(Photos courtesy NHRA)

2016 NHRA season in review: Top Fuel driver Shawn Langdon

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MotorSportsTalk continues its season-ending reviews of the top drivers of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

From Dec. 12 through Jan. 4, we’ll feature one daily in-depth review of a driver that finished in the top-five in each of the four professional classes (Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle), as well as a compendium of select other drivers that did not finish in the top-five.

The list of drivers we’ve already posted is below. Today, we feature Top Fuel driver Shawn Langdon:

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Driver: Shawn Langdon

Age: 34

Hometown: Avon, Indiana

Team: Don Schumacher Racing

Sponsor/car: Red Fuel Powered by Schumacher/Sandvic Coromant

Crew chief: Todd Okahara, Phil Shuler

2016 season finish: Fifth in Top Fuel.

2016 season statistics: 24 races, 3 wins, 0 runner-up, 6 semifinals, 6 quarterfinals. No. 1 qualifier 0 times. Round-by-round record: 30 wins, 21 losses.

Career statistics: 188 races, 14 wins, 14 runner-up, 38 semifinals, 57 quarterfinals. No. 1 qualifier 18 times. Round-by-round record: 230 wins, 171 losses. 3 DNQ. Won 2013 NHRA Top Fuel championship.

What went right in 2016: After joining Don Schumacher Racing for the final six races of 2015, Langdon settled in to a very comfortable role with DSR in 2016. His three wins were the most in a season since capturing seven wins en route to the 2013 championship. He has a great stable of teammates, including fellow Top Fuel drivers Antron Brown (2012, 2015 and 2016 champion), eight-time champ Tony Schumacher and rising star Leah Pritchett.

What went wrong in 2016: Even though he reached the winner’s circle three times, Langdon failed to get past the first round in nine (more than one-third) of the season’s 24 races. That included consecutive first-round losses in each of the first four races of 2016. While he managed to climb back to third place after the Dallas race (fourth race in the six-race Countdown to the Championship), he suffered yet another first-round exit at Las Vegas, ending any hope that he could upset Brown or Top Fuel runner-up Doug Kalitta in the season-ending race. He also failed to qualify even once and only reached the final round in the three races he won (in other words, he had zero runner-up finishes).

What to look for in 2017: Langdon is one of the most talented drivers in Top Fuel. With DSR, he has all the resources and top minds in drag racing for success. Look for Langdon to put a bit more pressure on his teammates in 2017 – he’s hungry for another Top Fuel title and will do everything in his power to do just that.

Season reviews already posted:

— Antron Brown (12/12)

— Ron Capps (12/13)

— Jason Line (12/14)

Jerry Savoie (12/15)

Doug Kalitta (12/16)

Tommy Johnson Jr. (12/17)

Greg Anderson (12/18)

Eddie Krawiec (12/19)

Steve Torrence (12/20)

— Matt Hagan (12/21)

— Shane Gray (12/22)

— Andrew Hines (12/23)

— J.R. Todd (12/24)

— John Force (12/25)

— Bo Butner (12/26)

— Angelle Sampey (12/27)

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Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

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If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.