship NHRA Playoffs), ideally, I think that could set us up for a top-five start in the Countdown. I think that’s where you want to be when the playoffs start, but there’s still a lot of racing before that and a lot of points to accumulate. Right now, I feel like we’re in a good position to make a move, and winning this last race in Topeka would be a great way to do that.

“Earlier this season when we were getting our teeth kicked in, that’s no fun. At the end of the day, driving a nitro Funny Car is the most fun I could ask for, but the competitive side of me wants to win races. You’re not out there just to make runs down the track; you want to win races and contend for championships. We weren’t in a position to do that earlier this year for a lot of reasons so it wasn’t the most fun then. But now, going rounds, winning a race and making moves in the points is a lot of fun. It gives you confidence as a driver and makes you want to get back on the track as quick as possible.”

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