Todd In, Grubnic Out At Kalitta
J.R. Todd will continue as fulltime driver of the Optima Batteries Top Fuel dragster fielded by Kalitta Motorsports beginning with the next event on the 2014 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule, the fifth annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C., April 11-13.
Team-owner/crew chief and drag racing icon Connie Kalitta got the switch process rolling last weekend when called on Todd to replace David Grubnic during the 15th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Todd qualified 11th and advanced to the quarterfinals, where he was defeated by Steve Torrence. Still, Todd finished fifth among the 16-driver field.
“To say I’m excited to be a part of Kalitta Motorsports is a huge understatement,” said Todd, who most recently drove a Top Fueler for Bob Vandergriff Racing at Auto-Plus
Raceway at Gainesville (Fla.) last month. “Driving for Connie Kalitta is a great honor. Connie’s commitment to success is one of the big reasons he’s considered one of the best owners to work for. He’s been drag racing for over 50 years so I’m sure I will learn a lot from him, and hopefully drive his car to a lot of winner’s circles for Optima Batteries.”
A 32 year-old resident of Lawrenceburg, Ind., Todd has earned six wins in eight Top Fuel final-round appearances. He began his straight-line racing career in the NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League from 1993 through 1998. After serving as a crew member on a Nitro Funny Car team from 2003 until 2005, Todd got his chance to drive a Top Fueler in 2006. He earned his first career Top Fuel Wally trophy in 2006 at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colo., near Denver, becoming the first African-American to win an NHRA Top Fuel race. His most recent NHRA Top Fuel win was scored at Texas Motorplex in Ennis in 2008.
Grubnic, a 51-year-old native of Australia, will remain with Kalitta Motorsports as a technical consultant. Grubnic scored the most recent of his three career national event Top Fuel victories at Heartland Park Topeka in 2012.Grubnic finished 11th in points in 2013, a season in which he posted his 10th career pole at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway while qualifying for 23 of 24 events.
“We knew we were eventually going to move Grubnic into a more technical role,” said Jim Oberhofer, vice president of operations for Kalitta Motorsports. “It just so happened that the timing was right for Connie and the team to do that now. We are very confident that J.R. will represent our team, Optima Batteries and all of our sponsors to the utmost of his ability. We’re extremely excited to see what he can do driving for Kalitta Motorsports.”
Optima Batteries will remain as primary sponsor on Todd’s dragster for 19 of 20 national events remaining on the schedule.
Based in Ypsilanti, Mich., Kalitta Motorsports has posted five world championships and over 50 national event titles in five different professional drag racing sanctioning bodies since it was established by Connie “The Bounty Hunter” Kalitta in 1959. The team’s Top Fuel lineup now includes Todd and Doug Kalitta, Connie’s nephew and driver of the Mac Tools dragster. The team’s Funny Car lineup features former Top Fuel world champion Del Worsham in the DHL Toyota Camry and Alexis DeJoria in the Patrón XO Café Toyota.
Connie Kalitta serves as head tuner for all Team Kalitta entries. He is assisted by co-crew chiefs Jon Oberhofer and Nick Boninfante on the DHL Toyota Funny Car; by Tommy DeLago and Glen Huszar on the Patrón XO Café Toyota Funny Car and by Jim Oberhofer on the Mac Tools Top Fueler. Connie also serves as crew chief on the Optima Batteries/Advance Auto Parts Top Fuel dragster.One Comment