READING, Pa. — Top Fuel driver Shawn Langdon and Funny Car’s John Force both extended their point leads and edged closer to world championship titles by racing to victories on Sunday at the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.
Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners at the fourth of six playoff races in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.
Langdon powered his Al-Anabi Racing dragster to a run of 3.779 seconds at 323.81 mph to beat defending world champion Antron Brown in the final round and close in on his first career world championship. Langdon earned his class-best sixth win of the season and seventh of his career by topping Brown and his Matco Tools dragster, which went 3.806 at 322.04 in Brown’s second straight final round appearance.
“We have a good grasp on things, but there’s two races left and anything can happen,” Langdon said. “The competition level is so tough right now so you can’t take anything for granted.”
Langdon, who qualified No. 2 and won for the first time at Maple Grove Raceway, beat Leah Pruett in an entertaining peddle-fest, Bob Vandergriff and Doug Kalitta to reach the final round and extend his Top Fuel lead to 83 points over Kalitta with two races remaining. Langdon went 3.794 at 324.67 to beat Kalitta’s 3.827 at 324.90 in a thrilling side-by-side semifinal matchup. Spencer Massey trails Langdon by 86 points in third.
“We had a little bit of luck and you need that on Sundays,” Langdon said, referencing his first round win against Pruett. “Going into the semifinals, that was a huge pressure situation. As a driver, I’m just trying to calm myself down. This Al-Anabi team knows how to win championships and I’m just trying to do the best I can. My mentality is just don’t mess anything up.”
In Funny Car, Force claimed his second straight win and extended the points lead he gained in Saturday qualifying by beating rookie Chad Head in the final round, going 4.106 at 313.37 in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang.