Langdon A Quick Learner In Switch To Floppers

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, February 3 2018

Shawn Langdon is driving cars with roofs this year and things have gone well in testing. (File photo courtesy of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

The perfectionist in Shawn Langdon quickly has emerged in NHRA preseason testing, as the 2013 Top Fuel world champion transitions into the Funny Car category with Kalitta Motorsports.

Langdon, who earned his Funny Car license in October 2017 in anticipation of the Fuel category switch, posted a top lap of 3.911-seconds at 324.05 mph during Friday’s NHRA Nitro Spring Training at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Ariz.

“It’s been a big transition for me,” said Langdon, driver of the Global Electronic Technology Toyota Camry. “Everything I learned driving a Top Fuel dragster I take about 50-percent of that and throw it out the window. I’m excited for the challenge. I haven’t hit anything yet _ so that’s a positive.

“I’m just learning on every run really. I’m making some small leaps in the learning process just going down the track in testing. It’s been pretty good progress so far. I’m just working through it. I’m looking to be a contender right out of the gate. Winning the title is the main goal.”

The 24-race 2018 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will return to the facility outside Phoenix for the 34th NHRA Arizona Nationals Feb. 23 -25, Round 2 of the series that will begin with the 58th annual Lucas Oil Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif., Feb. 8-11.

Langdon, who won his Top Fuel title with Alan Johnson Racing, joined Kalitta Motorsports five races into the 2017 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season during the NHRA Springnationals at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas. Langdon went on to qualify for the Countdown to the Championship playoffs for a ninth consecutive year en route to a seventh-place point finish, less than one round of racing behind Clay Millican.

Langdon certainly will benefit from the tuning expertise of a pair of championship-winning crew chiefs. Tommy DeLago and Nicky Boninfante worked last season with Alexis DeJoria, who retired from the Funny Car ranks at season’s end. DeLago tuned Matt Hagan of Don Schumacher Racing to the 2011 Funny Car title. And Boninfante called the shots for former Kalitta Motorsports ace Del Worsham, the 2015 Funny Car world champ.

DeLago already is impressed by Langdon’s commitment to his craft. “He may be new to Funny Car, but he’s not new to driving a Fuel car _ not really new to driving any drag racing car,” said DeLago, a crew member on the team of Funny Car legend Ed “The Ace” McCulloch in 1997-98 at Kalitta Motorsports. “Shawn’s the type of guy who’s ultra-competitive and anything with four wheels he can drive the hell out of.  Right now, it’s just a little acclimation for him to get used to having a body around him. It’s a little bit tighter space in the Funny Car than in the dragster.

“He looks like he’s been driving these things for years already, albeit, he’s like, ‘I’m a little bit behind it and I can do better.’ We thought he’d driven it perfect, but he didn’t think he did. That right there tells me we don’t have anything to worry about. He knows what he wants to do. He’s very critical of himself and holds himself to high standards.  All we have to do is make the car as good as we can for him and he’ll do the rest.  We need to just work on winning rounds and learn to win races as a team and then just let the rest of it come to us.”

Langdon acknowledged he is working with two of the sport’s most accomplished tuners. “If I can minimize my mistakes as a driver and minimize the learning curve, that’s going to be the key to our success,” Langdon said. “It’s part of the reason that I came over here to do this.”

Langdon also figures to benefit from the experience of teammate J.R. Todd, who made the same transition to Funny Car from Top Fuel last year.

“We just bounce ideas off each other,” Todd said. “He will come to me with something and I’ll say, ‘I know exactly what you’re talking about’ because that’s what I went through.  He’s a world champ and he knows it’s just going to take some time to figure this thing out, but he’s already doing a great job in testing. 

“Our goal together is just to help each other out. We want to see each other win and make ourselves better than the opposition. I first met Shawn when he was probably 12 and I was 13 at a Jr. Dragster national championship in Colorado.  It’s cool to see how we’ve progressed through the years to get to this point.”

Langdon said Todd has been instrumental in learning the unique characteristics of a “flopper.”

“He’s helped me get through Steps 1, 2 and 3 of the learning process,” said Langdon, a 35-year-old native of Mira Loma, Calif. “It’s easy to talk to him. We’re buddies on and off the track. We’ve been sharing a lot of information through testing. It’s going to be a good fit for us both.  But at the end of the day, you’ve got to get the seat of the pants deal and that’s where the testing laps come into play.”

Meanwhile, Courtney Force powered to the top of the Funny Car class Friday as preparations continued for the season-opening Winternats. Force, teammate two-time/reigning Funny Car world champ Robert Hight at John Force Racing, drove her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS to a pass of 3.839-seconds at 329.99 mph. Force is seeking to capitalize on the experiences of her career-best seven No. 1 qualifiers from last season.

“This is a new chassis we’re out here running,” said Force, a daughter of 16-time world champ John Force. “This team has been doing an amazing job. We’ve got a couple new guys with Brian Corradi and Dan Hood tuning it. We’ve been taking it slow, but we’re going to see if we can get our car running the same kind of numbers.”

Hagan, another two-time world champion, logged a pass of 3.851-seconds at 330.72 mph in his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T while DSR teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. ran 3.884 at 326.16.

Doug Kalitta, nephew of team-owner and drag racing icon Conrad “Connie” Kalitta, paced the Top Fuel class with a pass of 3.688-seconds at 331.12 mph in his Mac Tools dragster. Kalitta finished the 2017 season third in points. Reigning Top Fuel world champion Brittany Force was second-quick with a pass of 3.699-seconds at 323.35 mph in her Monster Energy dragster.

In Pro Stock, Alex Laughlin drove his Gas Monkey Energy Chevrolet Camaro to a pass of 6.484-seconds at 210.11 mph while teammate and two-time world champ Erica Enders ran a 6.563 at 208.30 in her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Camaro. Reigning world champ Bo Butner of Ken Black Racing ran 6.608 at 208.94 in his Camaro.

Testing will continue Saturday morning at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. Here are Friday’s top times and speeds:

Top Fuel _Doug Kalitta, 3.688-seconds, 331.12 mph; Brittany Force, 3.699, 323.35; Tony Schumacher, 3.718, 332.10; Steve Torrence, 3.718, 331.45; Mike Salinas, 3.731, 319.07; Blake Alexander, 3.755, 284.09; Leah Pritchett, 3.760, 287.35; Antron Brown, 3.921, 239.87; Billy Torrence,3.937, 225.75; Terry McMillen, 4.048, 221.20; Clay Millican, 4.212, 211.39; Richie Crampton,4.236, 192.91; Scott Palmer, 4.636, 156.19; Greg Carillo, 7.946, 85.54; Terry Brian, 8.667, 58.50.

Funny Car _ Courtney Force, 3.839, 329.99; Matt Hagan, 3.851, 330.72; Tommy Johnson Jr., 3.884, 326.16; Ron Capps, 3.893, 328.62; John Force, 3.894, 314.90; Jonnie Lindberg, 3.904, 320.05; Chad Green, 3.904, 313.73; Shawn Langdon, 3.911, 324.05; J.R. Todd, 3.920, 329.34; Robert Hight, 3.949, 290.26; Cruz Pedregon, 3.969, 305.77; Richard Townsend, 4.096, 288.33; Jack Beckman, 4.588, 181.35; Robert Tasca III, 5.353, 136.40.

Pro Stock _ Alex Laughlin, 6.484, 210.11; Erica Enders, 6.563, 208.30; Jeg Coughlin Jr., 6.568, 210.24; Vincent Nobile, 6.570, 209.20; Bo Butner, 6.608, 208.94; Deric Kramer, 6.631, 207.56.


NHRA’s revised 2018 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule with starting times for FOX and FOX Sports 1 and 2’s television broadcasts. (All times ET and subject to change):

Feb. 11 _ Lucas Oil Winternationals, Pomona, Calif. (5 p.m. live on FS1)

Feb. 25 _ NHRA Arizona Nationals, Chandler, Ariz. (6:30 p.m., FS1)

March 18 _Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, Gainesville, Fla. (7 p.m., FS1)

April 8 _ DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals, Las Vegas (6 p.m., FS1)

April 22 _ NHRA SpringNationals, Baytown, Texas (2 p.m., Live on FS1)

April 29 _NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, Concord, N.C. (6 p.m., FS1)

May 6 _NHRA Southern Nationals, Commerce, Ga. (6 p.m., FS1)

May 20 _Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals, Topeka, Kan. (2 p.m., Live on FS1)

June 3 _Route 66 NHRA Nationals, Joliet, Ill. (5:30 p.m., FS1)

June 8 _ NHRA Virginia Nationals, Richmond, Va., (television TBD)

June 17 _NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, Bristol, Tenn. (7:30 p.m., FS1)

June 24 _Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, Norwalk, Ohio (6:30 p.m., FS1)

July 8 _NHRA New England Nationals, Epping, N.H. (1 p.m., Live on FS1)

July 22 _Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, Morrison, Colo. (3 p.m., Live on FOX)

July 29 _Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals, Sonoma, Calif. (4 p.m. Live on FOX)

Aug. 5 _NHRA Northwest Nationals, Kent, Wash. (4 p.m., Live on FOX)

Aug. 19 _Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, Brainerd, Minn. (2 p.m., Live on FS1)

Sept. 3 _Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, Clermont, Ind. (11 a.m. Live on FS1)

Sept. 3 _ Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, Clermont, Ind. (1 p.m., Live on FOX)

NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship

Sept. 16 _ Dodge NHRA Nationals, Reading, Pa. (7:30 p.m., FS1)

Sept. 23 _AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, Madison, Ill. (8:30 p.m., FS1)

Oct. 7 _AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals, Ennis, Texas (12 p.m., Live on FS2)

Oct. 14 _NHRA Carolina Nationals, Concord, N.C. (2 p.m., Live on FS1)

Oct. 28_ NHRA Toyota Nationals, Las Vegas (7:30 p.m., Live on FS1)

Nov. 11 _Auto Club NHRA Nationals, Pomona, Calif. (4 p.m., Live on FS1) of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force. 


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, February 3 2018
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