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

Indy 500 qualifying: Today’s schedule, TV times, how the 33-car field is set

Indy 500 qualifying schedule
Doug Mathews/IndyCar
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The 33-car field of the 104th Indianapolis 500 will be set through the two-day Indy 500 qualifying schedule Saturday and Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Today’s session will determine the nine cars that will compete for the pole position and starting positions 10-30.

On Sunday, the pole position then will be determined in a Fast Nine Shootout (the top nine qualifiers also received NTT IndyCar Series points).

All on-track activity will be on NBC Sports Gold’s IndyCar pass (click here for streaming Saturday and here for Sunday), and Indy 500 qualifying will be on NBC from 3-5 p.m. ET Saturday and Indy 500 pole qualifying from 1-3 p.m. ET on NBC.

Last year, Simon Pagenaud captured the pole position on the way to winning last year’s Indy 500.

Qualifying speeds at Indianapolis Motor Speedway are determined by a four-lap average around the 2.5-mile track.

Here is the Indy 500 qualifying schedule and how to watch on TV:

Saturday, Aug. 15

5:30 a.m. – Garage opens

6 a.m. – Tech inspection

8:30-9:30 a.m. – Indianapolis 500 practice (NBC Sports Gold)

11 a.m.-5 p.m. – Indianapolis 500 qualifying (NBC Sports Gold; NBC coverage from 3-5 p.m.; NBCSN 5-6 p.m.)

7:30 p.m. – Garage closes

Sunday, Aug. 16

8 a.m. – Garage opens

9 a.m. — Tech inspection

11-11:30 a.m. – Indianapolis 500 practice (NBC Sports Gold)

1:15-2:15 p.m. – Fast Nine pole qualifying (NBC begins at 1 p.m., NBC Sports Gold)

3:30-6 p.m. – Indianapolis 500 practice (NBCSN, NBC Sports Gold)