EPPING, NH – May 31, 2016 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – Five straight first-round losses wasn’t the ideal way for former Top Fuel world champion Shawn Langdon to start his 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, especially after a victory closed out his 2015 campaign.
That momentum quickly dissipated with the early-season struggles, but Langdon believes his 10,000-horsepower Red Fuel dragster is closing in on a winning combination. It comes at an opportune time, as this weekend’s fourth annual NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway kicks off a stretch of four straight race weekends.
Langdon, in his first full season driving for Don Schumacher Racing, has climbed back into the top 10 in Top Fuel with four round wins over the past three races and feels as good as he has all year. With a busy stretch upcoming, it’s also the time of year that often brings out the best in Langdon, who won the Top Fuel championship in 2013.
“I enjoy the middle part of the year, that busy part of the season,” said Langdon, who is currently ninth in points. “I live for racing and definitely enjoy it. It’s what I look forward to all year. There’s a fine line when you’re racing. You don’t want to do too much and waste a bunch of energy, but as long as you still love it and enjoy it, you want to do it as much as you can. I wake up and look forward to the next race. It’s been my dream since I was a kid and I’m loving every minute of it.”
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event. The race will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live qualifying on Saturday and finals coverage on Sunday. The race is the ninth of 24 events during the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season and Langdon believes his team has fully erased the massive early-season slump.
But to get to that point, Langdon admitted there has been plenty of work going on behind the scenes to keep things from spiraling further.
“You’ve waited all winter long to race and when the start of your season doesn’t go to plan like it did for us, you have to regroup and start all over again,” said Langdon, who has 11 career victories. “That’s what we had to do. We had high expectations after the win in Pomona (at the 2015 season-finale) and a good test in Phoenix. We had a couple issues with the car, not getting it to repeat. We weren’t qualifying well and we didn’t have the car to be able to push it. We had to start back from square one.”
But Langdon and the team, led by crew chiefs Phil Shuler and Todd Okuhara, are coming back to form. Langdon has qualified sixth at two of the past three races, taking the No. 7 spot in Atlanta where he posted a semifinal finish, his best race thus far in 2016. It’s a good sign, considering the time to make major changes will be minimal on the upcoming four-race stretch.
“There’s certain parts of the year where you really need to have your stuff together and this is one of those times,” Langdon said. “The middle part of the year is when you’re accumulating points. You can jump up or fall down really quick. We’re inside the top 10 and we just have to keep that spot. There’s a lot going on and you just have to keep working at it.”
Langdon admits he doesn’t have a car that can dominate at this point, but considering the start everything has come a long way. Getting back in the win column won’t be easy against a loaded field that includes points leader Doug Kalitta, who has won three straight races. Other top contenders include Langdon’s DSR teammates, reigning and two-time world champion Antron Brown and eight-time world champ Tony Schumacher, who has two straight wins in Epping, as well as the likes of two-time 2016 winner Brittany Force, two-time season finalist Steve Torrence, Clay Millican, J.R. Todd, and Gatornationals runner-up Terry McMillen.
But Langdon feels as comfortable as he has since joining the DSR team before the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship a year ago, something he believes will translate to wins soon enough.
“It took me a couple races to get acclimated to everything and get comfortable,” Langdon said. “I could see the potential with the team and I didn’t rally panic after the first few races. I knew it would come around and I wasn’t ever worried about it. Everyone goes through slumps in racing. The key is not letting it affect you mentally.”
That wasn’t a problem for Langdon and now he carries that enthusiasm to New England Dragway, a facility and an event he has always enjoyed.
“It’s a great track and I really think you’re going to see great times,” Langdon said. “The coolest thing about Epping, for me, is the enthusiasm you see from the fans and the appreciation they have. You could tell this race is something they’ve wanted. There are big drag racing fans in the Northeast and I love every minute of it. As a driver, it gets you excited and pumped up and it’s a really enjoyable race.”
In Funny Car, 16-time world champion John Force’s victory at New England Dragway a year ago is his most recent win. His daughter Courtney Force, who won in Houston and is the current points leader, also has a win at the track. Several other pre-race favorites in the star-studded class include two-time season winner Tim Wilkerson, Gatornationals winner Robert Hight, Ron Capps, who opened the season with a win at the Winternationals, defending world champion Del Worsham, Las Vegas event winner Alexis DeJoria, Matt Hagan, who has posted back-to-back wins entering the race, and national record holder Jack Beckman.
Four-time Pro Stock world champion Anderson raced his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro to his third victory of season a year ago. Anderson has opened the 2016 season with three victories and only trails his teammate, two-time world champion and current points leader Jason Line, who has appeared in all eight final rounds and has five wins. Others to watch in the 200-mph factory hot rod category are two-time and defending world champion Erica Enders, Bo Butner, Chris McGaha, 2014 top rookie Drew Skillman, 2012 world champ and 2013 New England winner Allen Johnson, five-time world champion Jeg Coughlin, Vincent Nobile, Shane Gray and Alex Laughlin.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to 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 in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand how the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
The event also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Friday, June 3 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, June 4 at 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 5.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
NHRA NEW ENGLAND NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: Fourth annual NHRA New England Nationals, the ninth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in three categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock – earn points leading to 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. The race also will feature competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series.
WHERE: New England Dragway, Epping, N.H., the track is on Route 101 off Exit 8, an hour north of Boston and just 20 minutes from Manchester and the New Hampshire sea coast. From I-95, take Exit 2 in New Hampshire. Travel west on Route 101 to Exit 8, then turn right. From I-93, take Exit 7 in New Hampshire. Travel east on Route 101 to Exit 8, then turn left, and the track is straight ahead. From I-495, take Exit 51-B to Route 125 north. Travel east on Route 101 to Exit 8, then turn left, and the track is straight ahead.
COURSE: Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 90 feet above sea level. Track direction is southwest to northeast.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, June 3-5
FRIDAY, June 3 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 4:30 and 7 p.m.
SATURDAY, June 4– LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:30 and 4 p.m.
SUNDAY, June 5 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
FRIDAY, June 3, FOX Sports 1 (FS1) will televise one hour of qualifying highlights at Midnight (ET)
SATURDAY, June 4, FS1 will televise one hour of live qualifying coverage at 2:30 p.m. (ET)
SATURDAY, June 4, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying highlights at Midnight (ET)
SUNDAY, June 5, FS1 will televise three hours of finals coverage at 4 p.m. (ET)
2015 EVENT WINNERS: Tony Schumacher, Top Fuel; John Force, Funny Car; Greg Anderson, Pro Stock.
Top Fuel – 3.742 sec. by Tony Schumacher, June ’15; 327.66 mph by Spencer Massey, June ’15.
Funny Car – 3.988 sec. by Robert Hight, June ’14; 323.35 mph Courtney Force, June ’14.
Pro Stock – 6.485 sec. by Shane Gray, June ’14; 214.72 mph by Greg Anderson, June ’15.
Top Fuel – 3.680 sec. by Antron Brown, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.879 sec. by Jack Beckman, March ‘16, Gainesville, Fla.; 331.45 mph by Matt Hagan, Nov. ’15, Pomona, Calif.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.
TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also available online at www.NHRA.com/tickets.
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, CA — Point standings (top 10) following the eighth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series –
1. Doug Kalitta, 710; 2. Antron Brown, 615; 3. Brittany Force, 580; 4. Steve Torrence, 557; 5. (tie) Clay Millican, 440; J.R. Todd, 440; 7. Richie Crampton, 418; 8. Tony Schumacher, 403; 9. Shawn Langdon, 346; 10. Terry McMillen, 310.
1. Courtney Force, 601; 2. Jack Beckman, 589; 3. Tim Wilkerson, 554; 4. Matt Hagan, 511; 5. Robert Hight, 510; 6. Ron Capps, 504; 7. Del Worsham, 485; 8. Alexis DeJoria, 451; 9. John Force, 448; 10. Tommy Johnson Jr., 404.
1. Jason Line, 942; 2. Greg Anderson, 816; 3. Bo Butner, 614; 4. (tie) Allen Johnson, 465; Drew Skillman, 465; 6. Chris McGaha, 427; 7. Vincent Nobile, 346; 8. Erica Enders, 341; 9. Jeg Coughlin, 339; 10. Alex Laughlin, 327.