Fast five with Top Fuel rookie Shawn Langdon Halfway through his first professional campaign, Top Fuel rookie Shawn Langdon is pleased with the progress he's made in his Lucas Oil/Dixie Chopper dragster. As the only true rookie in the 2009 ...
Fast five with Top Fuel rookie Shawn Langdon
Halfway through his first professional campaign, Top Fuel rookie Shawn Langdon is pleased with the progress he's made in his Lucas Oil/Dixie Chopper dragster.
As the only true rookie in the 2009 class, Langdon's brief five months in an 8,000-horsepower hot rod have moved along well and it's clear the two-time Super Comp world champion knows his way down the drag strip. He's already raced to five semifinal finishes, the No. 1 qualifying spot in Las Vegas, and a respectable 13-12 record that has him a solid seventh in the points.
At the midseason break, Langdon took a moment to access his '09 resume.
Q: Nitro veterans say it takes about 50 full passes to mentally catch up with cars capable of 3.8-second passes at 315 mph. You've just passed that mark. Are you in step with your car? Langdon: I definitely feel a lot better than when I started. The first weekend of testing after I was hired, I didn't have a clue. About the only thing I could do back then was figure out where I was on the track. If they said, "take if to 330 feet," I could do that. I've always had pretty good track awareness and I attribute that to the thousands of Super Comp passes I've made.
When I started, I couldn't tell you if I just ran a 3.80 or a 4.10; it was all just lightning fast. At this point, most of the things that can happen during a run have happened to us at least a couple of times. My overall feeling for what the car is doing is there now. I can feel it if Stewie (crew chief John Stewart) has de-tuned it a little. I can feel it start to haze the tires. We've probably let a few rounds get away while I've learned how that stuff feels but there's no way to learn it besides experiencing it live.
Entering the Countdown, nothing should surprise us, but with these cars you're never quite in total control.
Q: How would you grade your performance so far? Langdon: I'd probably give myself a B. For the amount of runs we've had I feel like I'm ahead of where I thought I'd be. I'm really lucky because I have a lot of people helping me. Stewie drove before so he knows what it's like. Morgan (Lucas, car owner and teammate) is always there for me. Plus, guys like Antron Brown and Cory McClenathan have been very cool about sharing their experiences with me.
I've been pleased with my reaction times. I need to get better on these hotter tracks. Mentally, I need to slow myself down and let the car regain traction when it doesnâ^a^Ùt want to hook up. I havenâ^a^Ùt been in a pedalfest on race day yet so we'll see how that goes.
Q: How are you adapting to being a professional race car driver? Langdon: Morgan told me before the season started that everything comes at you really fast and that it's easy to get overwhelmed with the demands on your time. He also reminded me to have fun. Morgan and me used to sit in school together when we were kids and talk about being Top Fuel drivers one day. Now we're living our dream and itâ^a^Ùs important to soak it all in and have fun.
The hardest part for me has been the media attention. I was always the shy kid sitting in the back of the classroom. I just wasn't the type to get up in front of a crowd, but that's part of my job now and the more I talk on camera or speak to large groups of people on stage, the easier it's becoming for me. It's like driving a race car; the more you do it, the easier it is to do.
Q: What do you expect from your team for the second half of the year? Langdon: I think we have a car that can contend for the championship. We've been consistent enough although we probably need to step it up just a bit to stay with guys like Antron Brown, Larry Dixon, and Tony Schumacher. Maybe if we open up that tuning window a little bit and get after it we can make a run at it. Winning the championship is not out of the question by any means. At the same time, I'd be proud with a top-five finish and some wins. Of course, if we win a couple of races we'll be right in the mix any way so we'll just do our best every weekend and see how it turns out.
Q: How would you access the Auto Club Rookie of the Year race? Langdon: It's impossible not to think about it all the time because everyone is talking about it everywhere we go. It would be an awesome thing to win and to put on your resume. You only get one chance to win that award so it's a now or never type deal.
We've got as good a chance as anyone. We're going rounds every weekend and my driving has been pretty good. It's really kind of exciting watching how it's going because there are four really good teams in the mix. Hopefully, we can win some races and make our mark even more than we already have. I hope the best man wins.