Photo courtesy Kalitta Motorsports

NHRA: 2013 Top Fuel champ Shawn Langdon to switch to Funny Car in 2018

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In more than 20 years of drag racing, 2013 NHRA Top Fuel champion Shawn Langdon had never sat in a Funny Car until last week.

He better get used to it quick, though, as he’ll pivot from driving a Top Fuel dragster for Kalitta Motorsports to being behind the wheel of a Funny Car for Kalitta in 2018.

The team announced Langdon’s switch from Top Fuel to Funny Car in 2018 on Friday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway, site of this weekend’s Texas Fall Nationals.

“I never even sat in a Funny Car until last week when they put the body down on me for the first time,” Langdon said. “It’s a pretty crazy feeling, a lot different than sitting in a dragster.

“There’s definitely going to be a big learning curve, but I’m up for the challenge.”

Langdon will replace Alexis DeJoria, who is retiring from the team at season’s end to spend more time with her family.

In making the switch, Langdon could potentially be on his way to joining one of the NHRA’s most exclusive clubs.

Only three drivers in NHRA history have won championships in both Top Fuel and Funny Car: Kenny Bernstein, Gary Scelzi and Del Worsham.

Now, Langdon – who will team with J.R. Todd in driving Kalitta Motorsports’ two Funny Car entries – has a chance to do the same starting in 2018.

“That would be awesome,” Langdon told MotorSportsTalk. “It’s a great opportunity. I’m very thankful for Kalitta Motorsports and Stephen and Samantha Bryson of Global Electronic Technology.”

Langdon, who won the 2013 Top Fuel title for Alan Johnson and the former Al-Anabi Racing team, will continue to be sponsored in a Funny Car by the current sponsor of his dragster, Global Electronic Technology, of Torrance, California.

Langdon, who has 14 career wins, 18 No. 1 qualifiers and 239 round wins in 202 career Top Fuel starts, will have his Funny Car led by championship winning tuners Nicky Boninfante (2015, Del Worsham) and Tommy DeLago (2011, Matt Hagan).

“I’m a competitive person by nature,” Langdon said. “If there’s a challenge there, I’ll figure it one way or other.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity and to race in the Funny Car class. I never thought I’d be driving a Funny Car, but when the opportunity presented itself, it made a lot of sense.

“If you pay me to race a golf cart, it doesn’t matter. I want to race, I’m very thankful for the opportunity just to be doing this for a living.

“You figure out what you want me to race and I will race it and give you my best 100 percent effort in whatever car you want. I just want to be competing.”

Admittedly, it’s been a rough few years for Langdon. Two years after winning the Top Fuel title in 2013, Al-Anabi shut down when its primary sponsor backed out.

Langdon caught on with Don Schumacher Racing last season and remained there until early this season before team operations were suspended due to lack of sponsorship.

Kalitta Motorsports brought him on shortly thereafter to drive a third dragster and now Langdon is ready to write the next chapter of his drag racing career.

“For whatever reason, it’s always seemed to work out, I have no idea why,” Langdon said. “I’m not a driver that comes from a wealthy family, I don’t have money behind me that I’m bringing to the table, I don’t have a plethora of sponsorships that I can bring to the table. I’ve just been very fortunate, very lucky.”

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Audi bids farewell to Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich upon retirement

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Audi bid farewell to its iconic head of motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, at its end-of-season ‘Race Night’ event in Germany on Friday upon his retirement.

Ullrich took over the reins as Audi’s head of motorsport in 1993 and stayed in the role for 23 years, overseeing its arrival in the prototype class of sports car racing and domination of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ullrich stepped down from the position at the end of 2016, handing the reins over to ex-Audi DTM chief Dieter Gass, and attended his final racing event with the German marque at its first works Formula E outing in Hong Kong earlier this month.

Ullrich was honored at the Race Night event on Friday and thanked for his efforts in developing Audi into a force within global motorsport.

“In 566 factory-backed commitments during this period he celebrated 209 victories, 13 of them in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, eleven in the 12-hour race at Sebring and nine in the ‘Petit Le Mans’ at Road Atlanta,” a piece on Ullrich’s tenure for Audi’s website reads.

“31 driver titles in super touring car racing, in the DTM and in the sports prototype category are credited to him. 57 campaigners were Audi factory drivers during Wolfgang Ullrich’s era and he was responsible for 18 new developments of racing cars – an impressive tally.”