Shawn Langdon started the Countdown to the Championship NHRA Playoffs knowing he had a chance to win a second NHRA Top Fuel Championship after a difficult season thanks to the Countdown to the Championship NHRA Playoffs points reset. After the opening playoff race at Maple Grove Raceway in Pennsylvania, the 2013 champion has even more reason to be optimistic. The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series resumes this weekend at the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals in Concord, N.C., the second of six races that make up the Countdown to the Championship NHRA Playoffs.
Langdon and his Kalitta Air Careers team advanced to the second round of eliminations before losing to his teammate, Doug Kalitta, but despite the second-round loss, the Kalitta Air Careers Toyota team made six strong runs in qualifying and the first two rounds of eliminations without hurting parts along the way. All six of those runs came with elapsed times within .046 seconds – that’s consistency this team had not enjoyed this season.
“After what our Kalitta Air Careers team did in Reading last weekend, I have a confident feeling I haven’t felt in a long time,” Langdon said. “I feel good; I feel good about having a good car and knowing we have a shot to win the race. My mindset is different because I feel like we have a chance. Before, we were just making laps. We were just a part of the show, but when you feel like you have a chance, it gives you a different mentality and a different spark. I feel good about our team. The guys have done a great job so as much as we’ve struggled this year, it would mean everything to have a car that starts winning some races in the Countdown.”
And that’s exactly what Langdon, who has one Top Fuel win in three zMAX Dragway final rounds, and his team have to do to move up in the standings and perhaps get into the championship conversation. He trails points leader Steve Torrence by 141 points with five races remaining. That’s a lot of ground to make up, but a lot can change in five races.
“All we have to do is win the last five, and we have the championship,” Langdon added. “It’s the same thing as it was coming into Reading. Do your job, and win your races. Everything else will fall into place. I do look at the points, but you can’t really control anything if you have a car that’s not capable of contending. Now I feel like we have a shot. We’re less than 150 points out of the lead, but it’s the same mentality. Win the last five, and it’ll be what it’ll be.”