After putting his name in the record books as the first NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car driver to win a four-wide event in Las Vegas, J.R. Todd now has a chance for another historic first heading to the “Bellagio of dragstrips,” zMAX Dragway.
The facility is the original host of the wild spectacle of four-wide drag racing and is the site of the ninth annual NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, April 27-29. At the fan favorite race, Todd will have a chance to become the first Funny Car driver to win two four-wide events in one season, hoping to replicate the impressive success he had just last weekend by winning his second race in a row at the NHRA SpringNationals in Houston behind the wheel of his 10,000-horsepower DHL Toyota Camry.
“To be able to win both four-wide events would be a major accomplishment in my book,” Todd said. “I don’t know that you take anything out of the Vegas event and apply it to the Charlotte event. As a driver, you go up and try to hit the tree every time you stand on the gas. I’m just happy to win any race, I don’t care what event it is. I want to win every time we show up to the track.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Chris McGaha (Pro Stock), and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners. The race will also be televised on FOX Sports 1, including a broadcast of the finals on Sunday, April 29 at 6:00 p.m. (ET). The race is the sixth of 24 events during the 2018 season and annually serves as one of the biggest spectacles in the sport.
Todd managed to tame the unique challenges of four-wide racing in Las Vegas, advancing to the final foursome with a rare double holeshot. In the final round, he edged out Jack Beckman, the current points leader, Phoenix winner Courtney Force, and Tommy Johnson Jr., adding to the tremendous success Kalitta Motorsports has already enjoyed this year.
Top Fuel standouts Doug Kalitta and Richie Crampton both have 2018 wins, while Funny Car’s Shawn Langdon is off to a solid start in his first year racing in Funny Car. After back-to-back first round losses, Todd welcomed the success in Vegas, feeding off the tremendous energy the team has built up through five events in 2018.
“The success that Kalitta Motorsports has had so far this season shows that we have a great team with a bunch of smart and talented people,” said Todd, who now has 13 career wins, including four in Funny Car since he moved to the class in 2017. “All of our Toyota-backed machines performed well and we hope to keep the trend going all season. Each team in our organization knows that they can go out and win at any given time. As a driver it gives you a lot of confidence when you have a car that can perform with the other top teams in our sport.”
In addition to the confidence boost, Todd jumped to third in Funny Car points, an important factor even this early in the season. Todd sees the tremendous depth in the class and knows staying in the top 10 to earn a spot in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship will be no easy task. He wants to keep the strong momentum going in Charlotte, where he’ll face off against the likes of Pomona winner Matt Hagan, defending world champ Robert Hight, and Ron Capps.
“It’s tough,” said Todd, who also won the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Indy in 2017. “In Funny Car, you have to be on your ‘A’ game. There’s going to be certain races throughout the year where it’s going to be tough just to qualify. To make the top 10 was tough last year, but I feel like it’s going to be brutal come Indy this year.”
Torrence won for the first time at zMAX Dragway last season, and the Top Fuel standout already has two wins and the points lead in 2018 over Tony Schumacher, Antron Brown and Clay Millican.
McGaha already has a 2018 win in Pro Stock, trailing only points leader and defending champ Bo Butner. Others to watch include Vegas winner Vincent Nobile, Jason Line, and Greg Anderson.
LE Tonglet will look for another win at Pro Stock Motorcycle at zMAX Dragway, facing off with defending champ and Gainesville winner Eddie Krawiec, Hector Arana Jr., and Andrew Hines.
The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service makes the third of 12 stops in 2018 at zMAX Dragway. Mike Castellana is the defending winner in the Pro Mod class, which made its four-wide racing debut last year. The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport.
Those in attendance will have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with a few of the most renowned names in drag racing during the NHRA Legends Tour. This will contain meet-and-greets, autograph sessions, and a variety of other activities. Legends scheduled to attend during the weekend of the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals include Shirley Muldowney, Buddy Martin, and Bobby Warren.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:00 and 6:30 p.m. on Friday, April 27 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, April 28, at 2:00 and 4:00 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 12 p.m. on Sunday, April 29.
To purchase general admission or reserved seats for the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, please visit www.zMAXDragway.com or call the box office at (800) 455-FANS (3267). Tickets for children 13 and under are free with any paid adult ticket. For more information about NHRA, please visit www.NHRA.com.