Todd’s 10,000-horsepower Red Line Oil/Kalitta Air dragster has performed well on multiple occasions, and now is the moment to win...
Epping, N.H. — J.R. Todd feels as though he is right on the cusp of picking up his first victory of the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season in Top Fuel and there are a number of factors that seem to support that.
Todd’s 10,000-horsepower Red Line Oil/Kalitta Air dragster has performed well on multiple occasions, qualifying No. 1 twice and second last weekend in Englishtown, and his teammate Doug Kalitta already has one victory this season.
But the difference between success and heartache in the loaded Top Fuel class has been miniscule in 2015 and Todd has found that out the hard way on multiple occasions this year, something he is more than ready to change at this weekend’s third annual NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway.
You always want to keep things in a nice rhythm with these multiple races in a row.
“We have just been losing races that really could have gone either way,” said Todd, who lost a close first-round race to Terry McMillen on Sunday in Englishtown. “My reaction times haven't been as good as I feel they need to be. That is something that I need to work on. The performance of the car has definitely been there; we just need the luck to fall on our side on Sunday.
“It is a matter of getting things to go our way on Sunday. The Red Line Oil/Kalitta Air team has been qualifying in the top five or six the last few races and qualifying has been extremely tight, so we are running with the frontrunners; we just need things to go our way on Sunday.”
Todd is ready for the breaks to start to go his way
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Dave Connolly (Pro Stock) are defending winners of the event that will be televised on ESPN2. It also marks the 10th of 24 events in 2015 and as the season approaches the halfway mark, Todd is ready for the breaks to start to go his way.
He dropped to ninth in Top Fuel points with the close loss to McMillen on Sunday, a race he led until he hazed the tires late and McMillen slipped past him at the finish line. It’s been that kind of season for Todd, who has qualified in the top six at all but two events but is still looking for his first trip to the semifinals or finals.
It’s certainly no time to panic as Todd has witnessed the potential of the dragster all season, but a solid performance in Epping during this stretch of three race weekends in a row would be highly beneficial. Todd, who finished second in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship a year ago, also wants momentum heading into the key part of the season.
“We feel like we have the car running the way we want it to, but three in a row gives us a great starting point to start going late rounds and catch up to the guys in front of us in top five in points,” Todd said. “You always want to keep things in a nice rhythm with these multiple races in a row.”
That statement especially rings true considering how competitive the Top Fuel class has been. Antron Brown has taken control lately, as the points leader won his third race of the season last weekend at Englishtown. Eight-time and defending world champ Tony Schumacher is the defending winner in Epping, beating Todd’s teammate Kalitta last year. Spencer Massey won the inaugural event over 2013 Top Fuel world champ Shawn Langdon and other stars in the class include Connolly, who moved to Top Fuel in 2015, Richie Crampton, three-time Top Fuel world champ Larry Dixon, Clay Millican and Brittany Force.
“I feel we really hit our stride in the Countdown, so late summer,” said Todd, who also won in Denver last July for his seventh career victory. “That is when the conditions cool down and tracks are not as hot, and it played into (team owner) Connie (Kalitta’s) hand tune-up wise. Some of these races that we have been to recently it has been those conditions; we have just been losing close finishes.”
A reversal of fortune in that regard would be a strong boost to Todd and his Kalitta Motorsports team, and doing it in a setting like the one New England Dragway presents would also be ideal.
“Epping is a unique event,” Todd said. “It is our newest event, and fans always come up and tell us how happy they are that NHRA is there, which is cool. They are extremely excited to have NHRA there and the place is always packed. It is a change of scenery for us. The key to doing well there is Friday night. You can really run well if the conditions are right. That is really when you have to stand on it, because temperatures are warmer on Saturday and Sunday and you need those runs to work on your set-up.”
The powerhouse teams of Funny Car have dominated action at the NHRA New England Nationals with Don Schumacher Racing’s Ron Capps winning last season and John Force Racing’s Courtney Force taking the inaugural victory. Capps drove to a thrilling victory last season over Alexis DeJoria. Courtney Force is in search of her first win in 2015, while others to watch are 16-time world champ John Force, defending and two-time world champ Matt Hagan, who won in Englishtown to take over the points lead, two-time season winner Jack Beckman, Del Worsham and 2009 world champ Robert Hight.
In Pro Stock every driver other than 2013 event winner Allen Johnson will be searching for a first Epping victory. Defending world champ Erica Enders is climbing up the wins by women ladder and sits third all-time with 15. Others to watch are four-time world champ Greg Anderson, who took over the points lead while winning in Englishtown, last season’s points runner-up Jason Line and Phoenix winner Rodger Brogdon. Rookie Drew Skillman, Shane Gray, V. Gaines, Chris McGaha and Vincent Nobile are all expected to be major contenders in the popular factory hot rod category.