Shawn Langdon raced to his first career Top Fuel victory 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 the hard-charging 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] that was built around winning. It gets to the point where it’s the Countdown, and it’s crunch time. You couldn’t have scripted it any better. It’s a surreal feeling.”
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.
In Funny Car, Capps raced his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger to his fourth victory of the season, defeating Mike Neff’s Castrol GTX Ford Mustang in the final. Capps sped to a winning run of 4.067 at 315.49 and increased his points lead as he heads into the second round of the six-race Countdown.
“We were pretty pumped up,” said Capps, who beat Jim Head, Cruz Pedregon, and Matt Hagan in early rounds. “It just happens so fast, but what a race car. The car gives me confidence, but I learned a long time ago not to get overconfident. I was still a nervous wreck before the first round. I don’t take anything for granted. Mike Neff is a guy who can throw down at any time. He ran the table and won the race in Indy, and, lo and behold, we were able to gut it out without lane choice in the second round in the semi's.”
In Pro Stock, Line claimed his second win of the season in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro with a final-round performance of 7.518 at 200.20, outrunning series points leader Allen Johnson in the final round. Johnson’s Team Mopar Dodge Avenger made quick move toward the centerline off the starting line, and he shut it off. Line defeated Frank Gugliotta, Larry Morgan, and Warren Johnson in the first three rounds.
“Winning this race is a big way for us to start the Countdown, but it doesn’t mean a whole lot unless you can keep going,” Line said. “To get any kind of lead at all is a good thing. Right now, the top six cars are all so good that whoever lets the clutch out first is usually going to win. That’s a lot to ask from anybody.”
Hines scored his fifth win of the season and 30th in his career in Pro Stock Motorcycle, beating teammate Eddie Krawiec to the finish line with a time of 6.862 seconds at 194.49 mph on his Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson.
“We just tried to stay calm,” said Hines, who had a bye run and then beat Shawn Gann and Hector Arana Sr. to advance to his 51st career final round. “We just had to keep our focus all day long, and we were on a mission when we came here, to defend our regular season win streak of 10 in a row, and we needed to come out here and see if we could do that. Luckily, everything all in the end panned out for us, and it’s just a great feeling to start off the Countdown this way.”
Krawiec continues to lead the Countdown to the Championship points by 10 over Hines.
The NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship continues Sept. 20-23 with the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex near Dallas.
Leah Pruett raced to her first victory of the season Sunday in the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by ProCare Rx portion of the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries.
Pruett also claimed her second victory in three final-round appearances at zMAX Dragway, as well as her third career victory by outrunning Mike Knowles in the final round. With the victory she moves to fourth in the points standings.
“It feels phenomenal,” Pruett said. “To think that the three times I’ve been here in this car, I’ve reached the finals all three times and won twice. At the beginning of this race, I had a good feeling about getting to the final round and back in the winner’s circle.”
Pruett, who qualified ninth in her ProCare Rx Ford Mustang, raced to early round-wins over team owner Roger Burgess, top qualifier Don Walsh, and Kevin McCurdy. In the final, she powered her Mustang to a winning performance of 5.936 seconds at 246.44 while Knowles shut off his ’68 Camaro near midtrack.
“That final round was one of the edgiest passes I’ve had in this car in a long time,” Pruett said. “If it would have been anything but a final round, there would have been a little bit of lifting going on. It was pretty gnarly. All I knew was that I didn’t see him, which means I was in front of him. All that meant I had to keep going. That would have been the worst feeling in the world to see someone go flying by you.”
Mike Castellana advanced to the semifinals and maintained his series points lead over second-place Rickie Smith, who lost in the first round.
The penultimate race in the 10-event NHRA Pro Mod Series presented by ProCare Rx will be held Sept. 28-30 with the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis.