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.

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Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III