Shawn Langdon claimed his first Top Fuel win at the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoff opener in 2012 and has continued to run well ever since. They say it’s hard to win that first race, but in NHRA competition the ones that follow often prove to be just as tough. However, going back to familiar territory may be the inspiration Langdon needs in order to get back to winner’s circle.
Courtesy: NHRA Media Relations
CONCORD, N.C. – The adrenaline rush of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series returns to the ‘Bellagio’ of drag strips, zMAX Dragway, for the fourth annual Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals Fueled by Full Throttle, April 19-21. The event is the fifth stop on the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series circuit. One driver who is eager to get back to zMAX Dragway – the site of his first career victory – is Al-Anabi Racing’s Shawn Langdon.
Langdon claimed his first Top Fuel win at the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoff opener in 2012 and has continued to run well ever since. They say it’s hard to win that first race, but in NHRA competition the ones that follow often prove to be just as tough. However, going back to familiar territory may be the inspiration Langdon needs in order to get back to winner’s circle.
“I think it’s going to be great to go back to Charlotte for the first time since I got my first win there last fall,” Langdon said. “Going back to a place where you recently won is always good. It’s a confidence-builder because you’re going back to a track where you know you can make good, strong runs. The Al-Anabi team had good success at zMAX (Dragway) before I was driving for the team, so I think we go back to Charlotte this weekend with great expectations. It will be a little bit different racing Four-Wide this weekend, but basically we know the same rules apply. We just need to make good, strong, consistent runs just like we did last fall; if we take care of our business, the rest will take care of itself.”
The Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals is the only event on the 24-race schedule featuring side by side racing in a four lane configuration, a break from the traditional two-lane competition and a must-see experience for fans. All four lanes will be used at the same time for racing in all four Mello Yello Series categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – during qualifying sessions Friday and Saturday and final eliminations on Sunday. The race will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD. The defending winners of the event are Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock).
The 30-year-old Top Fuel pilot started off 2013 on a high note when he brought home the Wally at the season-opening Winternationals in Pomona, Calif. Since then, Langdon has posted two uncharacteristic first round losses and one quarterfinal exit. He hopes to get back on the winning track in Charlotte.
“Right now, our Al-Anabi car is as good as it’s been since I started with the team last year,” Langdon said. “We’ve made some really, really strong runs in it, but we still need to get the car a little more consistent. When we won the races at Pomona this year and Charlotte last year, the silver Al-Anabi car was consistent, and that’s what you need to win races. It’s just going to take a little more time because we are still fine tuning a couple of things. So we still have some homework to do, but we are definitely in a better position than we were this time last year.”
This trip to North Carolina won’t be all about racing for many of the drivers in the Mello Yello Series. Leading up to race weekend, Landgon and several of his fellow pros will take on the boys of NASCAR in a charity softball game at CMC-NorthEast Stadium, home of the Kannapolis Intimidators (Wednesday, April 17, 7 p.m.). Langdon hopes his previous baseball experience will help lead the team to victory.
“I played baseball all the way through high school,” Langdon said. “After that when I was still living in California, I played softball two nights a week, and I love it. I’m really excited about this game; I can’t wait. We actually got our team together in Las Vegas and had a practice a couple of weeks ago, and it was nice to get together, play and throw the ball around a little bit.”
The drivers of NHRA will be playing for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta while the NASCAR drivers will be playing for The Armed Forces Foundation.
“A lot of the drivers were really excited when (NHRA hosted) a softball game a few years ago, and I’m really glad it’s back,” Langdon said. “We are all very competitive, and we like to be able to get out and play sports for a good cause. It’s a great opportunity for all of us to get away from the track and have a little fun. I think it’ll be a fun little game, and I hope we can make this an annual event because it’s fun for everyone.”
Langdon and his Al-Anabi team will face tough competitors in the Top Fuel class as he goes for his second consecutive victory at the Bellagio of Dragstrips which includes defending event winner Massey, points leader Tony Schumacher, defending world champion Antron Brown, Morgan Lucas, Brandon Bernstein, Doug Kalitta and many more.
In Funny Car, sophomore sensation Courtney Force continues to wow race fans with one win under her belt in two final round appearances thus far in 2013. She enters the event as the series points leader and her very tough competition at zMAX Dragway includes her father, 15-time world champ John Force, NAPA Auto Parts Dodge driver Ron Capps, defending world champion “Fast Jack” Beckman, Las Vegas winner Cruz Pedregon, veteran driver Del Worsham, and strong running independent racer Tim Wilkerson, among others.
Pro Stock is full of talented drivers looking to score big at the Four-Wide Nationals, which includes defending event winner Anderson, last year’s world champion Allen Johnson, Pro Stock’s most successful female driver Erica Enders-Stevens, outstanding top qualifier Mike Edwards in his I Am Second Chevy Camaro, Jason Line, Vincent Nobile, V Gaines and Shane Gray.
Pro Stock Motorcycle returns to the Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals after a two-year hiatus. Lucas Oil Racing Buell rider Hector Arana Jr. started off the Mello Yello Series season with a win at the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla. He will square off with some tough riders if he hopes to get win No. 2 which includes father, Hector Sr., Rookie of the Year candidate Adam Arana, three-time champs Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec on their Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidsons, Michael Ray, Shawn Gann, husband-and-wife duo Matt and Angie Smith, Scotty Pollacheck and past zMAX winner Steve Johnson.
Children 13 and younger will receive free general admission tickets with a paid adult. As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as every ticket is an exclusive pit pass, allowing them firsthand to see the highly skilled mechanics service their race machines between rounds. While visiting the pits, interactive NHRA Nitro Alley and the NHRA Manufacturers Midway are two popular areas fans won’t want to miss.
• SCHEDULE: Mello Yello Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. on Friday, April 19 and continue on Saturday, April 20 at 12:15 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations begin at noon on Sunday, April 21.
• TICKETS: Tickets are available for the Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals Fueled by Full Throttle online at www.zmaxdragway.com or by calling zMAX Dragway at (800) 455-FANS (3267).
• TELEVISION: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 5 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, April 20 and three hours of eliminations coverage at 7 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, April 21.
• ON THE WEB: Get instant results, access to photos, video and audio clips, and the latest news updates from every NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event on the Internet at www.NHRA.com.