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Langdon Cooking At Home

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, February 13 2010
The Winternationals are a home game for Top Fuel driver Shawn Langdon. (File photo courtesy of the NHRA)

The Winternationals are a home game for Top Fuel driver Shawn Langdon. (File photo courtesy of the NHRA)

Having grown up just down the road from the track in Pomona, Shawn Langdon knows all the secret spots at that wonderful old dragstrip. He knows the best places to get autographs, to eat, to find freebees, to watch races and to run wild with friends.

On Sunday, he would like to explore one place he has never been at Auto Club Raceway – Victory Lane.

“That,” the 27-year-old Langdon said during a phone call last week, “would be special.”

And that, people who followed his rookie season of 2009, would be possible.

Langdon is one of the promising young stars of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.

Last season, the Top Fueler got his first start and it came at Pomona in February. He fell to Cory McClenathan in the first round of eliminations but he was off and running.

Driving for the Morgan Lucas Racing team, he went on to earn a berth in the Countdown and went on to place ninth in the final point standings.

On Thursday, the first day of qualifying for this year’s season-opening Winternationals in Pomona, Langdon posted the second-fastest run. McClenathan was first. Langdon dropped two places on Friday but is still in the top five.

If Langdon gets his first-ever pro victory on Sunday, there will be a large contingent of family and friends on hand with whom to celebrate as Auto Club Raceway in Pomona is truly Langdon’s home track.

Langdon grew up Mira Loma, a farming community just south of the famed Ponoma track.

His father was a Sportsman racer and Shawn liked to do what most sons of racers do – hang out at the track. There was a catch as approval for trips to the strip depended on Shawn getting good grades, but the grades must have been good enough.

Once at the track, father and son and the son’s friends went their separate ways as they had separate interests.

“It was a cool thing. My dad and I would take off and go out there on the weekend and go to the races and he was always big with the Sportsman guys because that’s where he grew up,” Langdon said. “But I always enjoyed going out there and watching the pros run. John Force and Kenny Bernstein and Don Prudhomme and Joe Amato and stuff.”

Langdon admired those drivers for their skills, but he chased them for their penmanship.

“I always enjoyed going around and getting all their autographs. That was always my cool thing. I’d get their autographs, their pro cards for my room. That was my entertainment for the week.

“I’d always go over by Lori Johns’ pit because she was sponsored by (candy-maker) Jolly Rancher. I’d always walk by there a few times and grab some Jolly Ranchers out of the bag. Just something I always enjoyed. And my dad at the races, it was just something we could do together.”

Langdon was a top high school athlete. Baseball may have been his best sport in school. A pitcher. Perhaps professional quality, too.

But it was the noise and speed which ended up keeping him in drag racing, a sport he took up at 11 years of age.

Once Langdon put the glove and bat away and decided on racing, he began to climb the Sportsman ladder.

He earned two Super Comp championships and caught the eye of Morgan Lucas Racing.

And then, just days before the 2009 Winternationals, he slipped into a Top Fuel car for the first time. It was an interesting slip-in.

“I had been in Super Comp racing for a living,” Langdon said. “It was like, ‘I got to go to race this week and win so I can pay my bills.’ I really kind of overcame a lot of my just being nervous.”

But…

“I’d never even driven one of these (Top Fuel cars). I don’t know what to do. I’m hopping in an 8,000 horsepower car, I’m going to go 320 miles per hour, I don’t know what the heck I’m doing.

“I’m feeling pretty good about it. But right before they fired the car up, I thought I was going to puke.”

There will be no puking this weekend. Langdon has become a real gosh darn Top Fuel driver and the nervousness has settled down to a simmer.

About the only awkwardness he will feel is when he is out of the car. To be precise, when he’s approached by young Shawn Langdons for his autograph.

“That’s probably one of the hardest things for me to grasp,” Langdon said. “Kids coming up to me and asking for my autograph. It was just kind of weird when they ask and get kind of excited because ‘I got Shawn Langdon’s autograph.’ I still look at John Force and all those guys I looked up to like they are on another level. I just feel like a lucky kid who got an opportunity of a lifetime.”

Come this Sunday though, it may be Force searching Langdon for an autograph.

And in Langdon’s own backyard.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, February 13 2010
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