J.R. Todd knows the importance of winning at Sonoma Raceway, doing it in 2016 in Top Fuel. While the Kalitta Motorsports driver is in a different class heading to the Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals this weekend, the sentiment remains true for the now Funny Car driver.
Still looking for his first career Funny Car win in his 10,000-horsepower DHL Toyota Camry, Todd is looking to break through with the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship looming. Doing so at the Toyota-sponsored event would provide a big boost in that regard, and Todd has plans to put on a thrilling show this weekend at Sonoma Raceway.
“It's nice to go back to a track where you've had success in the past,” said Todd, who is currently ninth in Funny Car points. “Sonoma is one of my favorite tracks. Steve Page and his staff are the best in the business and do everything first class. You always want to show off for your sponsors and winning last year's event being sponsored by Toyota was great. A lot of the top guys show up for this event so it's important to us to run well and put on a good show for them.”
Todd (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live final eliminations coverage starting at 4:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, July 30. It marks the 15th of 24 events in the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season and the second of three stops on the famed NHRA Western Swing.
Todd has been solid during his inaugural season in Funny Car, but the talented driver is looking to make a bigger impact. He has just one semifinal appearance in 2017 following a second-round loss in Denver last weekend, and Todd knows that must improve for him to have any shot of competing for a world championship in the loaded Funny Car class.
“We need to start creating our own luck,” said Todd, who has nine career victories in Top Fuel. “It's getting to the point in the season where we need to be on the attack given our position in the top 10. As long as we continue to win rounds going into Indy, we'll be in good shape. Winning a race would make me feel even more comfortable.”
The good news is Todd’s talented team, led by crew chiefs Jon Oberhofer and Todd Smith, has worked together for years and boasts a wealth of experience. The challenge is beating the likes of points leader and reigning world champ Ron Capps, who has a career-best six wins this season, three-time 2017 winner Matt Hagan and Denver winner Robert Hight. But Todd likes the outlook of his group, who have continued to push forward at an impressive rate despite the occasional struggles. That has him motivated to finish the Western Swing strong and also has him excited to compete in the Countdown to the Championship.
“My DHL team knows how to win and most of them were part of the 2015 championship team with Del (Worsham),” Todd said. “They know we can win and will win. Nobody is giving up and winning is always the goal every time we unload.”
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:15 and 7:00 p.m. on Friday, July 28 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, July 29, at 1:10 and 4:20 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 30.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 800-870-RACE (7223). Tickets also are available online at www.sonomaraceway.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate.