Reading: Shawn Langdon preview

Playoff spot clinched, Langdon relaxed and ready to race READING, Pa. (Aug. 17) -- Rookie Top Fuel driver Shawn Langdon enters this weekend's 25th annual Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals in high spirits. After being hired by team owner/driver Morgan ...

Playoff spot clinched, Langdon relaxed and ready to race

READING, Pa. (Aug. 17) -- Rookie Top Fuel driver Shawn Langdon enters this weekend's 25th annual Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals in high spirits. After being hired by team owner/driver Morgan Lucas as the second driver of his two-car race team, Langdon immediately set a goal to race his way into the playoffs. Mission accomplished.

An upset victory over Doug Kalitta in the first round of Sunday's race in Brainerd, Minn., combined with losses by the drivers immediately behind him in the standings, including Kalitta himself, clinched a playoff berth for Langdon, providing a big measure of relief for the Lucas Oil/Dixie Chopper team.

"Last year, both team cars missed the playoffs altogether so the first thing we knew we had to do this season was get into the Countdown to 1," Langdon said. "You have to be in the playoffs to even have a chance at the championship. Both Morgan and I got it done in Brainerd and it's quite a feeling of accomplishment. Now we can start concentrating on making a charge over those final six races because when the points reset after Indy, it's anyone's game."

The reigning back-to-back world champion in Super Comp, Langdon planned his move to the professional ranks for a long time, and Lucas has been there for him from the start. Aside from gaining sponsorship from Lucas Oil, the company owned by Lucas' family, Lucas gave Langdon numerous chances to drive his Top Alcohol Dragster, a 275-mph hot rod that is basically the baby brother to Langdon's current ride -- the 320-mph Lucas Oil/Dixie Chopper Top Fuel dragster.

In fact, it was at the Reading race in 2007 when Langdon had one of his better outings in the Lucas Oil Top Alcohol Dragster, reaching the final four in the class before losing by .024 seconds to veteran John Finke.

"That was probably my favorite moment from Maple Grove Raceway," Langdon said. "It was a race where I really felt comfortable in Morgan's car and I was just able to go out there and get after it.

"It's weird because I'm entering this race with that same feeling, only this time I'm driving the Top Fuel car. We're 16 races into my rookie season now and I've reached a point where I really feel good behind the wheel. I know what the car is doing and I feel like I'm doing a good job driving. I'm relaxed and ready to win every round."

And with the first wave of pressure about making the playoff field alleviated, Langdon says the final two regular season stops are the perfect time to ramp up for a run at the title and perhaps the Rookie of the Year award, for which he is a top contender.

"The guys have given me a great car every week," Langdon said. "We've had our chances and we'll have more before the year is over. It would be awesome to get a few wins and make a charge at the Full Throttle Champiomnship. Maybe when it's all said and done we'll look back at Reading as the place where it all started."

-credit: mlr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Kalitta , Morgan Lucas , Shawn Langdon