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Langdon, AJR Post ‘Cheap’ Victory In Pomona

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, February 9 2015

Shawn Langdon out ran Antron Brown to win the Top Fuel event at the NHRA Winternationals on Sunday.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Shawn Langdon and Alan Johnson served-up the proverbial knuckle sandwich – or was it a middle finger? – to any and all doubters Sunday with a victory in the Top Fuel final of the 55th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals.

Operating on a limited budget after team-owner Johnson lost his primary financial backer last month, Langdon edged Antron Brown at the finish line in a pairing of former Top Fuel world champions. Langdon, the 2013 world champ, powered his Knuckle Sandwich/Alan Johnson Performance Enterprises dragster to a 1,000-foot elapsed time of 3.799-seconds at 309.91 mph at historic Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif. Brown, the 2012 world champion and driver of the Matco Tools dragster, stopped the clocks in 3.804-seconds and 310.70 mph.

“There’s things that happen in life. And then there are moments when everything just falls into place, and I think this weekend was one of those moments,” said Langdon, the No. 1 qualifier after posting the quickest time in category history at 3.700-seconds on Saturday. “When you put your heart into something, you put your mind to it, you surround yourself with great people like we have at Alan Johnson Racing, good things can happen.”

Langdon trailered Steve Chrisman, Leah Pritchett and Spencer Massey in early elimination rounds before dispatching Brown, of Don Schumacher Racing. Langdon’s basic black dragster dropped a cylinder early, but Brown’s car did the same allowing Langdon to prevail via a miniscule 0.0156-second margin of victory.

Meanwhile, two-time/reigning Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan and two-time Pro Stock world champion Jason Line also emerged with Wally trophies after the first of 24 events of the 2015 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Langdon and fellow-Californian Johnson entered the season-opener without a fulltime sponsor after Qatar Racing Club abruptly pulled out of the series on Jan. 5. Its alliance with Al-Anabi Racing ended, Johnson released 2014 Winternationals champion Khalid alBalooshi from his contract and reorganized as a one-car team with Langdon at the controls.

AJR competed with support from Food Network star Guy Fieri and his Knuckle Sandwich brand during the weekend. The team is committed to running the 31st annual Carquest Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Ariz., Feb. 20-22 while continuing to search for fulltime sponsorship for this season and beyond.

“We had a lot going on positively with Guy Fieri here this weekend,” said Langdon, who scored his second Winternationals win and 10th of his career with crew chiefs Jason McCulloch and Brian Husen. “We needed to come out here and make a statement. We needed to show everyone that we’re serious, we want to race the whole season and contend for the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Championship. We made the quickest pass in the history of the sport, we were the No. 1 qualifier and we won the race.

“Now we’ll take what we did here and move on to Phoenix and continue what we are doing. We’re still looking for sponsorship and trying to do the best we can.”

Alan Johnson Racing now has won the Winternationals three times in as many years, as well as five of the last six races at Auto Club Raceway.

Despite making the quickest run in history Saturday at 3.700-seconds, Langdon failed to “back-up” the ET with another pass within one percent during the event as per NHRA national record certification rules.

In Funny Car, Hagan overcame a spectacular engine explosion during time trials on Friday to qualify 12th on Saturday. Hagan then piloted his Rocky Boots/Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T to a final-round winning 1,000-foot performance of 4.011-seconds at 320.89 mph to defeat DSR teammate Ron Capps. Driver of the NAPA Auto Parts Charger, Capps finished in 4.078-seconds at 314.90 mph.

Hagan said his confidence in crew chief Dickie Venables and Mike Knudsen never wavered after Friday’s fiery incident, which destroyed his new 2015 Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots Funny Car carbon-fiber body and components. The team was forced to bring out its back-up Charger body branded in the Rocky Boots colors.

“These (race cars) are animals out there and you never know what you’re going to get when you crawl in there to drive one,” Hagan said. “It’s always an experience. You have to respect it, but you can’t fear it.

“It’s crazy how things change so quickly in a couple of days. I didn’t know which sponsor to thank because we were running the Mopar scheme and then had to switch to Rocky Boots but I can’t thank them all enough. Without their support we wouldn’t be out here. That win right there was for (team-owner) Don Schumacher. We really missed him out here this weekend.”

Schumacher is resting at home while undergoing treatments following successful surgery to treat Stage 1 Squamous cell carcinoma in November.

“Friday was unexpected. It caught me off-guard,” Hagan said of his red-hot ride. “It went through the (finish line) lights and banged the blower, threw the rods out of it and the fire just got pretty big pretty quick. The (crew) guys put in the work; I think they finished up at 3:30 Saturday morning then got a few hours of sleep and came back Saturday ready to go.

“As soon as Dickie Venables felt comfortable, I felt comfortable. Dickie is our leader and a great guy. The confidence, the momentum, the mentality trickles down from him and for me I’m just the cheerleader of the group. I keep everybody positive and happy and even when we’re down you have to keep everybody up. I look to Dickie, into his eyes and what he’s doing. Every lap today it got better and better.”

Hagan celebrated his second-straight win at Pomona, fourth victory overall at the track and first in the prestigious Winternationals. The native Virginian raced past former world champion Tony Pedregon, rookie John Hale and former Top Fuel world champ Del Worsham en route to his match with Capps.

“Pomona is very special to me and it’s an historical track,” Hagan said after his 15th career victory. “The fans are awesome here. It’s been great. The history of this track and everything that’s happened here through the years, it puts it in perspective for me and makes (winning) even more special.”

Line claimed his fourth Winternationals Pro Stock victory by outrunning rookie Drew Skillman in the final. Line powered his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro to a quarter-mile time of 6.545-seconds at 211.83 mph, while Skillman’s Ray Skillman Camaro trailed at 6.556-seconds and 211.13 mph. It was Line’s 36th career victory and the 91st Pro Stock win for a Camaro _ a record in the “Factory Hot Rod” category.

“What a really exciting day,” Line said. “To be honest, I didn’t expect to come here and do this well. I didn’t think the offseason had gone well enough for us, but apparently it has. And it feels great to win.”

Line outran Joey Grose, Shane Gray and Rodger Brogdon to advance to the final. Meanwhile, longtime NHRA Sportsman standout Skillman advanced to the final in his first pro start by defeating reigning Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders-Stevens – Drew’s Elite Motorsports teammate – in the semifinals.

“We have some new faces in the class,” Line said, “and congrats to Drew Skillman just for making the final at his first race. That’s phenomenal.”

Final finish order (1-16) at the 55th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif. The race was the first of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel _1. Shawn Langdon; 2. Antron Brown; 3. Larry Dixon; 4. Spencer Massey; 5. Leah Pritchett; 6. Steve Torrence; 7. Doug Kalitta; 8. Richie Crampton; 9. Tony Schumacher; 10. Brittany Force; 11. Troy Buff; 12. Dave Connolly; 13. Steven Chrisman; 14. Clay Millican; 15. J.R. Todd; 16. Terry McMillen.

Funny Car _1. Matt Hagan; 2. Ron Capps; 3. Del Worsham; 4. Robert Hight; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 6. Courtney Force; 7. John Hale; 8. Bob Bode; 9. Alexis DeJoria; 10. Tony Pedregon; 11. Tim Wilkerson; 12. Jeff Arend; 13. Cruz Pedregon; 14. Gary Densham; 15. John Force; 16. Chad Head.

Pro Stock _1. Jason Line; 2. Drew Skillman; 3. Rodger Brogdon; 4. Erica Enders-Stevens; 5. Chris McGaha; 6. Larry Morgan; 7. Shane Gray; 8. Allen Johnson; 9. Vincent Nobile; 10. Jonathan Gray; 11. V. Gaines; 12. Deric Kramer; 13. Greg Anderson; 14. Matt Hartford; 15. Joey Grose; 16. Jimmy Alund.

Sunday’s final results from the 55th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway:

Top Fuel _ Shawn Langdon, 3.799-seconds, 309.91 mph def. Antron Brown, 3.804-seconds, 310.70 mph.

Funny Car _ Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.011, 320.89 def. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.078, 314.90.

Pro Stock _ Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.545, 211.83 def. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.556, 211.13.

Top Alcohol Dragster _ Chris Demke, 5.264, 273.88 def. Shawn Cowie, 5.367, 268.33.

Top Alcohol Funny Car _ Jonnie Lindberg, Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.458, 267.27 def. Brian Hough, Chevy Camaro, 5.608, 260.41.

Competition Eliminator_ Alan Ellis, ’23-T Ford, 6.543, 205.72 def. Dean Carter, Dragster, 7.054, 190.06.

Super Stock _ Cody Lane, Chevy Cavalier, 8.884, 144.29 def. Justin Lamb, Chevy Cobalt, 8.623, 156.64.

Stock Eliminator_ Jody Lang, Chevy Malibu, 12.202, 107.18 def. Jeff Jerome, Plymouth Savoy, foul.

Super Comp _Dave Crawford, Dragster, 8.910, 179.97 def. Jimmy Lewis, Dragster, 8.957, 162.33.

Super Gas _ Steve Williams, Chevy Corvette, 9.923, 173.83 def. Hollis Colleasure, ’27-T Ford, foul.

Top Fuel Harley_ Len Darnell, Harley, 6.822, 174.87 def. Joey Stenotti, Harley, 9.890, 91.09.

Final round-by-round results from the 55th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway:

TOP FUEL

ROUND ONE _ Larry Dixon, 3.841, 312.13 def. Dave Connolly, 4.022, 236.84; Steve Torrence, 3.774, 324.05 def. Troy Buff, 3.828, 316.30; Richie Crampton, 4.369, 202.18 def. J.R. Todd, 9.379, 78.33; Doug Kalitta, 3.763, 330.88 def. Terry McMillen, 10.090, 86.42; Shawn Langdon, 3.741, 325.53 def. Steven Chrisman, 4.148, 255.39; Spencer Massey, 3.751, 323.74 def. Clay Millican, 6.941, 96.89; Antron Brown, 3.732, 326.87 def. Tony Schumacher, 3.787, 323.66; Leah Pritchett, 3.791, 323.04 def. Brittany Force, 3.811, 321.19;

QUARTERFINALS _ Dixon, 3.848, 310.20 def. Crampton, 9.623, 80.59; Massey, 3.808, 325.37 def. Torrence, 3.821, 324.05; Langdon, 3.748, 323.19 def. Pritchett, 3.801, 323.66; Brown, 3.758, 322.73 def. Kalitta, 7.817, 94.51;

SEMIFINALS _ Brown, 3.790, 322.27 def. Dixon, 3.774, 320.36; Langdon, 3.762, 326.48 def. Massey, 3.778, 327.98;

FINAL _ Langdon, 3.799, 309.91 def. Brown, 3.804, 310.70.

FUNNY CAR

ROUND ONE _ Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.065, 318.84 def. Tony Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.381, 227.54; John Hale, Charger, 4.264, 266.42 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 5.028, 159.25; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.045, 315.19 def. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.568, 193.52; Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.097, 312.42 def. Gary Densham, Chevy Impala, 5.422, 137.71; Bob Bode, Camry, 5.126, 202.82 def. John Force, Camaro, 5.599, 156.72; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.137, 305.22 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.110, 301.07; Robert Hight, Camaro, 4.066, 315.05 def. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.385, 208.97; Del Worsham, Camry, 4.048, 317.05 def. Chad Head, Camry, broke;

QUARTERFINALS _ Capps, 4.104, 313.88 def. Bode, broke; Hight, 4.085, 313.29 def. Johnson Jr., 4.080, 306.33; Worsham, 4.068, 316.60 def. C. Force, 7.289, 87.42; Hagan, 4.128, 303.50 def. Hale, foul;

SEMIFINALS _ Capps, 4.134, 312.57 def. Hight, 7.854, 84.40; Hagan, 4.068, 316.75 def. Worsham, 4.081, 314.90;

FINAL _ Hagan, 4.011, 320.89 def. Capps, 4.078, 314.90.

PRO STOCK

ROUND ONE _ Chris McGaha, Chevy Camaro, 6.547, 211.66 def. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, foul; Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.589, 211.26 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.637, 211.56; Larry Morgan, Camaro, 6.546, 212.56 def. Jimmy Alund, Pontiac GXP, 14.251, 59.26; Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.574, 211.83 def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.561, 211.76; Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.570, 211.53 def. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.586, 210.93; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.545, 212.09 def. Joey Grose, Camaro, foul; Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.548, 211.43 def. Matt Hartford, GXP, 6.651, 208.78; Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.548, 212.43 def. Deric Kramer, Dodge Avenger, 6.609, 209.95;

QUARTERFINALS _ Skillman, 6.595, 210.90 def. Johnson, 6.595, 211.10; Enders-Stevens, 6.569, 211.36 def. McGaha, 6.565, 210.73; Brogdon, 6.565, 211.46 def. Morgan, 6.566, 212.36; Line, 6.564, 211.56 def. S. Gray, 6.574, 211.00;

SEMIFINALS _ Skillman, 6.590, 210.41 def. Enders-Stevens, 6.573, 211.53; Line, 6.560, 211.36 def. Brogdon, 6.560, 211.76;

FINAL _ Line, 6.545, 211.83 def. Skillman, 6.556, 211.13.

Point standings (top-10) following the 55th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway:

Top Fuel _ 1. Shawn Langdon, 124; 2. Antron Brown, 92; 3. Spencer Massey, 78; 4. Larry Dixon, 73; 5. Richie Crampton, 59; 6. Doug Kalitta, 56; 7. Steve Torrence, 54; 8. Leah Pritchett, 52; 9. Tony Schumacher, 36; 10. Brittany Force, 33.

Funny Car _1. Matt Hagan, 107; 2. Ron Capps, 94; 3. Del Worsham, 74; 4. Robert Hight, 73; 5. Courtney Force, 61; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., 60; 7. John Hale, 51; 8. Bob Bode, 46; 9. John Force, 40; 10. Cruz Pedregon, 38.

Pro Stock _1. Jason Line, 123; 2. Drew Skillman, 97; 3. Erica Enders-Stevens, 81; 4. Rodger Brogdon, 80; 5. Chris McGaha, 55; 6. Larry Morgan, 54; 7. (tie) Shane Gray, 52; Allen Johnson, 52; 9. (tie) Greg Anderson, 34; Vincent Nobile, 34.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, February 9 2015
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