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Langdon Now Has His ‘Pinch-Me’ Top Fuel Ride

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, March 29 2012

Shawn Langdon has his dream job and appears ready to make the most of it. (Photo courtesy of Ron Lewis)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Last fall, Shawn Langdon had heard the talk about Del Worsham’s possible retirement and it was affecting his sleep patterns: The thought of a Top Fuel job opening up at powerhouse Al-Anabi Racing was making sleep difficult to come by for the 29-year old Californian.

“You’re just lying there thinking, ‘Man, wouldn’t that be cool to just get that opportunity, to get that phone call from Alan Johnson and Sheik Kahlid to drive that car?’ ” Langdon said during a telephone conversation earlier this week. “Then you wake up the next morning and reality hits and, ‘Nope.’ ”

Except for one morning. The morning after the day that Langdon did get “that phone call” from Al-Anabi team manager Johnson on behalf of owner His Highness Sheik Kahlid Al Thani.

On that day in December, Langdon must not have gotten much sleep either – but this time because of excitement.

Johnson had offered him the seat not of Worsham, the 2011 Top Fuel champion, but of Larry Dixon, who had won the championship the year before and with whom Al-Anabi parted ways in earlier in December.

“Humbling,” Langdon said of the job offer. “To just be thought of for that ride is very humbling.”

At the time, Langdon was driving an NHRA Top Fuel car for Morgan Lucas Racing. It was a really good gig, Langdon says. Owned by respected racing people Forrest Lucas and Morgan Lucas, it was a team

Shawn Langdon says he's ready to win. (Photo courtesy of Gary Nastase)

that appeared to have the potential of reaching the top.

But Al-Anabi was already at the top and all athletes know the allure of that. So, after three years and three Countdown appearances, Langdon made the move and now works for one of the most successful tuner/managers in NHRA history.

“Alan Johnson is Alan Johnson,” Langdon said. “Any team he works for, they’re going to win championships and they’re going to win races and they’re going to be contenders. When I got the call from Alan, it was surreal.”

Langdon started the 2012 season with a first goal of winning a race. It was something he had not done during his Top Fuel career. It has become something that he feels he must now do and soon – like this weekend the Summitracing.com Nationals at The Strip in Las Vegas would be cool.

“There’s an awkward pressure,” Langdon said of being in the seat of the Al-Anabi Silver Toyota. “You do have a little bit of pressure on you because you’re in a car that can win. If you sit a car that can win and you don’t win, well, then there’s obviously something wrong with you. That’s kind of where I am right now.”

Langdon started off his Al-Anabi career at the Winternationals in Pomona in February and things did not go as hoped. He qualified eight and then lost in the second round of elininations to his former boss/teammate, Morgan Lucas.

“I was very nervous,” Landgon, one of the top leavers in the sport, said.  “I mean everything was new. That’s just how it goes. Brian (Husen, his tuner) and Alan, they’re very quick to work out the problems. A couple problems that came up at Pomona, they worked them out pretty quickly and they were able to get those fixed by Phoenix.”

Guess so.

The Al-Anabi Silver boys escort Shawn Langdon's car to the staging area. (Photo courtesy of Ron Lewis)

At the Arizona Nationals in mid February, Landgon won the pole. The second of his career. It came on the best pass of his career – 3.754 seconds and at 323.12 mph.

“That,” he said, “was a blast. Making that run…that run was just so smooth for me that it was crazy. I knew they had the potential to make the car run that good. But it was just such a good, clean run that you just don’t think it’s that fast because it’s so straight and so smooth. That was my best run by, like, three-hundredths at that point. It was a bit of a shock to me because I had never been in a car that fast before.

“I’m going to have to get used to the fact that it doesn’t matter what track we’re at or what the conditions are like, we’ve got the potential to make very fast runs. We go out to Phoenix in the second race and we’re only two-hundredths off the national record.”

From there, he advanced to the semifinals at Firebird where he was beaten by Antron Brown of Don Schumacher Racing.

Landgon followed that up with a No. 3 qualifying weekend at the Gatornationals and another semifinal appearance, in which he lost to seven-time Top Fuel champion, Tony Schumacher.

Landgon, about to board an airplane to Las Vegas, said he thinks he and his Toyota-powered rail could follow that up with that first victory he wants so badly.

“I’m feeling it right now,” he said. “I’m really expecting to win this weekend. Not to take anything away from our competition, but I think this is our time. We’ve made good runs, we know what we need to do on Sundays. These guys know how to win. I want to win so bad I can taste it and I think this weekend will be a perfect place for us to get that first victory out of the way.”

And then move onto the next goals.

“If we get that first win out of the way, I think a lot more will come a lot easier,” he said.

Fast car, built by great people and driven by a guy who is always among the top reaction-time guys in the NHRA – yep, there could be plenty more wins in Langdon’s future.

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

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, March 29 2012
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