NHRA Funny Car points leader J.R. Todd is picking the perfect time of the season to hit his stride.
The second-year Funny Car driver comes into this weekend’s event at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois, — near St. Louis — on a two-event winning streak and with the Funny Car points lead with just five races left in the season.
Todd took over the points lead in Funny Car for the first time following last weekend’s triumph at Maple Grove. He leads the class in his DHL Toyota Camry with 2,166 points. That’s 23 points clear of runner-up Robert Hight (2,143). Courtney Force (2,141) is third in Funny Car, followed by Ron Capps (2,137), Matt Hagan (2,112), Tim Wilkerson (2,101), Tommy Johnson Jr. (2,090), Jack Beckman (2,080), 16-time champion John Force (2,064) and Todd’s teammate Shawn Langdon (2.054) rounds out the Countdown to the Championship field.
“It was awesome to keep the momentum going at Maple Grove, but we still have a long road ahead of us,” said Todd, who droves for Kalitta Motorsports. “These DHL/Wix Filter Toyota guys know how to win. A lot of them were here when Del Worsham won the title in 2015. I just want to keep winning and keep our foot on their throats.”
Todd has four wins this season to tie Courtney Force for the series lead. In addition to his win at Maple Grove, Todd won the regular-season finale at Indianapolis along with back-to-back wins at Las Vegas and Houston early in the season.
“We’re just racing what the track will allow us. We definitely didn’t have the best car at Maple Grove, but I felt like we had a really good car and my guys are racing smart and not beating ourselves. You have to go down the track to win these things. Now we just need to keep it going through St. Louis.”¬†
Courtney Force, meanwhile, found out the hard way how a bad weekend in the Countdown can quickly change the standings. The regular-season points leader qualified first at Maple Grove but was upset by 16th-seeded Mike Smith in the first round of eliminations to open the door for Todd to take over the lead in the points.
“I know that we will still need to step it up when we get to Gateway Motorsports Park so we can get back into the points lead,” Force said. “We are looking for a fresh start in St. Louis. We lost some ground in the points, but we are still right in the mix in the top three. We are going to go after those bonus points in qualifying and hopefully get the win on Sunday so we can get that No. 1 position back.‚ÄĚ
TV times for this weekend’s NHRA Midwest Nationals from Gateway (all on FS1) include qualifying Friday from 7 p.m.-9 p.m. ET and eliminations on Sunday from 2 p.m.-5 p.m. ET.