Shawn Langdon made the first win of his return to Top Fuel a big one, winning the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals and stopping Leah Pruett from claiming her first win of the season as well.
Langdon, who won Top Fuel at Indy in 2013 and Super Gas at The Big Go in 2010, survived a wild, tire-smoking semifinal with Justin Ashley and had the right combination in the final to blast to a 3.705 after Pruett’s car lost traction at about 300 feet.
“There’s been a lot of hard work that has gone into this team,” Langdon said. “We’ve had an awesome car the entire weekend and it’s just a great team. How much work they put into this, it’s really impressive. This is an awesome deal, and when I hit the gas I knew we had it as long as we didn’t smoke the tires.
"With how much uncertainty there has been this year -- where we are racing, if we’re racing, everything is last minute, but this team has really hunkered down. We have a great group of guys here at Kalitta. To win Indy is awesome. It’s kind of one of those things where you say, no matter what, if you win the U.S. Nationals, you’ve had a good year. I think right now we are free rolling for the rest of the year. We gained some valuable points that we needed to make up from the last couple of races. We went out early with some issues in dropping cylinders and we got it fixed and it showed in today's results. Connie did a great job in tuning the car, along with Kurt (Elliott) and the whole DHL crew."
Langdon returned to the Top Fuel class after spending 2018 and '19 in Funny Car, and reached the final round from the No. 1 position after leading the qualified field from his opening Friday lap of 3.728. Tuners Connie Kalitta and Kurt Elliott almost duplicated that qualifying number in round one with a 3.729 to defeat rookie Joey Haas and a 3.723 in round two to trailer two-time Indy champ Cory McClenathan.
The DHL team’s string of great runs went up in smoke in the semifinals against Saturday’s Summernationals winner, Ashley. Fortunately for Langdon, Ashley’s Strutmasters.com dragster also was instantly up in smoke. Both drivers pedaled a half-dozen times trying to get their mounts hooked back up to the track, and Langdon’s experience won out as he crossed first, 6.92 to 7.23. Ashley had almost perfectly anticipated the green and got an .001 reaction time against Langdon’s otherwise killer .039 light.
It was Langdon's first TOp Fuel win since the 2016 event in St. Louis and the 24th of his career, 14 of which have come in Top Fuel.
Pruett’s team completed a major comeback from a shaky qualifying effort in which the SRT Hellcat Redeye special was not qualified until the third and final session, but tuner Todd Okuhara showed from round one that he had the combination dialed in. Pruett’s red rocket opened with low e.t. of eliminations, a 3.703, to defeat 2018 Indy winner Terry McMillen, and dodged a bullet in round two against teammate Tony Schumacher when their car began to haze the tires at half-track; fortunately for them, Schumacher’s Okuma/Sandvik railed and begun to drop cylinders and Pruett got the win with a 4.31.
Pruett, who won the U.S. Nationals SAMTech.edu NHRA Factory Stock Showdown in 2018, got the chance for her first Indy Top Fuel crown by defeating reigning world champ Steve Torrence in the semifinals, beating the 10-time Indy winner on a 3.743 to 3.724 holeshot.