TODD BOUNCES BACK, TAKES PROVISIONAL TOP SPOT FRIDAY AT TOPEKA
Last weekend was not a good one for defending Funny Car champion J.R. Todd.
An error at the starting line during his first round matchup with John Force just a few days ago at Route 66 Raceway left Todd eliminated early and, quite frankly, a little embarrassed.
Thankfully, a quick turnaround heading into this weekend’s Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties meant Todd didn’t have to dwell on the mistake. And he made quick work of putting that misstep behind him on Friday at Heartland Motorsports Park with a chart-topping lap during the second round of qualifying as Todd looks to earn his first No. 1 qualifying position of the year.
“Todd (Smith) and Jon (Oberhofer) said it ran better than they expected it too, so that was a good rebound after Q1,” said Todd, who jumped from ninth on the charts after round one to the top spot. “We were pretty conservative and just spun the tires about half-track, but it was a good way to bounce back for the ‘yella fellas.’
“It was nice (coming into the race) until you get here and people keep reminding you of it. (Last week) was dumb driver error on my part. I am glad that we didn’t have a week off and we could come back here a few days later and get back in the seat and go take hits at the tree. To come out of here with the green hat would be icing on the cake.”
Todd took the top qualifying position during Friday’s night session with a 3.924-second pass at 318.99 mph in the DHL Toyota Camry. It was a much-improved lap compared to round one where the team ran into issues and were relegated to ninth.
In fact, the entire Funny Car ladder was shaken up during session two. Tim Wilkerson and John Force were the only drivers to remain near the top from the first session, with Wilkerson placing second with a 3.931 at 318.54 mph and Force, who was quickest in session one, falling to third with a 3.938 at 323.27 mph. Tommy Johnson Jr. (3.948) and Ron Capps (3.952) rounded out the top five.
With the weight of last weekend’s poor performance, at least temporarily, lifted by Friday’s strong run, the team’s focus now shifts to Sunday at a track that Kalitta Motorsports is known to be quite successful.
“This track is always good to us. Kalitta, their track record is really good here for whatever reason and they always perform well here,” Todd said. “Tomorrow we are probably going to work on race day setup and, hopefully, that 92 holds up. Either way, it will keep us in the top half - I would say top five - which is usually where you want to be going into Sunday.”