Shawn Langdon, Kalitta Motorsports
DHL Toyota Top Fuel dragster
– After two years in a Funny Car where he became just the 17th driver ever to win in both Funny Car and Top Fuel, Shawn Langdon returned to a Top Fuel dragster in 2020. The 2013 Top Fuel world champion went on to win the prestigious Winternationals and placed sixth in the championship.
– Langdon opens the 2021 season looking for his first Gatornationals title. A victory would give him the NHRA Grand Slam in winning at each of the four biggest races on the schedule – the Winternationals, the Gatornationals, the U.S. Nationals and the NHRA Finals.
– Langdon has 15 career Top Fuel wins and can move into 17th all-time in NHRA Top Fuel wins with his next triumph. He also has two Funny Car wins to his credit.
How has it been to go four and a half months between races?
It’s different. I definitely filled my time working on my bracket cars and working on getting a junior dragster ready for my nephew out in California. I kept busy the whole time and about everything I did was racing related, so even though it may have actually been four months off, in my mind it wasn’t. I’d still be practicing on my practice tree and racing on my iRacing simulator. There’s still a lot of stuff I do seven days a week that’s racing related.
What are your thoughts on the season-opener in Gainesville?
Gainesville is a track that I haven’t won at yet. So, I definitely have a lot of motivation there to do well. This year it’s the season kick-off and I’m looking forward to going there and, hopefully, we can have some success. It’s eluded me for a number of years and I’d like to get that checked off the list.
What would it be like to finish off the Grand Slam of the four biggest NHRA events?
For me, it’s just about winning races. That’s the biggest thing. The Gatornationals is a big race and it’s a track that I haven’t won at. Regardless of where it is, I’d like to win at every track and Gainesville is one of them.
What are your goals for 2021?
I’d like to pick up where we left off last year. We really started running a lot better towards the end of the year. Kurt Elliott and Connie have done a great job of working on the car, tuning it and giving me a chance to win on Sunday and that’s all I need. As long as I have a chance, I feel like I can keep us competitive with reaction times. I know that every one of these crew guys busted their butt all off-season, double and triple-checking everything making sure we are very prepared and ready to go. No matter what happens this year with the pandemic, I feel that we’re ready to run 24 races, test as much as we need to and contend for a championship.
Has your team faced many changes over the off-season?
We have one new guy on our team, but we’ve basically stayed intact. Our new team member is getting a crash course with us, but he came from one of the other teams out here and I don’t have any doubt that he’s going to fit right in here and be up to the task. We have a great DHL Toyota team here with our leader Connie Kalitta, who set a great precedent with the team last year, keeping everyone employed through the pandemic. Never cut anyone’s paycheck and kept everyone employed and really put the team first. He’s been involved in this sport so long. He’s put so much into this sport, but the sport has also given back to him. What he did last year with keeping everyone on staff, he definitely gave back everything and then some back into the sport. I’m just grateful to be working with a great man like Connie.
Earlier you mentioned working with your nephew Caden on his junior dragster, what’s it been like working with him where you started your career?
It’s pretty funny, I look back throughout all the years, and I always say I wish I knew then what I know now in learning things, Along the way, I always had people I could rely on, I think the most gratifying thing in working with Caden is when he comes to me and has questions and I give him my best advice of things I’ve learned throughout the years. He sits there and listens, and you can see it soak in and then he goes out and applies it on the racetrack. Then you see the benefits on the track and he comes back with a smile on his face, happy that he did a good job. He did it and gets all the credit, but just knowing that I contributed a little bit to that is a very different experience.
He was very fortunate, in just his second race in the car he went out won and it was such a gratifying feeling. Standing on the starting line I felt such a different wave of emotions than in winning a race myself. I feel like I’ve been lucky enough to win a lot of races inside the cockpit where I really felt like I built up this type of wall where I really don’t let nerves get to me or worry what other people were doing around me. Standing on the starting line in the final round with my nephew up there, I was so darn nervous I thought I was going to get sick right there. It was such a different feeling that I wasn’t accustomed to, but it was such a great feeling. I didn’t feel like I could get that in the race car. Just to see that win light come on and the smile on his face, I was so happy and proud of him to see what he was able to accomplish in such a short time. Just being there and maybe having a small part of it in giving him some advice that I learned throughout the years was very, very rewarding.
Toyota Racing PR