The 2013 racing scene kicks into high gear over the upcoming President's Day weekend with the first event of the season on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing which holds its final eliminations on Feb. 17. Here's a preview of next weekend's action
Courtesy: NHRA Media Relations
POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 8, 2013) — With the start of the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season just one week away, drivers and crews are anxious to get back to the race track. For Top Fuel driver Shawn Langdon, it’s the first opportunity for him and his Al-Anabi Racing team to build on their successful 2012 season. It’s also an opportunity for the Southern California native who now lives near Indianapolis to come back home and visit with family and friends.
Langdon hopes to start the season off on a high note when the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series rolls into Auto Club Raceway at Pomona for the 53rd annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals presented by Super Start Batteries, Feb. 14-17, the first of 24 events. Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) are the defending winners of the season-opener, which will be televised on ESPN2HD.
“I love racing at Pomona,” Langdon said. “As a kid growing up in Mira Loma, I got to go watch the Top Fuel drivers because when I got good grades in school, my Dad would take me to the races as a reward. I got to see the drivers and get their autographs, and it was a special part of my life. Now, I get that “home” feeling every time I fly into the Ontario airport and drive to the race track. I lived there for 25 years, and it’ll always be a special place for me. It’s always great to see friends and family when we race at Pomona, and everyone’s really excited to go out there and watch us so hopefully we can get the season started with a win. Putting that Al-Anabi car into the winner’s circle at the first race of the season would be the perfect way to start the year, and it would be great to enjoy it with my family. They were my supporters from day one, so it would be special to win a race with them watching.”
The 2012 season was a breakout year for the Al-Anabi Racing driver, claiming his first career victory in September at Charlotte to start the Countdown to the Championship playoffs. He also earned five No. 1 qualifying positions throughout the year as well as led all drivers in reaction time average and first-leave percentage.
“I look at everything that happened last year as a positive,” Langdon said. “It was a big transition for me to move over to Team Al-Anabi and race for Sheikh Khalid and Alan Johnson after having been with the Lucas family for so long. It felt like I was going out on my own a little bit, but it was a big opportunity, and it was a big year.”
After a slow start to the 2012 season which included a disappointing five first round losses in the first half of the year, Langdon’s first career victory came at a much needed time and his effort that weekend at zMAX Dragway was solid, from being the No. 1 qualifier to taking the victory in a powerful final round effort over seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher. That performance alone gives him reason to smile heading into this season.
“Winning the first race of the Countdown really built my confidence as a driver,” Langdon said. “Just being in the Countdown brings you a different mentality as a driver – everything is on the line. There is no room to make mistakes. You have to be the best every single time you get up there, and you don’t want to let your team down, especially after how hard they worked throughout the year.”
Though his final race of 2012 at Pomona had an early ending, Langdon finished fourth in the final points standings, but looking ahead to 2013, the willpower of the team and their eagerness to improve on last year’s performance is what keeps them pushing forward.
“We had high expectations last year,” Langdon said. “We wanted to win the championship and every race we went to. But we got our first victory out of the way, finished fourth, and that’s nothing to hang your head about. Last year is only feeding our hunger for this next year.”
Other drivers to watch in Top Fuel include defending world champ Antron Brown, U.S. Army driver Schumacher, defending event winner Massey, Doug Kalitta, Morgan Lucas, Steve Torrence, Auto Club NHRA Finals winner Brandon Bernstein and rookie of the year candidate Brittany Force.
In Funny Car, defending race winner John Force will try to claim his seventh title at the tradition-rich event, while his daughter Courtney will be looking to continue her momentum from last year in the Traxxas Ford Mustang. Defending world champ Jack Beckman, Ron Capps, Finals winner Cruz Pedregon, Robert Hight, Tim Wilkerson, Matt Hagan and Alexis DeJoria all will be in the mix to win the Funny Car title at Pomona.
In Pro Stock, defending world champ Allen Johnson will try to pick up where he left off last season at the controls of his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger. His new teammate, Jeg Coughlin, who was runner-up here one year ago, is looking to end his winless skid, while the Summit Racing duo of defending champ Anderson and his teammate Jason Line will be among the Mopar team's toughest challengers. Vincent Nobile, V. Gaines, Mike Edwards and Shane Gray are also ones to watch in the 200 mph factory hot rod category.
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 motorsports attraction on the planet. While visiting the pits, interactive NHRA Nitro Alley and the NHRA Manufacturers Midway, fans will also want to check out NHRA’s popular Hot Rod Junction presented by the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum that offers a spectacular display of many nostalgic dragsters, race cars and hot rods on display.
Fans also will want to take advantage of the popular Championship Sunday Track Walk, which is free to all Sunday ticket holders. This popular event gives fans the opportunity to walk down the legendary drag strip alongside some of the NHRA’s biggest stars.
Also, on Thursday at the track, fans will have the rare opportunity to attend a special Nitro Pit Party and Press Conference to kick-off the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season in the pro pits prior to the first qualifying session of the season. Many of the top stars in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will be featured during the Press Conference, which starts at 11 a.m., including Antron Brown, Courtney Force, Tony Schumacher, Brittany Force, Jack Beckman, Ron Capps, Allen Johnson, John Force and Del Worsham.
As NHRA continues its Nitro Generation celebration, NHRA is offering free general admission for children 12 and under with a paying adult. Tickets are available online at www.NHRATIX.com or by calling the NHRA Ticket Sales Center at 800-884-NHRA (6472).
• SCHEDULE: Mello Yello Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 15 and continue at noon and 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 16. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 17.
• TICKETS: Tickets are available online at www.NHRATIX.com or by calling the NHRA Ticket Sales Center at 800-884-NHRA (6472).
• TELEVISION: ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 10 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, Feb. 16 and on Sunday, Feb. 17, ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage at 8 p.m. (ET).
• 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.