Phoenix: Round two preview

Todd Has No Worries About Sophomore Slump Coming Into Phoenix CHANDLER, Ariz. - Top Fuel driver J.R. Todd, winner of the season-opening NHRA Winternationals in Southern California, is starting his sophomore season just like he ended his 2006 ...

Todd Has No Worries About Sophomore Slump Coming Into Phoenix

CHANDLER, Ariz. - Top Fuel driver J.R. Todd, winner of the season-opening NHRA Winternationals in Southern California, is starting his sophomore season just like he ended his 2006 rookie season.

The skilled driver of the Skull Gear dragster, Todd has been one of the most consistent drivers since last season having won four of five final round appearances in the last 12 races.

Todd, 25, who won the 2006 Auto Club Road to the Future award for top rookie is as hot as they come and he hopes to keep the winning streak going at the 23rd annual Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals presented by Castrol at Firebird International Raceway, Feb. 23-25. The event, which will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD, is the second of 23 races in the NHRA POWERade Series. Rod Fuller (Top Fuel), Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car) and Warren Johnson (Pro Stock are the defending winners of the $1.5 million race.

Todd, who did not even qualify for last year's event in Phoenix has a whole new perspective on this year's event at Firebird International Raceway.

"This year is pretty much a 180-degree turnaround from last year," said Todd. "Last year when I did not qualify, I had ruled out any chances of winning the Road to the Future award. I figured Hillary (Will - fellow Top Fuel driver) would run away with it. This year it's cool to say we are the points leader."

He does realize that the No. 1 position is something that may not last, but he hopes that come the time for the Countdown to 8 in the new POWERade Countdown to the Championship that he is one of those drivers. The Countdown to the Championship has drivers in the first 17 races competing to be one of the top eight in points. Beginning in Indianapolis those eight drivers will be fighting for the next four races to make the top 4 so that they may battle it out in the final two events for the opportunity to be crowned POWERade Series world champion.

"We are just trying to take it race by race," said Todd. "We don't want to change things from Pomona too much. I just want to win rounds and ultimately make the Countdown."

One thing Todd is not concerned about is the famed sophomore jinx. He gives credit to his team and the car that they put down the drag strip.

"Everybody talks about the jinx or slump, but I am not thinking about it," stressed Todd. "I need to give credit to the team. It just shows what kind of car and team I have. Those guys work their butts off. So, our performance is not much of a surprise anymore."

In addition to Todd, drivers to watch in Top Fuel at the upcoming Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals at Firebird International Raceway will be defending world champion and three time event winner Tony Schumacher, Melanie Troxel, Doug Kalitta, and 2006 event winner Rod Fuller.

Funny Car is full of potential winners, including eight-time Phoenix victor and reigning POWERade Series world champion John Force, 2006 event winner Johnson, Gary Scelzi, Robert Hight and newcomer Ashley Force.

Pro Stock competition also will be as close as ever. Those to watch are W. Johnson, who won in Phoenix in 2006, Greg Anderson, Jeg Coughlin and 2006 POWERade Series world champion Jason Line.

* SCHEDULE: Professional qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Feb. 23, and noon and 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 24. Final eliminations start at 11 a.m. on Feb. 25.

* TICKETS: For tickets, call Firebird International Raceway, at (602) 268-0200. Tickets are also available at ticketforce.com.

* ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will telecast one hour of qualifying at Midnight (ET) on Feb. 25. ESPN2 will air NHRA Race Day, a 30-minute preview of the upcoming race eliminations, at 11 a.m. (ET) and telecast three hours of eliminations at 7 p.m. (ET) on Feb. 25.

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Warren Johnson , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Melanie Troxel , Jason Line , Robert Hight , Rod Fuller , J.R. Todd