BRISTOL — While 2012 was a career year for Shawn Langdon, it wasn’t up to the standards expected at Al-Anabi Racing.
The 30-year-old California driver raced to a first career Top Fuel victory at Charlotte, claimed five No. 1 qualifying positions and clocked the fastest speed in NHRA history (334.15 mph) at Reading on his way to a fourth-place finish in the points.
Heading into this weekend’s Ford Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway, he’s already bettered the win total with three victories including the last two races at Kansas and Englishtown to grab the Mello Yello points lead.
“Obviously, it feels really good to see the hard work starting to pay off,” he said. “Last year was my first with the Al-Anabi team and I thought it was a good season by my standards. I finished fourth in the points, which was the highest I had finished as a driver.
“But, the team was built around winning races and winning championships. So, they were looking at coming into the 2013 season and improving on that fourth-place finish. We came out pretty strong with a win at Pomona. We had a couple of race stretch where we had a couple of issues we were dealing with the tune-up, but these last couple of races, we feel like we have a good handle on the car and it’s responding to the changes that have been made in the last year and a half.”
Langdon would love to make it three straight wins with a first win at Bristol. He added that momentum plays a huge role in the sport of drag racing.
“Drag racing is streaky like any other sport and when you can get on a roll, when you start winning races, you just build that confidence,” he said. “When you have that confidence in yourself and in your team, nothing can beat that. Going to the next race coming off the two wins, we have a lot of confidence.”
He explained the crew feeds off the wins and it validates what they’re trying to accomplish as a team. It makes them give that extra effort to make sure the car is perfect.
While he envisioned great things in the Al-Anabi car, the former Super Comp national champion said actually doing them is tough.
“In this day and age, there are not two or three cars fighting for the championship,” he said.” You have 16 cars at every race that are well qualified to win it. Every car out there can run a 3.7 or 3.8-something run. You’re seeing the top guys in the points qualifying in the bottom half of the field. But, we’ve been working hard at it and winning three of the nine races is something we’ve been working towards. We’re very fortunate to have three wins this year.”
With it Father’s Day weekend, Langdon remembered some of the times with his dad growing up. His dad was involved in Sportsman racing and bracket racing, and Shawn was soon into it as well. He won the National Jr. Dragster title for the 14-year-old category in 1997.
“That’s where I got started, racing with my dad,” he said. “Racing the junior dragsters, it was a great experience, like going out back and playing catch when a kid’s playing Little League (baseball). It’s the same way for my dad and me.
“He taught me all the basics of drag racing, how to be a good winner, how to be a good loser and building that sportsmanship you need to have as a driver. He taught me how to focus and mentally prepare yourself to be a race car driver.”