Langdon Wins NHRA U.S. Nationals

JERRY FOSS NHRA/NATIONAL DRAGSTE

Toyota driver Shawn Langdon capped a dominating weekend by defeating Leah Pruett in the Top Fuel finals to win the 66th annual DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway, Sunday.  Langdon’s Kalitta Motorsports teammate J.R. Todd fell just short of matching Langdon in advancing to the final round in Funny Car.

The win is the first for Langdon since returning to the Top Fuel ranks this season and marks his second career U.S. Nationals win after winning in 2013.

After winning the pole position on Saturday, Langdon opened race day up with a win over Joey Haas in round one and then dispatched Cory McClenathan in round two as he registered a pair of 3.72-second passes.  That would set up a wild semifinal showdown with Justin Ashley where both cars were up in smoke almost immediately on the hit. Langdon was able to get back on the gas quicker and went on to win the pedal-fest to advance to the finals against Leah Pruett.

In the final round, Langdon would lay down a .015-second reaction time and never trailed as he ran his best pass of the weekend with a 3.705-second run for the victory.

The remaining three Toyota Top Fuel drivers all advanced to the second round on Sunday. Doug Kalitta advanced with a win over Pat Dakin before falling in round two to Ashley by just two-thousandths of a second (.002) on a holeshot. 

After eliminating T.J. Zizzo in the opening, Antron Brown had a whopping .044 advantage on the tree over Steve Torrence and stretched it out to .047 by 330’, only to haze the tires around half-track, giving Torrence the win. Tony Schumacher defeated Clay Millican in round one, but smoked the tires early against Pruett in round two and shut the car off.

In Funny Car, Todd began his day with his quickest pass of the weekend with a 3.916 in earning the victory over Blake Alexander. In round two, the 2018 Funny Car world champion had an advantage off the line and then went straight down the track to defeat Dale Creasy.  That set up a semifinal matchup with Matt Hagan, where Todd would come from behind to take the lead at the 660’ foot mark and advance to the finals with a 3.946-second pass. In the finals, Todd had an .015 advantage on the tree, but Beckman pulled even at the sixty foot mark, then pulled away to take the win by .037 seconds. 

Rounding out the Toyota Funny Car contingent, Alexis DeJoria had opened up a .057-second lead by the 330-foot mark against Bob Bode, only to go up in smoke by 660’ in a first-round loss. 

The Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will return to action at the Gainesville Dragway for the Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals, September 25-27.

  Toyota Driver Results – NHRA U.S. Nationals Eliminations Round-by-Round

Top Fuel Qual/Fin Rd. 1 Results Rd. 2 Results Semi ResultsFinals Results
Shawn Langdon 1/Winner W- Haas, 3.729-4.032 W McClenathan, 3.723-3.731 W-Ashley,6.920-7.237 W-Pruett, 3.705-5.141
Doug Kalitta  5/Rd 2 W–Dakin, 3.707-3.773 L-Ashley,      3.774-3.755 — —
Antron Brown 7/Rd 2 W–Zizzo, 3.752-3.793 L-S. Torrence, 3.750-4.088 — —
Tony Schumacher 14/Rd 2 W–Millican, 3.770-3.763  L-Pruett,   4.312-9.048 — —
Top Fuel Qual/Fin Rd. 1 Results Rd. 2 Results Semi Results Finals Results
J.R. Todd 8/FInals W–Alexander, 3.916-3.996 W-Creasy,  3.919 -4.003 W-Hagan, 3.946-4.13 L- Beckman, 3.908-3.960
Alexis DeJoria 6/Rd 1 L–Bode, 4.034-4.924 — — —

Notes:

– Today’s win marks Shawn Langdon’s second career U.S. Nationals Top Fuel victory after previously winning in 2013. The triumph is his first in a Top Fuel car since winning at World Wide Technology Raceway outside of St. Louis in 2016. He spent the 2018 and 2019 seasons driving a Funny Car where he became just the 17th driver in history to win in both Nitro classes.

– A Kalitta Motorsports Toyota driver has now won in one of the two Nitro classes at each of the last four U.S. Nationals (Doug Kalitta, 2019 in Top Fuel, J.R. Todd (2017 and 2018 in Funny Car).

– J.R. Todd registered his second consecutive  final round appearance of the season on Sunday. It marks the third time he’s advanced to the semifinals or beyond in four races since the NHRA returned to the track in July. He has now moved into fourth place in the Funny Car point standings.

– Doug Kalitta continues to lead the Top Fuel point standings with a 50-point lead heading into the season’s final five races. The Mac Tools Toyota driver has led the championship after every race this season.

Quotes:

Shawn Langdon, DHL Kalitta Air Toyota Top Fuel Dragster: “A lot of hard work has gone into this team after making some changes the past couple of years with me going to Funny Car and then going back to the dragster. Working with Connie and the DHL Toyota team, those guys are awesome. We’ve had an awesome car all weekend long.  The semis were a little goofy. I had to go change my underwear and then come back for the final. We tested last week in trying to fix some things and in the final, when I hit the gas I knew we had it if we didn’t smoke the tires. I had a little reaction time advantage. I’m just trying to give everything I’ve got. Everything that Connie has given to this sport and everything that everyone at DHL, Kalitta Air, Toyota, Wix, NGK and Mobil 1 does. Thank you to my team.”

“With how much uncertainty there has been this year — where we are racing, if we’re racing, everything is last minute, but this team has really hunkered down. We have a great group of guys here at Kalitta. To win Indy is awesome. It’s kind of one of those things where you say, no matter what, if you win the U.S. Nationals, you’ve had a good year. I think right now we are free rolling for the rest of the year. We gained some valuable points that we needed to make up from the last couple of races. We went out early with some issues in dropping cylinders and we got it fixed and it showed in today’s results. Connie did a great job in tuning the car, along with Kurt (Elliott) and the whole DHL crew.”

On his winning the pedalfest vs. Justin Ashley in the semifinals:
“I noticed when we went to pre-stage that they were wiping something up. I thought it might just be an overflow of the fuel tank. I saw something and they kept mopping it up, but I didn’t see any of my guys panicking. Apparently they were behind me, but I couldn’t see anything. I wasn’t really prepared for it because the car’s been good all weekend, so it caught me off guard. I hit the gas and it struggled. I couldn’t get it to hook back up and I got sideways. A couple of times I thought I was about to wreck, but those are the races why we do this. In hindsight, they said it was leaking some blower lube and they almost made the decision to shut us off on the starting line. Obviously, you don’t want to run in your own oil, but this is Indy and I’m here to win races, so whatever it takes. They made the decision to let me run and we’re in the winner’s circle.

When I hit the gas initially, I saw his car shoot out on me and I was letting my car calm down a little bit because it was still smoking the tires. I was reaching over to grab the brake handle to help slow wheel speed down and then I saw him getting in trouble. At that point was when I started to get back on the gas. It was going for a second and I think it dropped a cylinder and it went back up in smoke. At that time, I was waiting for it to calm down again and I could hear him having trouble as he was still trying to get it to recover. At that point, I’m doing anything I can. I’m trying to be easy on the gas because when you smoke the tires, you have to try to treat the gas pedal like it has an egg underneath it, so I was trying to do it, but it was just having none of it. I was just trying to do what I could to get it to the finish line. Luckily, I was able to manage it someway, somehow. It was an exciting one for sure.”

Where does this win rank for you?

“Definitely toward the top. When Connie hired me in 2017 to drive his car we made a couple of late-round finishes and had a couple of runner-up finishes. So when I went to Funny Car (in 2018), my only regret was I wasn’t able to get a win with Connie Kalitta as my crew chief. Going to Funny Car, I didn’t know if I’d ever get the opportunity to. So when the opportunity presented itself to get back into a dragster, that was one of the reasons. I always looked up to Connie as a kid. I watched him for years and I still look up to him. He’s an awesome team owner and he’s an awesome crew chief. We had a great conversation after Q1 when I almost messed up the run that put us on the pole when I almost double-stepped it. We talked about a lot of things and I took some great advice from him. Then in the semis when I pedaled it there were some things I thought I could have done better and some things that he told me that he’s experienced in the past that he felt could make me better. Those are some things why I love driving for him. I’m very, very happy to get a win with him and winning in Indy makes it all that much sweeter.”

J.R. Todd, DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car: “I am not going to lie that stings to go to the final round at the biggest race of the year and come up short. I am really proud of my guys. Ever since we have come back from the break we have run really strong here at Indy. Ever since I have been in this DHL Toyota Camry it has performed. It goes to show you that Todd Smith, Jon O(berhofer) and the Yella Fellas have a good grasp on this place and keep really good notes. The crew guys are the best. They dig down and work hard and never complain. Todd and Jon are making last second changes up until the last minute. The guys dig deep and get it done.  I didn’t drive all that great today. I was living right until the final round. I am just bummed we didn’t pull it off.” 

Doug Kalitta, Mac Tools Toyota Top Fuel dragster: “We had a good running car today. We weren’t tearing up any parts, so it was something we could really work with. We hate getting beat like we did, but we’re in the hunt for sure and we plan to stay there. One race at a time and one round at a time because they are all really important.  I’m really excited to get to Gainesville. It’s a place I’ve always liked going to, there’s a lot of history there. We should be good.”

Antron Brown, Matco Tools/Global Electronic Toyota Top Fuel dragster: “It wasn’t the U.S. Nationals race day that we wanted. We made three really good consistent runs. We made three of five runs in the mid-3.70s. This Matco Tools/Global Electronic Technology Toyota team is on the mend. We really felt that was our race in the second round against Steve (Torrence). We got too aggressive. The car was trying to run way too fast, like a high .60. We have five races left and we’re going to hit it hard. We have to attack these five. We’ll keep chasing and get ready for Gainesville. We’re close.”

Toyota Drivers             Top FuelPoints (margin) 2020 Wins2020  Win-LossCareer RacesCareer WinsCareer  W-L
1. Doug Kalitta492 (+50)114-551848704-464
6. Shawn Langdon330 (-162)16-526017293-242
7. Antron Brown316 (-176)06-643466 733-368
Funny Car Beckman (517)     
4. J.R. Todd387 (-140)09-622818246-208
8. Alexis DeJoria241 (-276)03-61475101-138

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