Todd scores another win in Top Fuel

J.R. Todd continued his rise to NHRA stardom Sunday. The Top Fuel rookie won for the second time in three races, scoring an impressive victory in the Fram Autolite Nationals at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma. Other winners Sunday were Eric Medlen in...

J.R. Todd continued his rise to NHRA stardom Sunday. The Top Fuel rookie won for the second time in three races, scoring an impressive victory in the Fram Autolite Nationals at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma.

Other winners Sunday were Eric Medlen in Funny Car, Jason Line in Pro Stock and Chip Ellis in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Todd, who became the first african-american to score a win in Top Fuel when he won at Denver two weeks ago, followed it up with his second win in just 11 starts.

"This is a lot different than my first win," said Todd, who beat three-time champion Tony Schumacher in a final for the second time in three events. "The first one was really a surprise. But after that, I knew we could go rounds and start winning races. (Sunday) we showed what we were capable of."

He did it against a U.S. Army dragster team that had been on a roll. Schumacher, winner of 18 national events and back-to-back series titles the past two seasons, advanced to his fourth consecutive final and was seeking his third win the past four events. He was also stout during the first three rounds on Sunday, making a string of high 4.50-second runs before meeting up with Todd in the final.

The Powerade Series rookie ended that streak with a stout 4.619 run at 309.27 mph, which beat Schumacher's 4.679 at 316.01 mph.

"I knew that we had to step it up," said Todd, who beat Alan Bradshaw, David Grubnic and Hillary Will before facing Schumacher in the final. "It was the same circumstances when we won at Denver (two weeks ago). He had been running strong all day and had a tenth (of a second) on everybody.

"We just went out there and raced the track, not the guy next to us. He's a three-time world champ and (Schumacher's crew chief) Alan Johnson is the baddest man on the property. But you can't get overconfident and overpower the track. You got to give yourself a chance, and that's what we did."

The same could be said for Medlen, who ended an 11-month slump when he beat former teammate Tony Pedregon in the Funny Car final. It was his first victory since winning back-to-back events last August.

"It's been a long time," Medlen said. "It seems like all our success comes from the second half of the season, so maybe we can put together a push. It gets to you, going race after race after race without winning, but all you can do is suck it up and keep on trying."

Medlen's persistence paid off Sunday. The last nitro coupe competitor to win from the No. 1 qualifying position, held a slight advantage off the starting line before roaring to a 4.854 pass at 316.30 mph to beat Pedregon. The 2004 Funny Car class champion, who was seeking his fourth victory of the season, was with Medlen until just past half track when his car slowed to a 5.021.

"I let my dad (crew chief John Medlen) worry about (the tune-up)," Medlen said. "We kind of felt (for the final) if we just go out and run our race and try the best we can, we'll get the win light. If we don't, we tried our best and didn't leave anything on the table.

"We know those guys (Pedregon and crew chief Dickie Venables), but we know they can stumble and so can we. You can't take in consideration what (the other) guy might run because that's data you can't control. You have to rely on what you can control."

The same could be said for Line, who extended his points lead to 64 markers over second place and teammate Greg Anderson with his third win of the season.

Line, who was coming off a red-light start in the first round last week in Seattle, responded with consistent tune-up during the first three rounds before scoring the win with a hole-shot victory over V. Gaines in the final.

"This is definitely the best car I've driven, performance wise," Line said. "It's a dream come true to be the Pro Stock points leader.

"The first round or two have been my Achilles' heal. I think I get better as the day goes on. I haven't had a ton of confidence this season. It sounds kind of strange, because the race car is very good. But after winning in the first two rounds, I was feeling pretty confident."

That showed in the final when his slower 6.672 pass nipped Gaines' quicker 6.668. The difference being his 0.031 advantage off the starting line.

"Gaines did a really good job," Line said. "He's a really nice guy and he's one of those guys I don't take pleasure in beating."

Ellis led a stellar Pro Stock Motorcycle field that eclipsed the seven-second barrier five times during the weekend, including Ellis running the quickest run in the division's history with a very stout 6.911 in a first-round victory over Karen Stoffer. He then followed with wins over Matt Smith and Craig Treble before scoring the win in the final when Antron Brown jumped the start.

"I was surprised as any one that the bike ran that 6.91 in the first round," said Ellis, who beat Brown in the final despite blowing his engine. "But you have to have some luck out here, because everyone is just so tough. To pull it off, as lucky as we were, we'll take it."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Tony Pedregon , Tony Schumacher , Greg Anderson , David Grubnic , Craig Treble , Karen Stoffer , Alan Bradshaw , Jason Line , Eric Medlen , Chip Ellis , Hillary Will , J.R. Todd , Matt Smith , John Medlen