Much like Al-Anabi/Toyota Dragster drivers and champions Del Worsham and Larry Dixon before him, Shawn Langdon has an even-keel personality. He has fewer years in the seat of a Top Fuel car than Dixon and fewer victories than they do. In fact, Langdon has none so far.
But that Wally trophy count could change soon, if Langdon continues to maintain his pace as the National Hot Rod Association championship run kicks into a higher gear Sunday.
On the strength of his 3.807-second, 324.12-mph effort during Friday night qualifying for on zMAX Dragway's 1,000-foot course, Langdon will lead the field for the O'Reilly Auto Parts Nationals at Concord, N.C.
But Langdon said he's feeling no extra pressure, either as the top qualifier or successor to reigning but retired champion Worsham -- or even because he has yet to make his first trip to the winners circle.
"As a driver, there's always pressure to do good. This team is built around winning. We haven't won this year, but I think we're heading in the right direction," Langdon said. "It's a good way to start the Countdown, qualifying No. 1, especially at the last two races. As long as we keep our heads on right, I don't think the pressure will get to us."
He said the team was gathering data for use in this race and ones like it with hot ambient and track temperatures slicker, more problematic conditions. Both he and Al-Anabi teammate Khalid al Balooshi gave their crews some valuable numbers Saturday.
"The biggest thing we were working on today was getting the car acclimated to the hot-weather tune-up with the hotter track," Langdon said. "It obviously made a pretty decent run Friday night, when the track conditions were a little better. But the conditions today will be a lot like tomorrow, I think.
"We got a little bit of work to do tomorrow, but fortunately we made a good run Friday night and Balooshi made two good runs today. So there's a lot of information that we'll be able to use for tomorrow," he said.
Al Balooshi, the Top Fuel rookie who drives the twin Al-Anabi/Toyota Dragster and will start sixth Sunday, picked up five bonus points Saturday. He and Morgan Lucas, who earned all of his qualifying bonus points in the GEICO/Lucas Oil Dragster Saturday, led the field with five points. U.S. Army Dragster driver Tony Schumacher, the No. 3 qualifier, followed with four points.
Langdon qualified for the Countdown last season but said, 'This year I have a little bit better race car. I have a good team behind me. They do an excellent job. Last year it was one of those things that we were shooting for a top-five deal, but witht his team I don’t think we're shooting for a top-five. I think we're shooting to go straight to the championship. That's our one and only goal."
He even shrugged and answered a casual "Sure. Why not?" when someone suggested that he shave his beard when he finally gets that first victory of his young pro career. "It's taken me only three months to grow it. If I win, who knows what will happen?"
Who knows what could happen against the 80-something-year-old Chris Karamesines in the opening round Sunday?
"They actually have a good race car," Langdon said of the No. 16-qualified part-time team. "Even thought hey qualified 16th, I don't think it shows how good that car can actually run. They can put up good numbers. They'll keep us honest. That's definitely for sure. So we've got to make a good run tomorrow, starting with the first round. It's very cool to race guys when I was a kid I came out to the track watching. I was standing on the other side of the ropes, getting his autograph. So it's pretty neat to be able to run guys like that."
Other first-round match-ups are Spencer Massey vs. Terry McMillen, Bob Vandergriff vs. Steve Torrence, Doug Kalitta vs. Clay Millican, Brandon Bernstein vs. Cory McClenathan, al Balooshi vs. Antron Brown, Schumacher vs. Grubnic, Lucas vs. Larry Dixon.
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