SONOMA, Calif. — official release — NHRA photo — Shawn Langdon did not have the weekend he wanted at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series’ most recent event last weekend in Denver. But the good news for the reigning Top Fuel world champion is that he won’t have to wait long to bounce back.
Langdon and his Al-Anabi Racing dragster will look to bounce back at the second race of the three-week NHRA Western Swing at this weekend’s 27th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals, July 25-27, at Sonoma Raceway. The good news for Langdon, who lost in the first round last weekend in Denver, is that he enters as the defending champion at the event and it represents one of the most familiar destinations on the NHRA circuit for him.
He grew up racing at the track and turned in a brilliant performance a year ago when he knocked off Morgan Lucas in the final round. Those good memories have Langdon excited to return.
“Some tracks you just feel better going to,” Langdon said. “But once you’re in the car it doesn’t matter where you’re at. I’m automatically in race mode, so it’s more about the excitement leading up to the event. There’s a lot of excitement for me and, of course, you’ll have lots of friends and family there.”
Ron Capps (Funny Car), Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also last year’s winners of the event. It is the 15th of 24 races during the 2014 season and comes at a critical juncture with the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship closing in.
Langdon is also eager to get back on track after his struggles in Denver. With a recent final-round appearance in Norwalk, Langdon feels his team is still closing in on championship form. He trails Doug Kalitta and Antron Brown in the points standings, but knows his team is capable of competing for another championship.
“It was a forgettable weekend (in Denver) but you can’t dwell on it,” Langdon said. “Once we left the track we left everything there. Antron and Doug have been spectacular this year but I feel like I’m still in a good position. When you get to the Countdown anything can happen. We have to continue to prepare the car properly and get it going fast. I gained a lot of confidence last year and I’ve got a great team around me. I’ve learned to attack and be a little more aggressive and I think that will pay off.”
Langdon has also proven to be an impressive driver in pressure situations, summed up by his strong performance in the Countdown to the Championship a year ago. It’s also necessary during an event-filled week like this one leading up to this weekend’s Sonoma Nationals.
“That’s something I pride myself on as a driver, where no matter what, I’m able to block out any distractions and be the same every time in the car,” Langdon said. “It’s all about consistency and doing the same thing every time.”
Along with Kalitta and Brown, Langdon will also face strong challenges from a talented field, including Tony Schumacher, Spencer Massey, reigning Auto Club of Southern California Road the Future Award winner Brittany Force, Richie Crampton, J.R. Todd, who won last weekend in Denver and Steve Torrence.
Still, Langdon is eager to perform at Sonoma, which consistently yields some the quickest and fastest runs on the NHRA circuit. It’s a stark contrast from racing in the high-altitude conditions at Denver but Langdon is excited for the challenge.
“It definitely sounds like the car has a little more pop in Sonoma,” Langdon said. “You notice the difference right at the start of the run and then when you get to halftrack. It’s a great track and somewhere I’m very familiar with so it’s always neat to go back there. It’s a very neat setting and also very fast. It’s definitely one of the top events for me.”