The number 10 turned out to be just the right number for J.R. Todd.
Todd, who lives in Indianapolis, was seeded No. 10 as the July 20 elimination rounds got underway in the 35 Mello Yello National Hot Rod Association Top Fuel Dragster division at Bandimere Speedway. But when it was all over he had won the category with his victory against Brittany Force.
Todd, who last won in 2008 at Dallas, also picked up his second victory in the Mile-Highs in the process. He last won on the side of the mountain in 2006 and this time around also picked up a lucky seventh career win. For the victory, he zipped up the quarter-mile track in 3.878-seconds at 317.87 miles per hour while Force, seeded No. 9, clocked 3.968 at 297.35 mph.
“This is the hardest place to race here at Bandimere, but it's certainly a first-class facility all the way,” Todd said in the post-race press conference. “Our team certainly had to find a way to win and we came through. I don't think a lot of people expected this. We just came through today when we had to.”
Todd opened up by beating No. 7 seed Terry McMillen in the first round (3.969 to 4.569) then pulled of a solid upset beating No. 2 seeded Steve Torrence of Brownsburg, Ind.,(3.938-3.946). It was on to the semifinals, where he defeated the No. 3 seed, Larry Dixon of Avon, Indiana (3.912-3.936).
What also might have been to his advantage was the 45-minute rain delay at the track that began right before the finals in the professional divisions.
“It just worked out great,” said Todd, who drives his Optima Batteries/Bounty Hunter dragster. “The rains came and we were able to do just a bit more work on the car to get it ready. I thank my team for all the hard work this week that made this possible.”
Force, would have hoped it could have been a double-win day for her family. But it wasn't to be as her father, John Force, also lost in his final against teammate, Robert Hight, in the Funny Car division. She opened by beating No. 8 seed Khalid AlBalooshi of Brownsburg (4.304-5.258), then defeated Jenna Haddock of Temple, Texas (3.990-4.166), followed by her semifinal victory against Bob Vandergriff Jr. (3.923-8.369).
Haddock, by the way, was competing in her very first Top Fuel event and was able to win her first-ever race in the event. She defeated No. 1 seeded Tony Schumacher of Brownsburg, Ind., (4.276-4.792) as both cars broke down prior to the finish line.
The day certainly didn't play out for point's leader Schumacher. Schumacher, in his U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster for Don Schumacher Racing, had been on top of his game coming through with the top qualifying time with a :03.823 run at 314.09 mph.
It was interesting to note that while Schumacher has a total of 73, No. 1 qualifying efforts in his career, this was his first at Bandimere. It also was his first No. 1 qualifying run of the season for the seven-time champion that turned out to be a Bandimere Elapsed Time Record.
“I just don't take anything for granted when you qualify No. 1, but it's always a fine feeling,” Schumacher said following in his top-qualifying press meeting. “The track today was hot and slippery and we had to make a lot of changes in the car. But, we had four good runs over the course of qualifying. This is a hard place to make power, but there is going to be some awesome racing. We just have to get down the track faster than others.”
It's just was a disappointment for Schumacher as he couldn't make his qualifying effort pay off.
Doub Kalitta, who came into Bandimere leading in Top Fuel points in his Mac Tools dragster, qualified at a surprising 11. It was the first time this season he had qualified in the lower half of the field leaving him facing Antron Brown, who qualified sixth. Brown made it all the more difficult week for Kalitta as he came through the first round winner. .