Event 24: NHRA Finals
Auto Club Raceway at Pomona – Pomona, Calif.
November 8 – 11
Todd caps off championship season with victory at NHRA Finals
Race Recap: The unstoppable postseason dominance of J.R. Todd and the DHL/WIX Filters team continued with their sixth final round appearance in the past seven events and fourth in a row. Much like their most recent attempt in Las Vegas, the DHL/WIX team was once again able to guide their Toyota Camry to the winner’s circle in Pomona.
It wasn’t Todd’s event win that clinched his championship, as his first Funny Car title was decided when Robert Hight was eliminated in the first round. Todd became the first African-American Funny Car world champion in NHRA history, but his day of dominance had just begun.
After struggling through his first two qualifying runs on Friday, Todd got dialed in on Saturday and used a 3.987 at 327.82 to vault into the No. 4 qualifying spot in the last qualifying run of the weekend.
In round one of eliminations, Todd matched up against Jim Campbell, and despite already being crowned the champion, he used a 3.938 at 315.64 to earn the victory. His day wasn’t done there, though, as he knew he wanted to close out the year with another victory.
After the first round win, Bob Tasca lined up against Todd in the quarterfinals. The DHL/WIX Camry was again up to the task, powering to a 3.952 at 321.50 as Tasca put up a nice side-by-side, but is 3.962 at 323.12 wasn’t enough to emerge victorious.
In the semifinals, Todd paired up with No. 1 qualifier Ron Capps, and the two had one of the closest side-by-side runs of the day with Todd again turning on the win lights with a 3.889 at 328.14 to a 3.932 at 316.97.
In his fourth consecutive final round and eighth of the year, Todd emerged victorious over Tommy Johnson Jr. for his career-best sixth victory of the 2019 season.
Todd’s dominant season saw him participate in 23 of 24 possible rounds in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship, as his dominant stretch will go down in NHRA history books as a memorable title run.
Qualified: No. 4 (3.897 sec., 327.82 mph)
E1: Todd defeated Campbell – 3.938 sec., 315.64 mph to 9.664 at 74.83 mph
E2: Todd defeated Tasca – 3.952 sec., 321.50 mph to 3.962 at 323.12 mph
E3: Todd defeated Capps – 3.889 sec., 328.14 mph to 3.932 sec., 316.97 mph
E4: Todd defeated Johnson Jr. – 3.872 sec., 329.10 mph to 3.889 at 327.50 mph
Quotable: “The DHL Toyota guys are great at what they do. Todd Smith and Jon Oberhofer really have a handle on the tune-up, they were almost calling their shots today. When we ran the .889 in the semis, they were shooting for a .90, so they overachieved a little there. In the finals, I had it way out of the groove, driving like an idiot, and I thought for sure I was going to smoke the tires. Then the win light came on and I thought to myself, you’ve got to be kidding me and saw that we ran a .87. That was a big-time run. They just have a really good handle on the car and keep racing smart, and they do a great job preparing our Camry. They definitely stayed focused with a lot of distractions around our pit area.”
Langdon drops second round matchup against Capps
Race Recap: After a second consecutive event weekend of consistent qualifying from the Global Electronic Technology team, Shawn Langdon and his tea were able to build off that success in the first round of the NHRA Finals.
After a stout 3.950 at 320.97 put him into the field, Langdon and the team put together another strong run in the first round to reach the quarterfinal round for the second consecutive event.
In round one, Langdon matched up against Matt Hagan. The Global Electronic Technology machine used a 3.918 at 326.71 to take down Hagan and continue his solid weekend in Pomona.
In the quarterfinals, Langdon faced off against No. 1 qualifier Ron Capps and again put up a solid pass at 3.967 at 322.81, but it wasn’t enough to better Capps at 3.921 at 323.04.
Langdon wrapped up his rookie season in Funny Car with consecutive second-round appearances, as he will aim to keep that momentum building into 2019.
Qualified: No. 10 (3.965 sec., 319.67 mph)
E1: Langdon defeated Hagan – 3.918 sec., 326.71 mph to 4.115 sec., 255.19 mph
E2: Langdon defeated by Capps – 5.134 sec., 145.96 mph to 3.921 sec., 323.04 mph
Quotable: “The Global Electronic Technology Toyota guys have done an excellent job all season long, and we started to show some improvements here at the end of the season. We feel like we have laid the foundation to have a strong year in 2019.”
Crampton falls against Billy Torrence in first round of NHRA Finals
Race Recap: Despite some continued consistency from Richie Crampton and the CRAFTSMAN team, they were not able to build on their recent momentum at the NHRA Finals.
Qualifying concluded with Crampton 10th in the qualifying order, but his 3.743 at 325.22 was not quite enough to take down Billy Torrence in round one of Sunday’s eliminations. In the matchup, Crampton put together his fourth consecutive pass of the weekend below the 3.750 mark, showing improved consistency to close out the season.
After his semifinal appearance in Las Vegas, Crampton concludes his 2018 campaign 11th in the standings as he will hope that the team’s momentum carries over into 2019.
Qualified: No. 10 (3.726 sec., 325.22 mph)
E1: Crampton defeated by B. Torrence – 3.743 sec., 325.22 mph to 3.706 sec., 327.27 mph
Quotable: “We were definitely disappointed to not get a few more round wins like we did in Las Vegas, but this CRAFTSMAN team is happy with how we finished up the season. We know that we’ve got a car that can compete in the Countdown next season, and that is going to be our goal once we start off the new year.”
Kalitta unable to sweep Pomona after first-round exit
Race Recap: After an up-and-down qualifying weekend for Doug Kalitta and the MAC Tools team, eliminations did not prove much friendlier to the Kalitta team despite a strong run.
Kalitta entered Sunday eleventh in the qualifying order after two strong runs and two difficult ones, and the MAC Tools group put together a stout 3.727 at 325.85, which was amongst the quickest of the session. Unfortunately for Kalitta, he was matched up with Antron Brown, who rode to victory on the strength of a 3.720 at 331.12.
Kalitta was unable to close out the year the same way he started it, as he finishes the year with just one victory, at the season-opening event in Pomona.
Qualified: No. 11 (3.740 sec., 319.29 mph)
E1: Kalitta defeated by Brown – 3.727 sec., 325.85 mph to 3.720 sec., 331.12 mph
Quotable: “This was certainly not the way we hoped to end the season, but we put up some strong runs which is all you can ask for. If we have this same consistency next season, this MAC Tools bunch feels like they can be a factor in the Countdown.”
Photos courtesy of Gary Nastase Photography, driver photos: NHRA
Mello Yello Championship Points:
Top Fuel (Unofficial)
1. Steve Torrence (2900)
2. Tony Schumacher (2596)
3. Clay Millican (2573)
4. Leah Pritchett (2456)
5. Brittany Force (2417)
6. Antron Brown (2378)
7t. Mike Salinas (2308)
7t. Doug Kalitta (2308)
9. Terry McMillen (2301)
10. Scott Palmer (2231)
Funny Car (Unofficial)
1. J.R. Todd (2726)
2. Robert Hight (2532)
3. Tommy Johnson Jr. (2519)
4. Ron Capps (2510)
5. Tim Wilkerson (2418)
6. Courtney Force (2409)
7. Jack Beckman (2405)
8. Matt Hagan (2371)
9. John Force (2356)
10. Shawn Langdon (2285)
About Kalitta Motorsports:
Based in Ypsilanti, Mich., Kalitta Motorsports is a Top Fuel and Funny Car drag racing team in the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. The team was founded and is owned by drag racing icon Connie “the Bounty Hunter” Kalitta. For more than 50 years, Connie has been involved in the sport as a driver, tuner, and an owner. Kalitta Motorsports is one of the most successful teams in the history of auto racing with six world championships and over 101 national event titles in five different professional drag racing sanctioning bodies since it was established by Connie in 1959.
Team Kalitta fields four full-time entries in the NHRA Mello Yello nitro classes. Connie Kalitta’s nephew, Doug Kalitta, pilots the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster while former Rookie of the Year winner Richie Crampton drives the CRAFTSMAN Top Fuel dragster. In Funny Car, J.R. Todd is the driver of the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car and Shawn Langdon pilots the Global Electronic Technology Toyota Camry Funny Car. Connie Kalitta serves as head tuner for all Team Kalitta entries. He is assisted by co-crew chiefs Jon Oberhofer and Todd Smith on the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car, Nicky Boninfante and Kurt Elliott on the Global Electronic Technology Toyota Camry Funny Car, Rob Flynn on the CRAFTSMAN Top Fuel dragster and Troy Fasching leads the efforts on the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster.
Associate sponsors on Kalitta Motorsports’ race cars include ARP, AutoDesk CAM, Champion, Cogistics, Darton Sleeves, DHL, Global Electronic Technology, JEGS, Justice Brothers, Kalitta Air, Mac Tools, Racing Electronics, Red Line Oil, SealMaster, Technicoat Companies, TMS Titanium, Toyota, WIX Filters and Ziebart.