ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. — Shawn Langdon still had three months in the regular season and then the Countdown to the Championship to conquer to claim his first NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championship.
But the reigning Top Fuel champ wasn’t about to discount what his victory at the Toyota NHRA Summernationals meant to his team a year ago. It came as the second of two straight victories for Langdon, who used that momentum to power his 10,000-horsepower Al-Anabi Racing dragster to a world title.
A year later Langdon wouldn’t mind seeing a similar boost from winning this weekend’s 45th annual Toyota NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.
“I’ve always enjoyed racing at the track but I had never seemed to get the results I wanted,” Langdon said. “When we got that victory last year, we really turned the corner as a team. It was an all Al-Anabi final (against teammate Khalid alBalooshi), it was a race sponsored by Toyota and it was at Englishtown. It meant a lot and everything came together after that. That victory really boosted our team.”
Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Michael Ray (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event. It is the ninth of 24 events on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series circuit in 2014.
Following the win at Englishtown in 2013, Langdon was never lower than second in the points standings and stayed in first for most of the remaining season. He won four more times, including the prestigious Chevrolet U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis and also twice during the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
With his first world championship now under his belt, Langdon knows the importance of taking momentum into the key portion of the regular season.
“Once you enter the Countdown you have to have your confidence up,” Langdon said. “It’s hard enough with the way the cars are running in this class, so to win you need to have everything together. Getting back-to-back wins like we did at Topeka and Englishtown really boosted our confidence as a team.”
Langdon, who is currently fourth in Top Fuel points, appears to be nearing a championship groove. Despite qualifying No. 1 at two different events, Langdon has yet to claim his first victory in 2014, though his improvement has been noticeable over the past four races.
He has been to two final rounds in that time, including Sunday at Topeka as his Al-Anabi dragster continues to round into form. After dominant stretches in 2013, the team has worked hard to try and separate itself from a loaded Top Fuel field again in 2014. The changes haven’t always worked, but Langdon seems to think big things are in store in the near future.
“We’ve haven’t won and that’s the downfall right now, but we’re still within striking distance of first place,” Langdon said. “We just have to keep working hard and the results will come. I have so much confidence in this team. They know what it takes to win a championship and I’ll go into this race with full confidence.”