The six-time NHRA Top Fuel champions cite a lack of funding for the reason behind the decision.
Say “see ya” to NHRA Top Fuel 2013 champions Alan Johnson Racing (AJR) and driver Shawn Langdon, who are shuttering operations due to lack of funding. They have decided to temporarily suspend operations at this time.
We are extremely disappointed to make this decision, but at this point it is our best option
Since the beginning of the season, AJR, has stated a need for funding. Left bereft when Al-Anabi Racing and the Qatar Racing Club pulled their sponsorship (despite re-upping in 2014) just two weeks before the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season opener at Pomona in mid-February, AJR raced the NHRA Top Fuel “regular” season through the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway outside Indianapolis on Labor Day weekend.
During this 18-race hegira, the team has been supported by celebrity chef Guy Fieri’s Knuckle Sandwich brand and by Toyota Motor Sales, who have been partners with team owner Alan Johnson since 2001.
It hasn’t been the best season for AJR in 2015. Even so, Langdon held sixth place points entering the six-contest Countdown to the Championship run that begins this weekend with the NHRA Carolina Nationals on the zMax Dragway strip in Charlotte, helped by the team’s victory at that first race of the year.
Since that time, though, Langdon has exited in the first round seven times. Compare that to 2014, when the team had a total of five first-round losses. In their most recent 2013 championship year, Langdon failed to continue past the first round only four times. At Brainerd, the race that preceded the U.S. Nationals, Langdon did score the Top Fuel class’ fastest elapsed time down the 1,000-foot drag strip of 3.662 seconds; he and the team were unable to back up that time so it doesn’t count as a 20-point record.
That seems to have been the operative difficulty for the Alan Johnson Racing team throughout the first 18 races of the NHRA season - it’s had a pile of near-misses, mostly due to the inability to test their race-day combination as so many of their competitors have been able to do. Still, the past three events have yielded a runner-up result and two semifinal appearances.
Alan Johnson speaks
“We are extremely disappointed to make this decision,” said Alan Johnson, whose AJR team has won NHRA Top Fuel titles in 1997, 1998, 2000, 2010, 2011 and 2013, “but at this point it is our best option. The AJR marketing staff has worked diligently throughout the year securing funding to complete the 2015 season; unfortunately we have come up a bit short.
“The process of securing funding is still ongoing,” Johnson continued, “but our focus has shifted to the 2016 season. This break will result in some of our crew members moving on to other opportunities, and we wish them all the best. Lastly, I want to thank our loyal fans for their encouragement and support throughout this difficult year. We have every intention of returning to NHRA drag racing in 2016; I’ll keep you posted.”
Alan Johnson Racing’s headquarters are in Brownsburg, Ind., where most of their competitors are located. Johnson is personally responsible for a total of 11 NHRA Top Fuel titles with five different drivers: Gary Scelzi, Tony Schmacher, Larry Dixon, Del Worsham and Langdon.