SONOMA, Calif. (August 2, 2015) – J.R. Todd, driver of the Red Line Oil Top Fuel dragster, advanced to his third semi-final finish of the season today at the Sonoma Nationals.
Todd proved he was a contender in qualifying. He earned bonus points in three of the four sessions in a variety of conditions. His best run on Friday evening, a 3.724, earned him the third starting position. His speed, 328.30 mph, reset his career-best mark.
The first opponent for Todd was rookie Jenna Haddock. Haddock got down the track in the conditions similar to what they were racing in, so the Red Line Oil team was not taking her lightly. Both teams saw their tires smoke and Haddock was able to grab the lead just prior to her car going silent allowing Todd to move on to round two.
Clay Millican would be the next foe in a critical match-up. Millican came into the weekend in 11th in the point standings, chasing Todd for a Countdown spot. However, the pressure did not phase Todd or the Red Line Oil team. Todd laid down the second-best reaction time in the session, while the team gave him the best run to allow him to move past Millican.
Todd would have lane choice over Dave Connolly in the semi-finals. For the third consecutive run, Todd beat his opponent off of the starting line, but a dropped cylinder at the 1.5 second mark meant the end for Todd’s day.
“It would have nice to win the race. We could have made a big move in points,” said Todd. “But a solid day; glad we could do well in Red Line Oil’s backyard in our first race back with them in a long time. The car seems like it turned the corner this weekend and I’m looking forward to making it to Seattle and hitting the gas again.”
The semi-final finish allowed Todd to move to ninth in the standings, less than one round out of seventh.
Alexis DeJoria, driver of the Patrón XO Café Incendio Toyota Camry Funny Car, had a great Friday and Saturday. Tommy DeLago’s tune-up decisions were on-point, especially in their Friday evening effort. The 3.974 second run at 320.13 mph gave DeJoria new career-best numbers. While that was her best pass, DeJoria’s Toyota Camry went down the track in all four sessions to really give the team some great data heading into Sunday’s Sonoma Nationals.
Fellow Toyota Racing driver Cruz Pedregon would be first up. DeJoria watched as several pairs in front of her struggled to make it down Sonoma’s tricky conditions. However, DeJoria was prepared. She stepped to the line and delivered a .048 reaction time, which was by far the best in the nitro classes in the first session. The next closest was three hundredths behind. However, despite DeJoria’s efforts; it was not meant to be. Her Toyota Camry rattled the tires and one parachute deployed allowing Pedregon to sneak by.
“I know the entire team is pretty bummed right now,” said DeJoria. “We did really well in qualifying, but today featured tricky conditions. I was really stoked about my light. I was ready for that round, but we will move to the next race, do our best and see what happens.”
DeJoria retained her top ten points position. She holds over 50 points over the 11th position in the standings.
Doug Kalitta, driver of the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster, ran into troubles in the first day of qualifying. A dropped cylinder in the first run led to a slower than normal elapsed time, while Mac Tools team fell to tire smoke in the lone Sonoma evening session. However, they bounced back in a big way on Saturday running two great passes to solidify the set-up for Sunday’s conditions. Sunday’s weather forecast looked similar to what Saturday offered, so the Mac Tools team felt confident heading into raceday.
The first round draw for Kalitta was Clay Millican, who is fighting for a spot in the countdown. Millican, who ran his career-best in qualifying, started sixth. Kalitta laid down a solid 3.782 pass, but Millican laid down another career best number to get around Kalitta at the top end.
“We had another good pass in the first session, but unfortunately it was not enough,” said Kalitta. “It never feels good to go out in the first round in back-to-back races, but the Mac Tools guys will rebound and move past this and head to Seattle, where we look forward to attempting to defend our title from last season.”
Despite the first round loss, Kalitta retains the fourth position in the point standings.
Del Worsham, driver of the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car, ran solidly throughout qualifying. Although they did not make it down to a three-second pass, Worsham’s Camry was consistent running four passes all between 4.00 seconds and 4.11 seconds. Those marks gave him a top ten starting position, as he slotted in ninth and drew friend Chad Head in round one.
Head, one of Worsham’s most frequent competitors this season, was the eighth qualifier and their match-up was the last one down the track in nitro qualifying. They both drove to one of the best side-by-side runs of the session, but Worsham reached the finish line in second. His 4.065 second run would have gave him the round win in five of the seven other pairings, but today proved not to be his day.
“Another great run that was just not good enough,” said Worsham. “I hate it for these DHL Toyota guys; they are working hard. We are going to finish off this swing and hope that we can finally get some round wins in Seattle.”
Worsham departs Sonoma Valley solidly inside the top ten of the point standings in sixth.
After 15 races, Team Kalitta nitro race cars have won two events, advanced to six final rounds and earned three no.1 qualifying positions. Tomorrow, Team Kalitta begins their trek to the final stop of the Western Swing, Seattle, for the NHRA Northwest Nationals.
Top Fuel (Unofficial)
1. Tony Schumacher (1206)
2. Antron Brown (1169)
3. Larry Dixon (960)
4. Doug Kalitta (912)
5. Richie Crampton (901)
6. Spencer Massey (820)
7. Brittany Force (794)
8. Steve Torrence (783)
9. J.R. Todd (782)
10. Shawn Langdon (780)
Funny Car (Unofficial)
1. Matt Hagan (1142)
2. Jack Beckman (1085)
3. John Force (948)
4. Tommy Johnson Jr. (947)
5. Ron Capps (935)
6. Del Worsham (902)
7. Cruz Pedregon (855)
8. Tim Wilkerson (815)
9. Robert Hight (784)
10. Alexis DeJoria (765)