Defending NHRA Top Fuel champ Shawn Langdon ready to pick up where he left off in 2013

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If anyone has a home track advantage at this weekend’s National Hot Rod Association season-opening Circle K Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway, it’s defending Top Fuel champ Shawn Langdon.

Langdon began and ended his run for the 2013 championship with season-opening and season-ending event wins at the Pomona, Calif., track, just 20 miles from where he grew up in nearby Mira Loma.

It was nothing short of a career year for Langdon, who led the Top Fuel ranks in wins (seven), was the No. 1 qualifier seven times, and had an outstanding record in elimination rounds (54-17 for a .760 winning percentage).

In addition to winning both races at Pomona, Langdon had additional big wins at the U.S. Nationals, the Toyota Summernationals and the Traxxas Shootout.

And now the driver for the Toyota-powered Al-Anabi Racing Team, which has won the Top Fuel title three of the last four seasons, is ready to pick up where he left off in 2013.

“We’re going to approach 2014 the same way that we have the last two years,” Langdon said. “We’re just very excited to get back out there and get running again.

“We feel very confident; the whole Al-Anabi team has done a lot of homework in the off-season. We had a successful test session. I don’t think there are going to be too many things that we want to change.”

The key to defend his first-ever Top Fuel title is to stay the course, don’t deviate much from last year’s gameplan, focus on wins – and if you can’t win, at least go for consistency.

“We just kind of want to stay in the same attack mode as we have the last two years,” Langdon said. “In 2012 season we struggled a little bit throughout the year, but we also gained a lot of information that we were able to use last year with winning the championship.

“So we’re hoping to just further that along for the 2014 season. We’re just very excited to get back out there and get racing at Pomona.”

And there’s some bad news for Langdon’s key rivals heading into Pomona: in a recent test last month at West Palm Beach, Fla., the defending champ recorded the fastest pass down the 1,000-foot dragstrip at 3.726 seconds.

Sounds like Langdon is already in midseason form.

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Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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