Seattle: Shawn Langdon preview

Langdon enjoying races in 'real time' as tour heads to Seattle SEATTLE (July 14) -- As incredible as it sounds, drag racers competing for the first time in a Top Fuel dragster can't even think as fast as their racecar can accelerate. As they...

Langdon enjoying races in 'real time' as tour heads to Seattle

SEATTLE (July 14) -- As incredible as it sounds, drag racers competing for the first time in a Top Fuel dragster can't even think as fast as their racecar can accelerate. As they zoom down the 1,000-foot racetrack in 3.8 seconds at 320 mph, their mind is processing things that happened several hundred feet before their actual position.

Top Fuel rookie Shawn Langdon experienced this phenomenon first hand as he made the jump from the amateur to the professional ranks this year and climbed behind the wheel of the 8,000-horsepower Lucas Oil/Dixie Chopper dragster. Despite his years of experience that include three world championships (one in Junior Dragster and two more in Super Comp), Langdon was awed by the Star Trek-like "warp speed" of the fastest-accelerating manned vehicle in the world.

"It's so fast there's no real way to prepare for it," he said. "It's the question you get the most from fans, 'what does it feel like to drive a Top Fuel dragster,' yet it's one you really can't answer. It doesn't do it justice to say, 'It's fast.' It's way more than that."

Including qualifying and elimination action, Langdon recently passed the magical mark of 50 full passes, a level of experience where most veterans say their minds finally caught up with their racecars.

"I've always had pretty good track awareness," Langdon said. "Even when I was just getting my license, when they said to take the car to the 330-foot cone and shut it off, I could do that no problem. I think the thousands of passes I made as a Sportsman racer helped me out a lot there.

"The thing I had to learn was how everything that can happen to you during a run actually feels and then train myself how to react to it in a fraction of a second. That takes seat time. A dragster goes so fast that you have to run on instincts. If you stop to think about what you need to do to get through a certain situation than you're probably not going to win that race because the other guy will be long gone."

Langdon's training is going very well. He's been solidly ranked in the top 10 all season and appears to be a lock to make the Countdown to 1 playoff come September. His 14-13 race day record is very respectable, especially for the only true rookie in the professional ranks, and he's already earned a reputation as a starting line expert.

"I'm so much more comfortable in the car now," Langdon said. "I'm sure the data and feedback I give the crew chief and the guys after each run is 100 times better than before. I'm pretty pleased with how things have gone this year. Now all we need is a win or two or three and I'll be real happy."

Seattle's Pacific Raceways would be a great place for Langdon to score his first win. After all, he won his first national event trophy at this same event in 2002 when he captured the Super Comp title in his Lucas Oil dragster.

"I've got great memories of that track and it would be so cool to break through for our first win there," Langdon said. "All we need is things to fall our way and it can happen. This car has definitely shown it's capable of winning races."

The good news at this point in his development is that Langdon will realize immediately when he's won.

-credit: mlr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Shawn Langdon