Pomona: Shawn Langdon preview

Rookie Langdon hoping to make the grade in Top Fuel POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 3) -- It wasn't long ago that Shawn Langdon hoped for a good report card from his teachers at Sky Country Elementary in nearby Mira Loma, Calif., which would earn him a ...

Rookie Langdon hoping to make the grade in Top Fuel

POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 3) -- It wasn't long ago that Shawn Langdon hoped for a good report card from his teachers at Sky Country Elementary in nearby Mira Loma, Calif., which would earn him a ticket to the NHRA Winternationals. Now the Top Fuel rookie is hoping his professional debut at the same event simply makes the grade.

"My goal this weekend is to not slow the team down," Langdon said. "I really just hope I don't do anything stupid."

That's a pretty modest goal for a racer that's already considered a frontrunner for Auto Club Rookie of the Year honors. But the understated 26-year-old from southern California's diary country knows it's better to let his Lucas Oil/Dixie Choppers dragster do most of the talking for him.

That strategy has worked well for the accomplished drag racer. Although this weekend's 49th annual Kragen O'Reilly NHRA Winternationals marks the start of his professional career, he's certainly no stranger to straight-line competition. In fact, Langdon has won the last two Lucas Oil world championships in Super Comp and has a resume full of victories dating back to his days in the NHRA's Junior Dragster ranks.

"My first drag race ever was right here at Pomona in 1994," Langdon said. "I was 12 years old and me and my kid sister Stephanie came here for a Junior Dragster race. I lost in the first round so they moved me to the consolation bracket and I ended up winning that deal.

"I came back one year later and won the regular race. It's hard to believe I'm back here now in a Top Fuel dragster about to begin my pro career. If I'm not the luckiest guy in the world, I don't know who is. This is just a wild feeling."

Langdon takes over the seat of a car that claimed victory last fall in Dallas. The crew from that race remained mostly intact and is now led by veteran tuner John Stewart.

"This team proved it can win races so I guess you can never rule out that possibility but I really don't have any expectations at this point," Langdon said. "There are so many great drivers and teams in this class and the weather looks a little sketchy so my main thought right now is for us to make sure we get down the track in Round 1. I don't want us to get behind the curve and I sure don't want to make mistakes in the driver's seat.

"There's a lot going through my mind. We made 10, 12 runs in testing but I've probably made 1,000 more since then in my head. I really just want to concentrate on my job and getting more comfortable with the racecar. The rest will come.

"It's a big race for me to start at because I grew up around here. I always have a bunch of friends from home coming up to support me and I know they're fired up to see me make this move. It's going to be a crazy weekend, and one I will always remember. "

-credit: lor

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Series NHRA
Drivers Shawn Langdon