For 51 drivers competing in the four professional classes of NHRA Camping World Drag Racing, it’s playoff time. The top-10 finishers from each class and the drivers who competed at every regular-season event make the cut – Shawn Langdon and his Kalitta Air Careers Toyota team have a chance to turn around a challenging season. The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series resumes this weekend with race one of the six-race Countdown to the Championship NHRA Playoffs, the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals Sept. 15-17 in Reading, Pa.
Like Jim Carey said in the 1994 movie, “Dumb and Dumber,” “so you’re telling me there’s a chance.” While the regular season definitely did not go as planned, the Kalitta Air Careers team now has clean slate… and a chance. Following the points reset after the regular season, Langdon and team trail points leader Justin Ashley by 129 points, but the time for action is now.
“I love this part of the season – every reaction time means more, every run is more important, and a race win, especially this weekend and especially for us, can give you a huge jump in points,” Langdon said. “After all we’ve been through this season, the Countdown resets the points so even though we’re 11th, we’re only 129 points out of first place – that’s a lot, but it’s doable. We have to do our jobs this weekend and take advantage of the opportunity. This weekend isn’t a must-win race, but it’s pretty close. We need to go deep in eliminations to make a move up the ladder to put Kalitta Air, Revchem, Toyota and Future Energy Solutions in position for a run at the title.”
That all sounds great, but challenges don’t just disappear because of a new stage of the season or a points reset. The season-long body of work shows bright spots sprinkled throughout, but this weekend, the team needs multiple bright spots.
“It’s trying to be patient, blocking out the negative and focusing on doing my job,” the 2013 Top Fuel champion added. “I’m going to give 100 percent every time I sit in the car because, at some point, the car will turn around, and I don’t want to be the weak link so I just try to treat it as, ‘I’m going to be ready when the car decides to turn around, and we’ll keep working at it until that happens.’ It’s kind of like I told the guys; ‘we haven’t won a race, we’ve struggled a lot, but all you have to do is win the last six races, and you’re a champion.’ That’s our focus.”