CONCORD, N.C. — Former NHRA Top Fuel champion Shawn Langdon walked into the media center at zMAX Dragway on Friday looking like a new man.
It was understandable, too, considering he changed teams over the offseason.
Langdon’s move from Don Schumacher Racing over to Kalitta Motorsports — one that came together so late, he actually missed the first four races of the season — was arguably the most high-profile driver change of the winter, as well as one of the most unexpected.
After all, the 2013 titlist was coming off a season in which he won three times for DSR and placed fifth in the Countdown standings, looking poised to contend for a second championship.
Then the sponsorship dried up, and Langdon was left searching.
“It was tough, because I went to the first two races … and to be out there watching (instead of in the cockpit) was hard,” Langdon said in advance of qualifying for the Four-Wide Nationals on Friday. “I was trying to go out there and be a team player, be involved in the team, when I was with Don … but it’s tough to be a spectator after being out there and racing for so long.”
In order to continue with DSR for 2017, Langdon would have had to bring additional funding to the organization, a position he had never had to be in when driving for Morgan Lucas Racing and Al-Anabi Racing in the past.
“At the end of last year, being in a situation (with Don) where I needed to go out and find sponsorship for the team … that was something I’d never had to do since I’ve been driving in the Top Fuel class. When I was with Morgan, they had a funded team that was together … and the same thing with Alan (Johnson) and Don.”
“Being in that new situation really opened my eyes that there are things in the sport that are bigger than just getting in the car and stepping on the gas. There’s a whole other side of the sport that I had never been exposed to. But everything’s a learning process for me. I don’t look back on it and regret anything that happened. I was able to learn things about marketing while I was working in the front office at DSR that really helped me, I feel, going forward.”
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