NHRA Funny Car champ JR Todd takes wild ride with Mario Andretti

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Defending NHRA Funny Car champion JR Todd is used to going 330 mph. But that’s in a straight line and for 1,000 feet in less than four seconds at a time.

Before heading to last week’s NHRA national event in suburban Richmond, Virginia, Todd took a slight detour from his suburban Indianapolis home, going for a high-speed ride for a few laps around the 2 1/2-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a two-seat Indy car.

His chauffeur – or co-pilot – was legendary IndyCar champion Mario Andretti, who this month is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his Indy 500 win in 1969.

It was my first time in a two-seater,” Todd told NBC Sports. “It was way cool to be able to do it with Mario Andretti.

I was able to come out here last year and make some laps in a stock car, which was a lot of fun. But riding with that guy in a two seater around here kind of trumps that. It was a dream come true.”

The biggest sensation for Todd, who grew up in Lawrenceburg, Indiana (near Cincinnati), was going through the four famous turns at the Brickyard.

JR Todd (left) got behind the wheel of Sage Karam’s (right) car after his ride around Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Mario Andretti.

Going into the corners like that, I thought, no way this thing is going to stick,” he said. “That just shows how much downforce one of these things has. It gives you a new perspective and respect for what they do going around the corner here at 220 mph. I cannot imagine that. It was a lot of fun, and totally a different sensation to what us drag racers go through

We go fast and pull a lot of G’s (in drag racing), but it is in a straight line. We don’t deal with lateral Gs like that. Going into a corner it pins your hands up against the side. It is just a different sensation. That is by far the fastest I have gone turning left. It was a lot of fun, and I would love to do it again.”

After his spin around the Brickyard riding shotgun behind Andretti, Todd visited with IndyCar driver Sage Karam and climbed into the cockpit of Karam’s Dreyer & Reinbold Racing car and was tempted to take the car for a spin.

Todd will be watching Sunday’s race and cheering on a number of his friends in IndyCar, including five-time and defending champion Scott Dixon, James Hinchcliffe, Charlie Kimball, Karam and others.

Hopefully, one of those guys can get the win,” Todd said.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Supercross points leader Eli Tomac finds silver linings in interruption

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Though his Monster Energy AMA Supercross championship charge was put on hold, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had a silver lining for Eli Tomac.

Off the road while the season was postponed for nearly three months, the points leader was able to be present as his girlfriend, Jessica, gave birth to their daughter, Lev, on April 26

“A huge blessing for us there,” Tomac told host Mike Tirico during a “Lunch Talk Live” interview (click on the video above) in which he also joked about becoming a pro at busting off diaper changes. “That was one good blessing for us as we had our daughter on a Sunday, that would have been on a travel day coming back from the race in Las Vegas.

NBCSN

“That was probably the only positive out of all this mess was being able to be there for the birth.”

But there also could be more good fortune for Tomac as the series resumes Sunday at Salt Lake City, Utah (3-4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, 4-6 p.m. on NBC).

The final seven events will be held over 22 days in Rice-Eccles Stadium, which sits at just over 4,000 feet.

The elevation could favor Tomac, who was born and lives in Colorado and is accustomed to riding and training at altitude, which is a departure for many Supercross riders (many of whom hail from California and Florida).

COVID-19 TESTING REQUIRED: Supercross outlines protocols for last seven races

“That’s going to be the test for us,” said the Kawasaki rider, who five of the first 10 races this season. “We’re at elevation in Salt Lake, so when you’re on a motorcycle, you have a little bit of a loss of power. That’s just what happens when you come up in elevation. And a lot of guys train at sea level, and we’re at 4,000 to 5,000 feet, so cardio-wise, we’ll be pushed to the limit.

“Most of our races are Saturday nights and back to back weeks, but this go around it’s Sunday and Wednesday, so recovery is going to be key.”

Supercross will race Sunday and Wednesday for the next three weeks, capping the season with the June 21 finale, which also will be shown on NBCSN from 3-4:30 p.m. ET and NBC from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.

Tomac, who holds a three-point lead over Ken Roczen (who also recently visited “Lunch Talk Live”), told Tirico he had been riding for 90 minutes Thursday morning on a track outside Salt Lake City.

“Most of us we can rely on our past riding pretty well,” Tomac said. “The question is if you can go the distance. That’s what a lot of guys have to train on is going the distance. We go 20 minutes plus a lap. That’s what you’ve got to keep sharp is your general muscles. Within two to three days, your brain starts warming up more if you take a few weeks off the motorcycle.”

Here is the schedule and TV information for the rest of the season:

  • Sunday, May 31 (3-4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4-6 p.m. ET, NBC);
  • Wednesday, June 3 ( 10:00 pm – 1:00 am ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 7 (5-8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 10 (7–10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 14 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 17 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 21 (3-4:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. ET, NBC).
Eli Tomac rides his No. 3 Kawasaki in the Feb. 29 race at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia (Charles Mitchell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).