LANGDON SCORES FIRST TF TITLE; CAPPS, LINE, HINES ALSO WIN IN CHARLOTTE: Shawn Langdon raced to his first career Top Fuel victory last Sunday at the rain-delayed O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries at zMAX Dragway. Ron Capps (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also earned victories in their respective classes after the first of six playoff races in the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship. Langdon defeated Tony Schumacher Sunday with a performance of 3.785 seconds at 326.71 mph in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster, holding off Schumacher, who finished in 3.808 at 322.27 in his U.S. Army dragster. Langdon won from the top qualifying position and beat Chris Karamesines, Bob Vandergriff Jr. and Brandon Bernstein to advance to the final round.
“I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason,” Langdon said. “Eighty-seven races into it, I’ve always kind of wondered, ‘Man, what does it feel like? Why haven’t I won? Is there something I’m doing wrong?’ I had a car capable of winning at times driving for the Lucas family for three years, and I came to this team that Sheikh Khalid [Al Thani, team owner] and Alan Johnson [team manager] built around winning. It gets to the point where it’s the Countdown, and it’s crunch time.”
Schumacher took over the points lead with the runner-up finish after playoff top seed Antron Brown was eliminated in the first round when his Aaron’s/Matco Tools Top Fuel dragster encountered a mechanical issue midway down the track, sending Al-Anabi driver Khalid alBalooshi into the second round. Langdon moved to third in points with the victory, and Brown dropped to fourth overall. For more on this story, visit www.nhra.com.
TEXAS DRIVERS READY FOR A PLAYOFF ‘HOME GAME’ AT TEXAS MOTORPLEX: Spencer Massey and Steve Torrence have a Texas-size love for their home state, where their drag-racing careers began, and they are looking forward to the opportunity of having a playoff “home game” when the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series returns to Texas Motorplex for the 27th annual AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals, September 20–23. Massey, of Fort Worth, and Kilgore’s Torrence, multiple-time winners on the circuit this season, are ready to wow the crowds as they battle it out in their 8,000hp Top Fuel dragsters for an important postseason victory in the second of six playoff races in the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship. Last season, Bob Vandergriff Jr. (Top Fuel), Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Jason Line, (Pro Stock) and Michael Phillips (Pro Stock Motorcycle) celebrated in the Texas Motorplex winner’s circle, clutching their Wallys and wearing their custom-made Stetson hats, provided to all winners by the Motorplex. This season, the NHRA’s biggest stars are prepared to bring plenty of 300-mph action to the Texas track, including the NHRA’s most decorated Top Fuel driver, Tony Schumacher, driver of the U.S. Army dragster and a five-time winner at the Motorplex. He will challenge the Lone Star State’s native sons, Massey and Torrence, for bragging rights and the race victory. Others to watch in the Top Fuel category include Antron Brown and past Motorplex winners Doug Kalitta and Brandon Bernstein, also a native Texan. For more on this story, visit www.nhra.com.
NHRA COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP COMING TO ST. LOUIS: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing gets ready to shake things up at the Gateway Motorsports Parks for the inaugural AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals on the weekend of September 28–30, 2012. The AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals is the third of six races in the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship and will feature all four professional categories: Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle. The race will be televised on ESPN2HD. The event at Gateway is the 20th stop in the NHRA’s 23-event schedule this season.
“We are excited to return to the St. Louis area, as we have a very strong fan base in the region, and they have always supported NHRA Drag Racing,” said Tom Compton, president, NHRA.
The festivities kick off September 27, where the NHRA and Gateway Motorsports Park will host the first-ever Gateway Motorsports Park NHRA Fanfest. This free event will be held on Washington Avenue in downtown St. Louis. Festivities begin at noon with a press conference and run until 7:00 p.m. to celebrate the return of the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series to the Gateway to the West. Gateway is no stranger to high-performance NHRA drag racing. The multipurpose motorsports facility, located just across the river from St. Louis, hosted the NHRA series for 14 years, from 1997 through 2010. Tickets are available for the inaugural AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals. Call 800-884-NHRA (6472) for ticket information, or check online at www.NHRATix.com.
VANDERGRIFF SEEKING MORE SUCCESS AT SITE OF HIS MEMORABLE FIRST VICTORY: The NHRA’s most prolific Top Fuel driver, Tony Schumacher, is known for his famous 2006 final-round championship-winning performance known simply as “The Run.” Another NHRA Top Fuel driver, Bob Vandergriff Jr., winner of last season’s AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals, has also become a fan favorite for “a run,” but one that happened outside of his 8,000hp Top Fuel dragster. After beating Spencer Massey in the final round last season at Texas Motorplex, an overjoyed Vandergriff emerged from his C&J Energy Services dragster and started to run. He kept running, back up the dragstrip, toward the starting line. An ESPN pit reporter finally caught up with him at midtrack for an interview. A bit winded, Vandergriff said he wanted to do something completely different to celebrate his first victory. The Georgia-based driver had been to 13 final rounds without earning a win in his career prior to grabbing his first NHRA Wally on that very hot day in Texas.
“Obviously, it was huge,” Vandergriff said. “We had so many losses in final rounds—and, honestly, we should have won about half of them—that it was becoming comical. The consolation speeches had really begun to wear on me, and like I said after the race, I don't think I could have given another one saying that it was OK because it certainly wasn’t.”
Vandergriff’s post-victory run became an instant sensation with fans. He says he’s not certain if that will become his signature celebration routine. For more on this story, please www.nhra.com.
AAA TEXAS NHRA FALL NATIONALS, Texas Motorplex, September 20–23: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series makes its 19th stop of 23 events in the 2012 season, and the second race of the Countdown. Drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle will earn points towards the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series world championships. The 2011 winners were Bob Vandergriff (Top Fuel), Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Michael Phillips (Pro Stock Motorcycle). For tickets, call 800-668-6775 or log on to TexasMotorplex.com.
AAA INSURANCE NHRA MIDWEST NATIONALS, Gateway Motorsports Park, September 28–30: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series returns to St. Louis and this time it is for round number three of the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship—the NHRA’s playoffs. For tickets, call 800-884-NHRA (6472) or log on to NHRATix.com.
AUTO-PLUS NHRA NATIONALS, Maple Grove Raceway, October 4–7: The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series returns to Pennsylvania for the 21st stop of 23 events in 2012, and the fourth race of the Countdown to the Championship. The 2011 winners included Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle). For tickets, call 800-884-NHRA (6472) or log on to NHRATix.com.
HE SAID, SHE SAID
LANGDON STARTS OFF COUNTDOWN WITH A BANG: Al-Anabi Racing Top Fuel pilot Shawn Langdon couldn’t have asked for a better start to the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Earning his first career win at zMAX Dragway and taking home that Wally for the Fifth annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries was a memorable moment for Langdon. “You couldn't have scripted it any better,” Langdon said. It's a surreal feeling.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
$100,000: TOP PRIZE AWARDED TO WINNER OF THE NHRA TRAXXAS NITRO SHOOTOUT FOR FUNNY CAR: Eight drivers will finally have the opportunity to compete for the coveted prize of $100,000 at the Texas Motorplex during the Inaugural Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Funny Car, September 22. The field has been set and drivers, such as John Force, top seed Ron Capps, Jack Beckman and fan vote winner Courtney Force, will compete for the top prize in the specialty race. For more information about the Traxxas Nitro Shootout, visit www.nhra.com.
DID YOU KNOW…
JEGS NHRA NORTHERN SPORTSNATIONALS HEADS FOR OHIO: For hundreds of racers in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, the Buckeye State will be the place to be this weekend as the eighth annual JEGS NHRA Northern SPORTSnationals unfolds at National Trail Raceway. The second of three annual events designed specifically to showcase the NHRA’s grassroots racers, the JEGS NHRA Northern SPORTSnationals will crown champions in Comp, Super Stock, Stock, Super Comp, Super Gas, Super Street, Top Dragster and Top Sportsman. A Jr. Drag Racing League event will be held on Sunday.
Since its inception in 2005, the Columbus event has become a favorite of racers across the country as it successfully strikes a balance between fierce on-track competition and friendly off-track camaraderie. There will also be a wide variety of bonus features, including traditional class eliminations for drivers in Super Stock and Stock, the JEGS Top Dragster Shootout and the DRAW/Racers For Christ Super Eliminator Shootouts presented by Moser Engineering for the top 16 qualifiers in Super Comp, Super Gas and Super Street. All of the aforementioned programs are scheduled for Saturday.
Last year’s event provided many thrilling moments, including Jason Coan collecting his second SPORTSnationals victory in Comp and Jeremy Duncan winning the Super Stock title against former world champion Anthony Bertozzi. Other champions crowned included Steve Dziorny (Stock), Phil Smida II (Super Comp), Rob Moser (Super Gas), Scotty Rienschield (Super Street), Ricky Adkins (Top Dragster), Curt Fredrich (Top Sportsman) and Kyle Sensabaugh (Jr. Dragster). As one of the final national events of the 2012 season, the JEGS NHRA Northern SPORTSnationals will represent one of the final opportunities for competitors to earn points toward national and divisional championships. Among the contenders expected to compete at this year’s event are Comp leaders Bruno Massel Jr .and Frank Aragona and Super Comp leader Alan Kenny. For more about this story, visit www.nhra.com.