Is he the perennial overlooked championship contender?
September 16 – J.R. Todd of Lawrenceburg, Indiana parked his Kalitta Motorsports DHL Toyota in victory lane this afternoon at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event in Reading, Pennsylvania. It was his second consecutive win of the 2018 campaign and he is the current points leader. But with so many other big names battling it out in the NHRA Funny Car ranks, Todd does not seem to be a favorite to win the title.
Todd will race this weekend, September 21-23, in the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois.
Back story: Todd won three Top Fuel Dragster races as a 24-year-old rookie and earned NHRA Rookie of the Year honors, then followed that up by winning three more races over the next two years – only to have his successful team shut down due to financial woes, leaving him more or less without a ride for almost five years.
After getting hired two races into a season five years later, he won a race and finished second in the points championship.
And finally, he won at least one race in every year he’s had a full-time ride and yet, he still seems to be overlooked as a championship contender. That, in a nutshell, is the J.R. Todd story.
And after finishing second in Top Fuel in 2014 after joining Kalitta Motorsports, J.R. went on to win races in 2015 and 2016 – and finished fourth in the championship in 2016.
Todd was the first African-American driver to win a race in both the Funny Car and Top Fuel Dragster classes, yet that’s not something he dwells on. As he says, “Once you put on the helmet, nobody knows what color you are.”
While others are fixated on whether 16-time champion John Force can win his 150th race or if defending winner Ron Capps can repeat his 2017 triumph, Todd just might wade through the field to earn a St. Louis Wally. Don’t count him out.
AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park
The second of six races in the NHRA playoffs, GMP’s AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals will feature the incredible thrills of 10,000-horsepower, nitromethane-burning cars reaching speeds in excess of 330 miles per hour. Fans will be entertained under the lights during Friday qualifying and then get to experience the intense, high-stakes action on Sunday as the top stars in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle battle for critical championship points.
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event.
The AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals also will feature thrilling competition in the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service, which will have its 10th of 12 races.
Fans will also 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 feature meet-and-greets, autograph sessions, and a variety of other activities. The legends scheduled to attend the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals include Shirley Muldowney and others.
Along with the exciting on-track action, the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals will honor first responders with NHRA’s Salute to First Responders celebration.
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 unique opportunity 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.
Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 21
7:30 a.m. – Parking lots open.
8 a.m. – Spectator gates open. Sportsman qualifying.
Noon — Midway opens.
2:30 p.m. — Pro Stock Motorcycle autograph session at NHRA midway display.
3 p.m. — NHRA guided walking tour. Starts at the Mello Yello display.
3:15 p.m. — Pro Mod qualifying session.
4 p.m. — Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Stock car qualifying session.
4:30 p.m. – Top Fuel Dragster and Funny Car qualifying session.
5:45 p.m. — Pro Mod qualifying session.
6:15 p.m. — Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Stock car qualifying session.
7 p.m. — Top Fuel Dragster and Funny Car qualifying session.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 22
7:30 a.m. – Parking lots open.
8 a.m. – Spectator gates open. Sportsman eliminations.
9:30 a.m. — Midway opens.
12:15 p.m. — Nitro School. Hosted by Robert Hight and Alan Reinhart.
1 p.m. — Autograph session at the Mello Yello display.
1:15 p.m. — NHRA guided walking tour. Starts at the Mello Yello display.
1:30 p.m. — Pro Mod qualifying session.
2:15 p.m. — Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Stock car qualifying session.
3 p.m. — Top Fuel Dragster and Funny Car qualifying session.
3:45 p.m. – First round of Factory Stock Showdown.
5 p.m. — Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Stock car qualifying session.
5:30 p.m. — Top Fuel Dragster and Funny Car qualifying session.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 23
7:30 a.m. – Parking lots open.
8 a.m. – Spectator gates open.
9 a.m. — Midway opens; NHRA guided walking tour starts at the Mello Yello display.
9:30 a.m. — Sealmaster Trackwalk.
9:45 a.m. – Race day review, pre-race ceremonies.
11 a.m. – First round of Top Fuel Dragster and Funny Car eliminations.
Noon – First round of Pro Stock eliminations.
12: 20 p.m. – First round of Pro Mod eliminations.
1 p.m. – Second round of Top Fuel Dragster and Funny Car eliminations.
1:15 p.m. – Second round of Pro Stock eliminations.
1:30 p.m. — Pro Mod semi-finals.
2 p.m. — Factory Stock Showdown semi-finals.
2:10 p.m. — Top Fuel Dragster and Funny Car semi-finals.
2:30 p.m. — Pro Stock semi-finals.
2:45 p.m. — Pro Mod final eliminations.
3 p.m. — Factory Stock Showdown final eliminations.
3:40 p.m. — Pro Stock final eliminations.
3:45 p.m. — Top Fuel Dragster and Funny Car final eliminations.
Schedule subject to change.
For more information on Gateway Motorsports Park, please call (618) 215-8888. Follow GMP on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram.
About Gateway Motorsports Park
Gateway Motorsports Park is the home of INDYCAR, NASCAR and NHRA racing in the St. Louis region. Located just five minutes from downtown St. Louis and covering more than 340 acres, Gateway Motorsports Park is the largest outdoor entertainment facility in the area. Gateway Motorsports Park’s facilities include a 1/4-mile drag strip, 1.25-mile superspeedway, 1.6-mile road course, a state-of-the-art karting facility and a 14-acre, multi-purpose dirt off-road venue. Gateway Motorsports Park was the recipient of the 2017 Outstanding Facility of the Year Award from the Race Track Business Conference and the 2017 Spirit of St. Louis Award from St. Louis Attractions Association.