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Langdon, New Crew Chief Brian Husen Start First Season Together

When 2013 NHRA Top Fuel champion Shawn Langdon eases the Kalitta Air Careers dragster to the starting line for his first qualifying attempt of the 2024 season, he’ll do so with a new crew chief, a revamped race team and a car that’s similar to the one his teammate drives. The 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing season begins with the Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals set for historic Gainesville Raceway March 8-10, 2024, in Gainesville, Fla.

Brian Husen joins Langdon’s team as crew chief for the first time in his career, and it’s a reunion of sorts from when the two worked together at Alan Johnson Racing, where Langdon won the 2013 NHRA Top Fuel championship. Husen comes to the Kalitta Air Careers Toyota team following two seasons as Crew Chief Alan Johnson’s assistant on Doug Kalitta’s Mac Tools team that won the 2023 NHRA Top Fuel title. The changes to his team have Langdon energized, to say the least, entering the new season.

“I’m definitely looking forward to this new year,” Langdon said. “We had a couple really trying years so going into this year and bringing in a couple new guys and having Brian Husen lead the way on our Kalitta Air Careers team changes everything. I’m really excited for Brian to have the opportunity to get his shot at being crew chief. He’s very, very talented, and I’ve had a lot of respect for him since I worked with him at Alan Johnson Racing 10 years ago. I’m just really excited for him to get the opportunity to show what he can do.”

“I love Shawn,” Husen said. “He’s a racer – he loves what he does. He’s just easy to get along with; he’s interested in how the car’s set up and what to expect. I couldn’t ask for a better situation; there’s a lot of great drivers out there, but I have a relationship with Shawn. We’re friends – it’s gonna be fun to race together and win together.”

“Brian just has the racer mindset; he’s as good as it gets,” Langdon added. “Working under AJ (Alan Johnson) for so many years, he learned from the best. One of the things I’ve missed from the Alan Johnson Racing days was working with AJ and Brian on race day strategy – who we’re running, what lane we’re in, what they’re trying to run and looking at who our opponent is. ‘Do we have an advantage with the car or do we feel like we need to rely on what I can do on the starting line a little bit? Are we in a bad lane, and they tell me they need me? Or do they tell me we have a great race car – don’t screw it up?’ I really enjoy the mental challenge of race-day strategy, and I’m really looking forward to getting back to that.”

The Mira Loma, Calif., native won’t have to wait long. In addition to his first race with Husen this weekend, he’s the No. 7 seed in the Pep Boys All-Star Callout, a special event for which drivers qualify based on their qualifying positions during the previous season.

During the event news conference on Saturday, March 9, opening pairings will be determined when the four higher-seeded drivers “call out” their opponents. As the seventh seed, Langdon won’t pick his opponent – he’ll be one of the four drivers who is called out. After the first round during Saturday’s first qualifying round, the driver with the lowest elapsed time of the four remaining drivers will “call out” his semifinal opponent with the semifinals contested during Saturday’s final qualifying round. The two remaining drivers will race for the title and its $80,000 prize in a special pairing late Saturday afternoon.

With a new crew chief and a revamped race team sporting a Kalitta Air Careers dragster set up just like Kalitta’s Mac Tools entry, it will be Langdon’s job to capitalize on his opportunity. The pressure’s on. 

“That’s how I want it,” Langdon added. “I love racing with pressure; I thrive off of it; I embrace it. I love the feeling of pulling to the starting line in those kind of ‘do or die’ situations – ‘it comes down to this one run; this is it, and it’s up to you. We’re giving you the best race car; now it’s your job to get it done.’ I really thrive off that. Mentally, I feel like I really prepare myself for those situations so I’m looking forward to potentially having those opportunities again.”

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This story was originally published on March 7, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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