J.R. Todd knows his way around the ADRL pits pretty good these days.
On the ADRL scene, doorslammers are king and dragsters, well … they might as well be the devil. So the question begs, how would a blatant dragster guy end up in doorslammer heaven?
For J.R., he became part of the entourage, or at least that's what he believed his role to be.
J.R. became friends with Sheikh Khalid [KH] Al-Thani and through an invitation from him, attended his first ADRL event last April in Valdosta, Ga. It just so happened that KH won the Pro Extreme division at the race.
The experience has made J.R. so much more than entourage. He has become a fan of the ADRL format and admits a liking and newfound respect for doorslammers.
“It is way different than what you are used to; these Pro Extreme cars I have been around are pretty amazing to watch. They are kind of like a Funny Car but they are way more out of shape than what you guys are used to. Everybody says they drive like a Funny Car but you have to steer it like a dragster. I don’t know if [Robert Hight] could handle one.”
If Robert Hight couldn’t handle one, could J.R.? The rumors floating around the pits suggests he might drive a Pro Extreme car in his near future. KH has been trying to make it happen. The only barrier seems to be J.R. himself.
“Not yet but that is in the works I am told,” he confirmed. “We’ll see. Right now I am just packing the chutes up. They having me packing the parachutes, which is all I am doing right now.”
Working as a crewman is nothing new for him. In between Top Fuel driving gigs, the talented Todd worked on Bob Gilbertson’s Funny Car crew. He began his racing career before he was old enough to hold a department of transportation driver’s license.
J.R. entered NHRA Lucas Oil sportsman racing after a successful stint in junior dragster competition. He stepped up to Top Fuel in 2000 as a second team driver for Bruce Litton at 18.
Todd made the move to the NHRA in 2006 first driving for Dexter Tuttle and then later Morgan Lucas Racing. He has six career Top Fuel victories to his credit.
Growing up in a nitro environment for much of his career, J.R. admitted he harbored a few preconceived notions before headed to the first ADRL race.
“I had heard stories of the big crowds that they get out for these races and how wild these cars were,” he recalled. “I wanted to come and see for myself. They bring these cars out of the woodwork. Sometimes you’ll see 30 or 40 cars trying to qualify for a 16 car field. That is cool.”
Seeing a packed drag strip is the coolest.
“It is cool to see all the fans that come out to these things,” said J.R. “It is free admission so it will be a packed house this weekend for sure especially when they have a big celebrity like [Robert Hight] here.”
Vince Neil is at the Dallas event as well and playing a concert on Saturday evening. The ADRL format is one of entertainment and in the pits doing its best to keep the line between the haves and have nots is gray instead of black and white.
But the ADRL is not a group of hobby racers either.
“Yeah besides all the Al-Anabi cars, a lot of these guys have deep pockets,” J.R. said. “With no sponsors behind them, they get out here and do it. It is cool. There is parity in the classes. It is something different for sure.”
It’s as if the only thing missing is J.R. Todd driving a Pro Extreme car.
“Khalid is trying to talk me into driving one of these things and I am watching them go down the track,” J.R. admits. “I am thinking, ‘Holy Cow I don’t know if I want to get into one of these things.’ I’d feel way more comfortable if I was in a Top Fuel Dragster. We’ll see. I think it could be a good challenge to try and live up to.”
Challenging, that’s how J.R. Todd rolls.
Robert Hight, the 2009 NHRA Throttle Funny car champion, worked last weekend's ADRL LenMar Motorsports World Finals as a guest reporter.
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