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Langdon Ready To Go Back-To-Back In Top Fuel

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, February 6 2014

Shawn Langdon swept Pomona last season. His bid for a second consecutive sweep begins on Friday. (Photo courtesy of the Mello Yello NHRA Drag Racing Series)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

A year ago at this time, Shawn Langdon was a driver with things to prove. Important things. Things like proving he belonged on a Top Fuel team that had a championship-winning past.

This year heading into the coming weekend’s NHRA Mello Yellow drag racing series’ season-opening Winternationals, Langdon again has something to prove – that he has the stuff to repeat as Top Fuel champion.

Can’t wait to get started, the al-Anabi Racing driver said during a teleconference with the media three weeks ago.

“We’re just very excited to get back out there and get running again,” Langdon said. “We feel very confident; the whole Al-Anabi team has done a lot of homework in the off-season. We went testing last week and had a successful test session. I don’t think there are going to be too many things that we want to change. We just kind of want to stay in the same attack mode as we have in the last two years.”

While Langdon and his Toyota-powered team were in attack mode in 2012, the year the native of Mira Loma, Calif. debuted with al-Anabi, most the attacks ended in defeat. Langdon and tuner Brian Huson won just one race that year.

“Obviously, the 2012 season we struggled a little bit throughout the year,” Langdon, 31, said.

But in 2013, Langdon’s attacks produced victory after victory: He and Huson won seven races and the Traxxas Nitro Shootout at Indianapolis.

They won two of six races in Countdown to the Championship NHRA Playoffs and won championship by 164 points over second place. He became first NHRA Junior Dragster alumnus to win NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series World Championship.

And it all started – and ended – at Auto Club Raceway as Langdon became first driver to sweep season races at Pomona, Calif., since 2004; won all three races in state of California.

Despite all the winning and fast passes and great qualifying results, Langdon’s 2013 championship did not come without pressure and stress. He was driving for a team that had won Top Fuel championships with Del Worsham and Larry Dixon in its first four years of existence.

“Last year,” Langdon said, “I think it was a thing where me as a driver, I had a great team, the Al-Anabi team provided me with a great car, and we had a dominant car at times. So it was the pressure of me as a driver to have to perform because basically you’re looked at as you’re with the best team out there, and if you don’t win races, a lot of that comes down to you as the driver.

“So I think there were a couple races with me as a driver entering the Countdown in the No. 1 spot, losing that first race on the holeshot. I think I put a lot on myself. The team did a great job of calming me down and trying to get my mind off it and motivating me. But I look a lot of that to heart. I have a lot of passion for the sport, and I don’t want to be the weak link for the team. So I think it was a lot of pressure on me that I put on myself to perform. I think now having experienced that this last year, I think it’s going to help me be better this year because I know what to expect. I know what it’s like to be in these huge pressure situations, racing against the best, all eyes on you and you’re racing for the championship.”

The Pro portion of this year’s season gets under way on Friday at the historic Pomona strip. It will begin with Langdon and the al-Anabi Silver team looking a lot like last year’s.

“We feel pretty good about everything, really,” Langdon said. “We didn’t make too many changes in the off season. We had a couple small personnel changes within the crew and adding another crew chief over to (Khalid) alBalooshi car or assistant crew chief, and adding Brandon on as manager out here at our shop in Brownsburg. So we’ve made a couple small changes only for the betterment of the team, obviously trying to keep Sheikh Khalid happy and proud.

“But we’re trying to keep progressing. We’re excited to get into Pomona. We definitely want to get going being the defending World Champion and also the event champion. Obviously, there are a lot of great memories out at Pomona. Pomona is always a fun race. First race of the year, a track that I grew up at. So we’re definitely counting down the minutes to get there.”

THURSDAY, Feb. 6 _ LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying.

FRIDAY, Feb. 7 _ LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations; MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m.

SATURDAY, Feb. 8 _ LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations; MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m.

SUNDAY, Feb. 9 _ Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.; MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.

TELEVISION: Saturday, Feb. 8 _ ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 11 p.m. (EST).

Sunday, Feb. 9 _ ESPN and ESPNHD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage at 8 p.m. (EST).

2013 EVENT WINNERS: Shawn Langdon, Top Fuel; Courtney Force, Funny Car; Vincent Nobile, Pro Stock.

MOST VICTORIES: Bob Glidden, PS – 7; John Force, FC – 6; Greg Anderson, PS- 5; Warren Johnson, PS – 5; “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, TF- 5; Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, TF/FC – 5; Larry Dixon, TF- 4.

TRACK RECORDS

Top Fuel _ 3.721-seconds by Shawn Langdon, Feb. ’13; 328.70 mph by Doug Kalitta, Nov. ’13.

Funny Car _ 3.995-seconds by John Force, Nov. ‘13; 320.66 mph by Matt Hagan, Nov. ’13.

Pro Stock _ 6.495-seconds by Jason Line, Nov. ’12; 213.13 mph by Line, Nov. ’12.

NATIONAL RECORDS

Top Fuel _ 3.701-seconds by Antron Brown, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’12, Concord, N.C.

Funny Car _ 3.986-seconds by Jack Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 320.66 mph by Matt Hagan, Nov. ’13, Pomona, Calif.

Pro Stock _ 6.471-seconds by Mike Edwards, April ‘13, Concord, N.C.; 214.35 mph by Line, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, February 6 2014
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