Anybody would have had to have looked really closely to see the frustration in Top Fuel driver Shawn Langdon this season.
He showed huge strides at the second race on the National Hot Rod Association's Full Throttle Drag Racing Series schedule, qualifying No. 1 and appearing poised to match the reputation of the Al-Anabi/Toyota Dragster he was stepping into. It had carried Del Worsham to more than a few dominating performances in his swan song as a driver, a championship farewell.
But after that Phoenix blossoming, the weeds of competition and of learning a new combination (with a car that had a pretty doggone effective one before) crept in. They appeared to have impeded Langdon's growth. But he trusted in team manager Alan Johnson. And his patience and trust are paying off.
The young driver, in his first year of tutoring from champion-molder Johnson and the guidance from quiet mechanical miracle-maker Brian Husen, remained optimistic. Week after respectable-but-ultimately-frustrating week, Langdon expressed his faith in Johnson and crew chief Husen and the team that certainly hadn't forgotten how to send a driver off the starting line in winning style.
Maybe they saved their best for when it really counts -- or at least timed it to look that way.
Langdon raised eyebrows for knocking off the undeniably hot Spencer Massey at Indianapolis as No. 1 qualifier with the fourth-quickest pass in 1,000-foot Top Fuel history.
Then Friday, in the second session, Langdon ambushed another Don Schumacher racing driver -- early leader Tony Schumacher -- to take the tentative No. 1 spot for the O'Reilly Auto Parts Nationals at Concord, N.C.
He blasted to a 3.807-second, 324.12-mph run on the 1,000-foot course at zMAX Dragway, leaving provisional No. 2 Massey in his wake at 3.811, 322.73 and No. 3 Schumacher at 3.817, 326.95.
But it was Doug Kalitta, who's No. 4 overnight, who stole some of the limelight Friday. Kalitta was fastest with a 326.95-mph speed.
Still, Langdon has the time to beat in two qualifying sessions Saturday as the Countdown to the Championship is under way with the first of six pressure-packed and calendar-loaded races.
Making a bid for his second straight No. 1 qualifying position and third of the season, Langdon said, "I guess right now would be the perfect time to peak.
"We've been making a lot of changes to the car, and it's been responding very well," he said. "The track got a little tricky. We saw a bunch of cars smoke the tires in front of us on the last run. I saw Alan [Johnson] and Brian [Husen] -- they got really hard at work for a second there, messing with a couple of things to make last-minute adjustments. They did a good job and it held.
"Hopefully it will stick No. 1 tomorrow. Tomorrow might be a little bit better. There's a possibility we could improve on that a little bit," Langdon said, "but hopefully it'll stick."
He said he'll be grabbing every available point the can on every day of every race.
"Every point will matter in the end," Langdon said after missing out on tallying points in the first session but leaping from 12th to first in the evening opportunity. "If you can pick up a couple of little bonus points, you make up a round or touring the Countdown."
Langdon said he knows if he simply performs in the top tier, such matters will resiolve themselves.
"It just kind of coincides with making fast runs and getting high up in qualifying position and getting more points on that. The bonus points will fall into that," he said. "The main thing is keeping the car fast and keeping it aggressive but also keeping it consistent, too."
Langdon called it "an honor to drive for this team" but conceded that the wait for the tune-up to come around, naturally, has been frustrating for a young gun who wants to win races and a championship. "We have high expectations. The competition level has been so tough.. [The team leaders] come and say, 'Hey, we're trying some new things. Bear with it. I have 100-percent faith in this team. I wouldn’t want to trade seats with anybody else out there. So when they say, 'We're working on stuff. Bear with us and we'll get it figured out,' I got 100-percent trust in them.
"We hardly let anything from this year discourage us. The crew guys, they have high hopes for the Countdown. Me, as a driver, I'm definitely counting us in for the championship," the No. 7 seeded driver said.
Maybe Langdon's accomplishment Friday is a result of positive karma, too. Last week he participated back in Brownsburg, Ind., where Alana Johnson Racing is headquartered, in the Hendricks County Community Foundation's eighth annual Habit of the Heart fundraiser. The charity helps local women and children in emergency need, providing more than $130,000 in grants for needs that include eyeglasses, hearing aids, dental work, clothing, and other essential items.
Langdon participated in "Monte Carlo Night," a celebrity dealer competition with WIBC Radio host and former Indianapolis Colts player Joe Staysniak to determine who could raise the most money in 30 minutes. Al-Anabi executive chef Dustin Gagna offered a gourmet dinner for the auction that raised $6,000 for Habit of the Heart.
All articles and photography published in CompetitionPlus.com are protected by United States of America and International copyright laws unless mentioned otherwise. The content on this website is intended for the private use of the reader and may not be published or reposted in any form without the prior written consent of CompetitionPlus.com.
|< Prev||Next >|