Shawn Langdon has a championship resume, strong backing from a championship team in Kalitta Motorsports and a talented crew working with him. But when the former Top Fuel world champion was still searching for his first career Funny Car victory, the team needed a jolt only a NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series win could provide.
That much-anticipated victory at Charlotte came in Langdon’s 30th career start in Funny Car, providing the type of spark only a win can provide. With that added confidence, Langdon is now ready to take advantage of the next opportunity to celebrate in the winner’s circle in his 10,000-horsepower Global Electronic Technology Toyota Camry, and the 15-time event winner will get that chance at this weekend’s second annual Virginia NHRA Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park.
“It gives everybody involved with the team a little bit of a boost,” Langdon said. “Winning is a cure-all. We had a lot of learning curves last year and, this year, it seemed like we were right there. We would look at all the information and we knew we were close. We knew we had a car and a team capable of getting a win, but when it doesn’t happen, it reaches a certain point where you’ve got to do something. Everything just kind of fell into place at Charlotte and it was pretty exciting.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Courtney Force (Funny Car), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of a race that will be televised on Fox Sports 1 (FS1) in 2019, including final eliminations coverage starting at 5 p.m. on Sunday, May 19. It is the eighth of 24 races during the 2019 NHRA season and Langdon and his team, led by crew chiefs Nick Boninfante and Del Worsham, appear to be hitting their stride in the class.
Langdon, who won the 2013 Top Fuel world title, likes where he sits heading into Virginia, in part because of the environment this weekend should provide. He was a major fan of NHRA’s return to the first-rate facility, noting the top-notch racing surface and a rabid fanbase that came out in force a year ago. Langdon, who is ninth in points, expects much of the same this weekend, which has him motivated to continue his strong performances.
“It’s one of the parts of the country where you walk in the gates and the fans are so appreciative you showed up,” Langdon said. “The fans are constantly telling you ’Thank you,’ and that goes a long way. Everybody is having so much fun and it just reminds you this is what I love to do. The racing surface is arguably the smoothest on tour and they’ve done a great job with that facility. I’m glad it’s back on the schedule and it’s definitely a race I’m looking forward to.”Of course, Langdon also feels that way thanks to the triumph in Charlotte. But he believes the team had been building to it for quite a while, and he also knows the journey is nowhere near complete in a loaded Funny Car class. He sits just inside the top 10, something Langdon hopes to change over the course of the next several weeks, but he’ll have to top the likes of points leader Robert Hight, teammate and defending world champ J.R. Todd and Atlanta winner Ron Capps to do it. Still, Langdon goes back to the rediscovered confidence he has found and believes it will pay off.
“I’ve always liked the progression of the team,” Langdon said. “It’s always been a team with a lot of talent and I like that. You could see in the future that it was going to be good, you just have to come together as a team. After that win, you see a little pep in everyone’s step. It was kind of like, ‘We got that out of our way, now let’s go get our second.’ It would be awesome to win (in Virginia).”
The Top Fuel category will be filled with tough competition including reigning champion and points leader Steve Torrence, 2017 world champ Brittany Force, Antron Brown and Clay Millican.
After a six-week break, the thrilling Pro Stock class returns in Virginia. Everyone is chasing points leader Bo Butner, who already has three wins in 2019, while others to watch include Phoenix winner Jeg Coughlin Jr., Greg Anderson, Jason Line, Erica Enders and Alex Laughlin.
Looking for their first victory in Richmond in Pro Stock Motorcycle are a number of talented competitors, including defending world champ Matt Smith and points leader Andrew Hines. The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service makes the fifth of 12 stops in 2019 at Virginia Motorsports Park. Defending world champion Mike Janis is the also defending Pro Mod winner at the race. The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers. Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
NHRA fans can take part in the Mello Yello Walking Tour to see the cars and teams hard at work in the pits. Fans can also attend Nitro School to learn more about how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds. Virginia Motorsports Park will host a Mello Yello autograph session and allow fans to meet their favorite drivers as well as the Cruising with Castello Sealmaster Track Walk hosted by NHRA announcer Joe Castello.
A can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes. NHRA fans are invited to congratulate the winners of the event as they celebrate their NHRA Virginia Nationals victories.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 1:45 and 5:00 p.m. on Friday, May 17, and the final two rounds of qualifying at 12:45 and 3:45 p.m. on Saturday, May 18. Final eliminations are scheduled for 12 p.m. on Sunday, May 19. To purchase general admission or reserved seats, call 800-884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also are available online at www.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. All students can save 50 percent on general admission at the gate with a student ID. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate. For more info about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
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