J.R. Todd, our featured driver in Nitro Shots this week, celebrated his one year anniversary driving a Top Fuel dragster for Kalitta Motorsports this past weekend, having started with the team at Las Vegas last year.
So what does a guy who goes over 300 mph in under four seconds do to celebrate? Something that’s possibly even more crazy, if you can believe it: Todd jumped off the tower of the Stratosphere Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip.
The SkyJump is a leap from 108 stories up, sending jumpers on a nearly 1,000-foot fall at speeds of over 40 mph to land on a small target on the ground below. Sure, it’s not nearly as fast as Todd usually travels that distance, but he also doesn’t usually see the ground rushing up at him either.
It must be something in the blood of race car drivers because it turns out that Todd is not the only daredevil in the group. When asked about one thing they’d like to do, some of Todd’s fellow drivers had crazy answers of their own. Alexis DeJoria wants to bungee jump. She’s already tried skydiving, but Jack Beckman hasn’t, and he’d like to. Tony Schumacher wants to try his version of skydiving with a squirrel suit. Ron Capps wants to take it even higher and go into space.
This probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, though. When you have a job that’s as much of a pure punch of adrenaline as these drivers have, it takes a bit of doing to find something to do that might be more exciting than just another day in the office.
* Pro Stock’s Erica Enders-Stevens and her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro will carry title sponsorship from Lupe Tortilla, one of the top Mexican restaurants in Texas, for the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals next weekend in Houston.
Enders-Stevens, who is from Houston, is a longtime acquaintance of the restaurant’s founder, Stan Holt. “Stan has always been a part of racing and my personal life for as long as I can remember,” said Enders-Stevens. “Stan even performed the wedding ceremony when Richie and I got married.”
Holt is also a racer himself on the Sportsman level. “It’ll be really neat to see the Lupe Tortilla car on the racetrack,” Holt said. “We came up with the idea to support Erica and the Elite Motorsports team at this race since it’s in our backyard, and when I talked to my sons about it, they thought it would be a lot of fun.”
* John Force and Richie Crampton earned themselves spots in the Traxxas Nitro Shootout with their victories at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas. For Crampton, this will be his second appearance in his two seasons in Top Fuel. Force has made the event all four times.
Driver of the Week: J.R. Todd
Category: Top Fuel
Hometown: Lawrenceburg, IN
Date of birth: Dec. 15, 1981
2015 car: Red Line Oil/Kalitta Air dragster
Crew chief: Connie Kalitta
Team Owner: Connie Kalitta
Career wins/runner-up finishes: 7/4
Best points finish: 2nd in 2014
Career best ET: 3.713 (Charlotte 1, 2015)
Career best speed: 327.43 (Las Vegas 2, 2014)
2014 – Joined Kalitta Motorsports at third race of the season in Las Vegas; won once (Denver) and posted two runner-up finishes; finished second in points.
2012 – 2013 – Ran part time, qualifying for five of six events entered in 2013, and all seven entered in 2012.
2010-2011 – Did not compete
2007 – Two wins in three final round appearances; earned a spot in the Countdown to the Championship.
2006 – Ran limited 19-race schedule; earned first career victory at Denver, becoming first African-American to win a NHRA Top Fuel race; earned three wins and a runner-up finish; Auto Club Road to the Future Award winner.
Some Things Most People Don’t Know About J.R.: His father raced motorcycles and J.R. enjoys them too but ended up in drag racing because his parents thought a Junior dragster would be safer than riding a motorcycle. Competed in the NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League from 1993-1998 along with future champions Shawn Langdon and Erica Enders-Stevens. J.R. hopes to add his name to the list of Jr. drivers who went on to championships.
For more on J.R. Todd and the next generation of NHRA racers, watch for a special feature on the Jr. Drag Racing League coming soon here on Frontstretch!
What’s the craziest thing that has ever happened to J.R. Todd at the race track? This story goes back to his time as a crew member working in the pits.
Last week was about red lighting and crossing the center line, two offenses that will get a driver disqualified. What other ways might drivers run afoul of the rules? Not staging is probably the next most frequently seen. This is what happened to Matt Hagan at Charlotte a few weeks ago. Failure to properly stage, whether it be because of a mechanical issue that keeps the car from pulling to the starting line at all or not rolling into the staging beams properly within the proper amount of time, as happened with Hagan, this will get a driver disqualified. As in many other forms of racing, vehicles are also subject to inspection, whether it be checking the weight of the vehicle or tearing it down to make sure it meets the engine and chassis rules, and any irregularities found could also lead to disqualification.
Number of the Week: 65
As in 65 years and 11 months, the age of John Force, who beat his own record from last season as the oldest winning driver in a Funny Car when he won last weekend at Las Vegas.
Where to Watch
The NHRA Mello Yello Series is off this weekend but returns to action for the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals from Houston, Texas, April 24-26. This is the second of five live events on the slate for 2015, and for those who might like the cars that go in circles, NASCAR races on Saturday night. That leaves Sunday free for the straight-liners to be the show!
Program Date/Time Channel AUTO CLUB NHRA FINALS Qualifying Friday, November 10, 6:30 PM ET FS1 (Live) Qualifying Saturday, November 11, 6:00 PM ET FS1 (Live) Eliminations Sunday, November 12, 4:00 PM ET FS1 (Live)