J.R. Todd, a three-time Funny Car winner in Las Vegas, will look to make it four of a kind later this week in Las Vegas, and he’ll do that in the same new car the DHL Toyota team debuted at the start of the season thanks to some quick work from Team Kalitta. The 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Season resumes April 14-16, 2023 at the NHRA 4-Wide Nationals on The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
After two racing incidents at the last race in Pomona, Calif., the DHL team worked quickly to put the team in position compete at the highest level this weekend. On Sunday as teams were racing in the Winternationals in Pomona, the primary chassis that was involved in the Saturday qualifying incident was already on a trailer headed back to Precision Built Race Cars in Indianapolis thanks to two members of the team’s hospitality staff who dropped their normal duties to get the car to Indianapolis for repairs as fast as possible.
Monday morning, rather than servicing the car and making the short hop to Las Vegas as planned, the entire DHL Funny Car team headed back to the Kalitta Motorsports shop in Michigan to prepare a new backup chassis and two Funny Car bodies for competition. Kalitta Motorsports picked up the repaired primary chassis from Precision Thursday evening. The team worked all day Friday and Saturday to prepare the car for competition. Many could be blown away by this fast work, but it was just another day at the office for Team Kalitta.
“This effort could not have been successful without every member of the DHL Funny Car team, our shop employees, our hospitality staff pitching in as well as Precision Built Race Cars,” Team Kalitta general manager Chad Head said. “It took everyone to accomplish this incredible task in time for Las Vegas, and because of this total team effort, the DHL Funny Car team was on the road to Las Vegas Tuesday morning. I am very proud to work with our dedicated people at Kalitta Motorsports – we all have the same goal, and that goal is to win.”
“The DHL team has a pretty amazing work ethic,” Todd said. “This job isn’t a nine-to-five job, and it’s not for someone that’s weak minded, that’s for sure. I feel bad because it was a weekend off for them until all this happened. They busted their (butt) getting everything torn down and loaded up so they could hit the road Monday morning to get back to Michigan to pull a third car out of the corner of the shop and get it ready to go. Then we got the primary car back from Indy so they had a busy week, and I really hope they were able to get at least a little time off to relax and regroup before they had to hit the road to drive back to Vegas.
“I think we have some of the hardest working guys in all of motorsports. They’re awesome – they never complain; they love what they do, and it’s awesome to have guys like that who have your back. I hope I can pay them back really soon with a Wally. That’s about the only way to pay them back for all their hard work to this point.”
With the primary car back in competition, Team Kalitta can focus on returning to the winner’s circle with the car that was showing great promise when the season started, and Las Vegas just might be the perfect place. Todd has three Funny Car wins in Las Vegas including two in four-wide races and both races in 2018 on his way to winning the NHRA Funny Car championship that season.
“We’ve won four-wide races, but really, I just like racing in general whether it’s testing, racing singles, two-wide or four-wide,” Todd said. “I don’t care as long as we’re racing and hopefully turning on some win lights and repeating some of that Las Vegas magic we’ve had in the past.”
After qualifying Friday afternoon, Todd will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Las Vegas Aviators AAA Baseball game at 7 p.m. The Aviators is the AAA team of the Oakland A’s.
“It’s cool to promote our sport outside of drag racing,” Todd added. “Hopefully, I won’t throw it in the dirt, and we can get some baseball fans to come out to The Strip and check out some drag racing. I threw out a first pitch at a Cincinnati Reds game a few years ago, and I got it across the plate so hopefully I can do that again this week.”