FORMER TOP FUEL WORLD CHAMPION SHAWN LANGDON STILL HAS HIGH HOPES HEADING TO NHRA KEYSTONE NATIONALS
MOHNTON, Pa. – The 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season has not been a conventional one for Shawn Langdon by any means.
But even as his resolve has been tested on multiple occasions, the 2013 Top Fuel world champion continues to push forward during the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. Now sitting in 10th place in the Top Fuel standings, Langdon will try to get his playoff run jump-started driving the 10,000-horsepower Sandvik Coromant/Red Fuel dragster at this weekend’s 31st annual NHRA Keystone Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.
“The goal is to compete for a championship and I won’t give up on that until the door is completely closed,” Langdon said. “At this point it’s starting to become a little bit of a longshot, but you look at how tight it is and I’m only a round and a half out of third place. We’ve got a great car and since we tested at Indy, we’ve made six good runs down the track. We have a car that can compete.”
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Rodger Brogdon (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will once again be televised on ESPN2.
The lucrative event is the third of six playoff races in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, putting it at a key spot in the world title hunt.
For Langdon, it’s an attempt to make one last push at finishing his season in style. He sits 194 points behind points leader Antron Brown, who has won back-to-back events to open the Countdown. While catching him may be difficult, Langdon is just 35 points out of third, meaning there is still plenty of time to put together a strong 2015 campaign in what has certainly been Langdon’s most trying year as a professional.
Langdon and Alan Johnson Racing’s main sponsor pulled their funding just before the 2015 season started, leaving the team scrambling and searching for partners at the last minute. The team made due impressively, winning in Pomona to open the season and qualifying for the Countdown, but Alan Johnson Racing had to withdraw from the Countdown due to a lack of primary sponsorship. Johnson and Don Schumacher Racing negotiated a deal to allow Langdon to compete in the Countdown in DSR’s Sandvik Coromant/Red Fuel dragster, giving Langdon a chance to run for the championship. It has made for a wild year, but one that Langdon has worked through in impressive fashion.
“I really try to race the same no matter what and I pride myself on not letting any outside distractions affect me,” Langdon said. “It’s been a little tough this year but it’s all driven me to want to get better. It’s almost like you have to prove yourself all over again. But I try to find the positive in it and it’s been a big learning experience.”
Langdon and the team struggled in the Countdown opener in Charlotte, falling in the first round, but a test session in Indy has led to immediate benefits. Langdon, who is still under contract with Alan Johnson Racing, put together numerous solid passes last weekend in St. Louis, advancing to the second round before a close loss to Brown.
“It’s definitely been a unique situation this year but I feel comfortable and it’s just nice to get in the car,” Langdon said. “I feel good inside the car and (crew chiefs) Phil (Shuler), Todd (Okuhara) and the crew have done everything they can to accommodate me and any changes there’s been. They’ve all done a very, very good job and DSR is great, classy organization.”
Langdon, who has 10 career wins, also shrugs off any talk of an adjustment period racing in a different dragster, in part because of his long and successful career as a bracket racer.
“Coming up, I did a lot of bracket racing and you hop in a bunch of different cars doing that,” Langdon said. “Having that background really helped me. That’s just my roots and I didn’t really think about it. I feel comfortable in the car and the team has provided me with all the right tools.”
But getting wins is what Langdon is after and he knows he will have to perform at a high level at notoriously fast Maple Grove Raceway. Brown has been red-hot with two wins in the Countdown, opening up a 77-point lead over defending event winner and reigning world champion Tony Schumacher. Other Countdown standouts include Larry Dixon, Brittany Force, J.R. Todd, Doug Kalitta, Richie Crampton, Dave Connolly and Steve Torrence.
“This race is definitely important but they all are and you have to attack each race the same way,” Langdon said. “I just have to do my job and hopefully get a little luck. You definitely have to get a couple wins in the Countdown if you want to win a championship. Right now, any track with a little cloud cover, it’s killer out there. The track is good in Reading and if it’s nice and cool, it showed a couple years ago what it’s made of.”
Del Worsham opened up a 90-point lead over reigning Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan by knocking off the two-time champ in St. Louis to earn back-to-back Countdown wins. Worsham will look to keep up his hot streak at Maple Grove Raceway, but trying to track him down are a host of championship-caliber drivers, including Tommy Johnson Jr., Jack Beckman, who has six wins in 2015, 16-time world champion John Force, Ron Capps, teammate Alexis DeJoria, Cruz Pedregon, Tim Wilkerson and Robert Hight.
Erica Enders has the largest points lead in any class, extending her Pro Stock points lead to 113 after a runner-up finish in St. Louis and a victory in Charlotte. The reigning world champion will look to get a step closer to a second world title in Reading, but will have to deal with the likes of four-time world champion Greg Anderson, who sits in second, Allen Johnson, rookie Drew Skillman, who picked up his first career Pro Stock win last weekend, Larry Morgan, Chris McGaha, Vincent Nobile, Jason Line, Shane Gray and Jonathan Gray.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, reigning world champion Andrew Hines will look for his second win in the Countdown at Maple Grove after his earlier playoff win in Charlotte. Hector Arana Jr. moved to second in points with his win in St. Louis, while regular season points leader Eddie Krawiec now sits in third. Others to watch include Jerry Savoie, who is three points behind Krawiec in fourth, Matt Smith, Hector Arana, two-time season winner Karen Stoffer, Jim Underdahl, Chip Ellis and Scotty Pollacheck.
Drivers in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series will also race hard in their quest to become winners of the thrilling event during the weekend.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, Oct. 2, with sessions at 1:15 and 4:15 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, Oct. 3, at 11:15 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 4.