Al-Anabi driver happy to see Sonoma on the schedule.
Shawn Langdon did not have the weekend he wanted at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series’ most recent event last weekend in Denver. But the good news for the reigning Top Fuel world champion is that he won’t have to wait long to bounce back.
Langdon (in photo) and his Al-Anabi Racing dragster will look to bounce back at the second race of the three-week NHRA Western Swing at this weekend’s 27th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals, July 25-27, at Sonoma Raceway. The good news for Langdon, who lost in the first round last weekend in Denver, is that he enters as the defending champion at the event and it represents one of the most familiar destinations on the NHRA circuit for him.
He grew up racing at the track and turned in a brilliant performance a year ago when he knocked off Morgan Lucas in the final round. Those good memories have Langdon excited to return.
“Some tracks you just feel better going to,” Langdon said. “But once you’re in the car it doesn’t matter where you’re at. I’m automatically in race mode, so it’s more about the excitement leading up to the event. There’s a lot of excitement for me and, of course, you’ll have lots of friends and family there.”
Ron Capps (Funny Car), Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also last year’s winners of the event that will once again be televised nationally on ESPN2. It is the 15th of 24 races during the 2014 season and comes at a critical juncture with the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship closing in.
Langdon is also eager to get back on track after his struggles in Denver. With a recent final-round appearance in Norwalk, Langdon feels his team is still closing in on championship form. He trails Doug Kalitta and Antron Brown in the points standings, but knows his team is capable of competing for another championship.
“It was a forgettable weekend (in Denver) but you can’t dwell on it,” Langdon said. “Once we left the track we left everything there. Antron and Doug have been spectacular this year but I feel like I’m still in a good position. When you get to the Countdown anything can happen. We have to continue to prepare the car properly and get it going fast. I gained a lot of confidence last year and I’ve got a great team around me. I’ve learned to attack and be a little more aggressive and I think that will pay off.”
Langdon responds well to pressure
Langdon has also proven to be an impressive driver in pressure situations, summed up by his strong performance in the Countdown to the Championship a year ago. It’s also necessary during an event-filled week like this one leading up to this weekend’s Sonoma Nationals.
“That’s something I pride myself on as a driver, where no matter what, I’m able to block out any distractions and be the same every time in the car,” Langdon said. “It’s all about consistency and doing the same thing every time.”
Along with Kalitta and Brown, Langdon will also face strong challenges from a talented field, including Tony Schumacher, Spencer Massey, reigning Auto Club of Southern California Road the Future Award winner Brittany Force, Richie Crampton, J.R. Todd, who won last weekend in Denver and Steve Torrence.
Still, Langdon is eager to perform at Sonoma, which consistently yields some the quickest and fastest runs on the NHRA circuit. It’s a stark contrast from racing in the high-altitude conditions at Denver but Langdon is excited for the challenge.
“It definitely sounds like the car has a little more pop in Sonoma,” Langdon said. “You notice the difference right at the start of the run and then when you get to halftrack. It’s a great track and somewhere I’m very familiar with so it’s always neat to go back there. It’s a very neat setting and also very fast. It’s definitely one of the top events for me.”
Capps, Force should be tough at Sonoma
Funny Car driver Capps, has four career victories in Sonoma and earned his first win of the year at New England Dragway. 16-time Funny Car world champ John Force has the most wins of any driver at Sonoma Raceway with seven career victories. To earn his eighth victory in wine country he will have to get past stars like Cruz Pedregon, who has two wins at the Northern California track, two-time Sonoma winner Tim Wilkerson, points leader Robert Hight, who won last weekend in Denver, and Courtney Force.
Vincent Nobile won for the first time in Sonoma a year ago, but will face stiff challenges in his bid to repeat. That will come from the likes of Jeg Coughlin Jr., Allen Johnson, who won the most recent event, Jason Line, Dave Connolly, points leader Erica Enders-Stevens, who won the most recent race in Norwalk, Shane Gray, Chris McGaha, Jonathan Gray and Greg Anderson, who missed the first five races of the season following off-season and is making a charge to qualify for the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hector Arana Jr. is the defending champion and is coming off a recent win in Chicago. Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson teammates Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec have both won in Wine Country before and currently lead the Pro Stock Motorcycle point standings. Angie Smith claimed the first Wally of her career after defeating her husband and reigning world champion Matt Smith in New England and the Smith pair will be among several riders to watch in the two-wheel category.
Sonoma Raceway will also host the MiraMonte Records Pro Bike Battle, a specialty bonus event in Pro Stock Motorcycle. The event will take place on Saturday, July 26 and feature eight riders vying for the top prize.
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 the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.