Nine Toyota-sponsored drivers will take to the track this weekend at Pomona, including five past NHRA Nitro champions.
Reigning champ Shawn Langdon and Khalid alBalooshi return for Al-Anabi Racing. Antron Brown, the 2012 titlist, will again campaign for Don Schumacher Racing and rookie Richie Crampton will run for Morgan Lucas Racing in a four-car Toyota Top Fuel contingent.
The Toyota Camry Funny Car line-up includes three past Nitro champions in two-time Funny Car titlists and brothers Cruz and Tony Pedregon, as well as 2011 Top Fuel champion Del Worsham. Worsham will team with Alex DeJoria at Kalitta Motorsports. In addition, Chad Head is expected to run his first full season after impressing in a partial schedule last year.
LANGDON SET TO DEFEND TITLE – Shawn Langdon will look to start the 2014 season just where he left off in 2013 – in the Pomona winner’s circle. He opened and closed last season by winning at Pomona – just 20 miles away from where he grew up in Mira Loma. The wins at his “home” track, were part of a brilliant season that saw the Al-Anabi Racing Toyota driver lead the series in victories (seven), number one qualifiers (seven) and win-loss record in elimination rounds (54-17, .760%). In addition, Langdon also was victorious in some of the other biggest events on the schedule, including the U.S. Nationals, the Toyota Summernationals and the Traxxas Shootout. The championship was the third in four years for Al-Anabi Racing and the fourth straight for a Toyota Top Fuel driver. Langdon’s not sitting on his laurels either, registering the fastest pass of the NHRA January test in West Palm Beach, Fla., with a 3.726.
Shawn Langdon: “We're going to approach 2014 the same way that we have the last two years. We're just very excited to get back out there and get running again. We feel very confident; the whole Al-Anabi team has done a lot of homework in the off-season. We had a successful test session. I don't think there are going to be too many things that we want to change. We just kind of want to stay in the same attack mode as we have the last two years. In 2012 season we struggled a little bit throughout the year, but we also gained a lot of information that we were able to use this last year with winning the championship. So we're hoping to just further that along for the 2014 season. We're just very excited to get back out there and get racing at Pomona.”
BROWN LOOKS FOR SECOND CHAMPIONSHIP - Antron Brown is looking to re-claim the Top Fuel world championship he won in 2012 and based on the NHRA test in West Palm, he clearly looks to be a leading contender. Brown made four passes of 3.770 or quicker, including a 3.735 second run on Saturday – good for fastest of the day and second-quick overall of the two-day test. The long-time Toyota driver placed second overall last season – the fifth consecutive season he’s placed in the top-five. Antron Brown: "Our Matco Tools team feels great; we had a great test session at PBIR. We got a lot accomplished. I'm very proud of our whole team. We're definitely on point right now. We're real excited to go to Pomona. We're ready to get the 2014 NHRA season kicked off. This team is ready to contend."
TOYOTA DRIVERS LOOK TO CONTINUE STRONG RUN AT POMONA – Toyota Top Fuel drivers will look to continue a strong recent run at Pomona that has seen them win eight of the last nine events run at the famed track in a stretch that dates back to the final race of 2009. Antron Brown began the hot streak by winning the 2009 finale. Larry Dixon followed by winning the 2010 Winternationals with Brown winning that season’s finale in Pomona. In 2011, Morgan Lucas captured the Winternationals title while Del Worsham clinched his Top Fuel title at the NHRA Finals. It was Brandon Bernstein’s turn in 2012, as he won a thriller in the season finale. Last season, it was Shawn Langdon dominating in winning both the season-opening Winternationals and the Finals at Pomona in November.
CRAMPTON SET FOR TOP FUEL DEBUT – Richie Crampton will make his Top Fuel debut with Morgan Lucas Racing at Pomona after having been a member of the team since its inception in 2007. He raced go-karts in Australia before moving to drag racing at the age of 16. He also worked on Top Fuel teams with Cowin Racing and Don Schumacher Racing before joining MLR. Although new to the cockpit of a Top Fuel car, Crampton impressed at the West Palm test in reeling off a 3.800-second run at 323.90 mph.
Rich Crampton: "We had the luxury of making 24 runs while we were down testing in West Palm. That helped me get acclimated to driving in all types of scenarios. It was a learning curve for everybody, and certainly no one was learning more than I was on every pass. I'm making so many runs in my head. I want everything to become second nature. I want to work on creating better reaction times. I'm figuring out how to block out all the other stuff and focus in on what I need to do to be better on the tree. I don't want to hold up this team in any way. I really can't wait for Pomona."
HOME SWEET HOME - The NHRA Mello Yello Series’ return to Pomona is a homecoming for five Toyota-sponsored drivers. Cruz and Tony Pedregon (Torrance), Shawn Langdon (Mira Loma), Del Worsham (Whittier) and Alexis DeJoria (Venice) all were raised in Southern California. The Southland also is home base to Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A.’s headquarters in Torrance.