More consistent Todd eager for first NHRA Charlotte 4-Wide win

J.R. Todd finally has the consistent car his Kalitta Motorsport team has been fighting for over the last few seasons.

Todd is second in the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series Funny Car point standings ahead of Sunday’s 4-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway. Not only did he start the year putting his DHL Toyota GR Supra in the win column at Gainesville Raceway, but he went to back-to-back semifinals in the following two races before a second-round loss in the most recent event in Las Vegas.

That kind of consistency was lost for Todd in the last few seasons. The team might have been hot one weekend but struggled to string together good runs. Gainesville put the class on notice that Todd and his team have a car they can contend with weekly.

“It’s always nice to win the first race of the year,” Todd told RACER. “Then to back it up and go to the semifinals after that, it shows the consistency has definitely come around. We’re only a couple rounds out of the points lead right now after four races, which is something we haven’t been able to say in a long time. I feel like our team as a whole, between all three cars, has had the consistency come around, and each car has a win under its belt and is in the title fight so far this year, and that’s all you can ask for.”

Kalitta Motorsports seems to be the hottest team in the NHRA. In addition to Todd’s win in the Funny Car class, Shawn Langdon has won two of the first four Top Fuel races at Gainesville and Phoenix, while reigning champion Doug Kalitta picked one up for himself in Las Vegas.

It’s been a work in progress for Todd’s teammates to get the dragsters back in contention. Kalitta’s first championship showed proof of concept and Langdon’s strong start – after shuffling some of his team’s personnel — has brought him back into the conversation as one of the biggest threats in the class.

“They have a new chassis between the two cars and it’s the same chassis company [that built my Funny Car],” Todd said. “A lot of different parts and pieces within the organization [have] made us better, and I think the Funny Car team — we’re just building on what we changed last year and fine-tuning it to where we can actually race and be competitive with that setup.”

Entering the 2024 season, Todd had only won twice in the last three seasons. He suffered 10 losses in the first round last year and failed to qualify for the first Las Vegas event, yet has a win/loss record of 9-3 in 2024 with no first-round losses.

“It all starts with Chad Head steering the ship there and getting the right people in the right places and making it happen,” Todd said of Kalitta Motorsports. “Of course, you want to see results right away, and the last three or four years have been so up and down for us… I don’t think any drag racer has patience, and mine [was] wearing thin because you want to do well. You want to win, but you have to be patient and, when that time comes, just ride that wave of momentum as long as you can.”

The start of 2024 has been altogether different for Todd and his Kalitta Motorsports Funny Car team. Marc Gewertz/NHRA

Not only is Todd riding an early season swing of momentum, it’s also been a much calmer go of things for his team in the first few months. Aside from the performance woes, there were multiple incidents in 2023 where Todd’s team lost cars either through incidents of their own or having been collected in another driver’s misfortune.

“It’s funny hearing the crew guys say this has been the best offseason they’ve had in the last five years between the new body styles and new chassis and repairing stuff from getting damaged,” Todd said. “It’s nice to have a smooth transition into 2024 and not have any hiccups or any setbacks. Now you can focus on making good runs and testing out different parts and pieces to get ready for the later part of the season when it really counts. So far, we’re off to a good start and it’s kind of relaxing, I guess you could say.”

A victory at zMAX Dragway would make things even better for Todd. It’s a facility he’s not won at yet.

“I want to win [it] really bad,” Todd said. “You always want to win when you’re in NASCAR country. It’s four-wide, which we’ve done well in the past at the Vegas event and, just for whatever reason, haven’t done that well at the Charlotte event. That’s one I want to check off the list. It’s always nice to be in [this] area of the country. [There are] a lot of friends [here]. A lot of NASCAR people come check us out, so it’s one that I want to win, and the track itself is probably one of the nicest, if not the nicest, facility that we go to on the tour.”

Story originally appeared on Racer