NHRA: Langdon (Top Fuel) earns storybook Winternationals win; Hagan (Funny Car), Line (Pro Stock) also triumph

1 Comment

Shawn Langdon missed out on setting a national elapsed time record in Top Fuel, but that didn’t stop him from a storybook win in the season-opening NHRA Circle K Winternationals in Pomona, Calif.

Langdon, who recorded the quickest elapsed time in Top Fuel history Saturday (3.700 seconds), missed setting the national record by .04 of a second in his four subsequent rounds in Sunday’s final eliminations at Auto Club Raceway.

But the more important thing is Langdon, who a month ago appeared headed to the unemployment line after Al-Anabi Racing unexpectedly pulled its entire funding support of the two-car Alan Johnson Racing team, came back to win Sunday.

AJR has been reduced to just one dragster, driven by Langdon. And with one-off sponsorship for this weekend from several sources, including noted cook Guy Fieri, Langdon and his Knuckle Sandwich/AJPE-funded team were somehow able to motor on to victory.

Sunday’s win could be a big boost for AJR’s search for additional sponsorship, particularly since it is only committed to continue racing in the next event in two weeks in Phoenix.

After that, AJR’s future is uncertain.

Coming into Sunday’s eliminations as the event’s No. 1 qualifier, Langdon (3.799 seconds, 309.91 mph) defeated Antron Brown (3.804 seconds, 310.70 mph) in the final round. It was a race that was neck-and-neck all the way until Langdon slightly pulled ahead of Brown just before the finish line.

It was Langdon’s 10th career win in his Top Fuel career, and his second career triumph in the Winternationals.

“There are things that happen in life and then there are moments when things just fall into place,” Langdon said in a NHRA media release. “We had a lot going on positively with Guy Fieri here this weekend.

“We had to come out here and do well and make a statement. Now we’ll take what we did here and move on to Phoenix and continue what we are doing. We are still looking for sponsorship and trying to do the best we can.”

In Funny Car, defending 2014 national champion Matt Hagan picked up where he left off at the end of last season, winning the first race of 2015.

Hagan (4.011 seconds, 320.89 mph) bounced back from a motor explosion during Friday’s qualifying to defeat Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps (4.078, 314.90) in Sunday’s final round.

“These [race cars] are animals out there and you never know what you are going to get when you crawl in there to drive one,” Hagan said. “It’s always an experience. You have to respect it, but you can’t fear it.”

Hagan ended 2014 and clinched his second career Funny Car championship in four years with a win in last November’s World Finals, also at Auto Club Raceway. Sunday was his first win in the Winternationals. He now has back-to-back wins at Pomona and four overall in his career.

“Pomona is very special to me and it’s an historical track,” Hagan said of his 15th career Funny Car win. “The fans are awesome here. It’s been great. The history of this track and everything that’s happened here through the years, it puts it in perspective for me and makes [winning here] even more special.”

In Pro Stock, 2014 season runner-up Jason Line (6.545 seconds, 211.83 mph) started the new season off the right way with a win over rookie Drew Skillman (6.556 seconds, 211.13 mph). It was Line’s his fourth career Winternationals win and 36th career Pro Stock win.

“It’s great to get off to a good start,” Line said. “To be honest, I didn’t expect to come here and do this well. I didn’t think the off-season had gone well enough for us, but apparently it has. And it feels great to win.

“What a really exciting day. We have some new faces in the class, and congrats to Drew Skillman for making the final at his first race, that’s phenomenal.”

It also Chevrolet’s 91st win in Pro Stock, setting a victory record for a manufacturer.

The next event on the 24-race NHRA national event schedule will be the Carquest Auto Parts Nationals, Feb. 20-22 in Chandler, Ariz.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

FINAL FINISHING ORDER

TOP FUEL: 1. Shawn Langdon; 2. Antron Brown; 3. Larry Dixon; 4. Spencer Massey; 5. Leah Pritchett; 6. Steve Torrence; 7. Doug Kalitta; 8. Richie Crampton; 9. Tony Schumacher; 10. Brittany Force; 11. Troy Buff; 12. Dave Connolly; 13. Steven Chrisman; 14. Clay Millican; 15. J.R. Todd; 16. Terry McMillen.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Matt Hagan; 2. Ron Capps; 3. Del Worsham; 4. Robert Hight; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 6. Courtney Force; 7. John Hale; 8. Bob Bode; 9. Alexis DeJoria; 10. Tony Pedregon; 11. Tim Wilkerson; 12. Jeff Arend; 13. Cruz Pedregon; 14. Gary Densham; 15. John Force; 16. Chad Head.

PRO STOCK: 1. Jason Line; 2. Drew Skillman; 3. Rodger Brogdon; 4. Erica Enders-Stevens; 5. Chris McGaha; 6. Larry Morgan; 7. Shane Gray; 8. Allen Johnson; 9. Vincent Nobile; 10. Jonathan Gray; 11. V. Gaines; 12. Deric Kramer; 13. Greg Anderson; 14. Matt Hartford; 15. Joey Grose; 16. Jimmy Alund.
FINAL RESULTS

TOP FUEL: Shawn Langdon, 3.799 seconds, 309.91 mph  def. Antron Brown, 3.804 seconds, 310.70 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.011, 320.89  def. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.078, 314.90.

PRO STOCK: Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.545, 211.83  def. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.556, 211.13.

FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Larry Dixon, 3.841, 312.13 def. Dave Connolly, 4.022, 236.84; Steve Torrence, 3.774, 324.05 def. Troy Buff, 3.828, 316.30; Richie Crampton, 4.369, 202.18 def. J.R. Todd, 9.379, 78.33; Doug Kalitta, 3.763, 330.88 def. Terry McMillen, 10.090, 86.42; Shawn Langdon, 3.741, 325.53 def. Steven Chrisman, 4.148, 255.39; Spencer Massey, 3.751, 323.74 def. Clay Millican, 6.941, 96.89; Antron Brown, 3.732, 326.87 def. Tony Schumacher, 3.787, 323.66; Leah Pritchett, 3.791, 323.04 def. Brittany Force, 3.811, 321.19;

QUARTERFINALS — Dixon, 3.848, 310.20 def. Crampton, 9.623, 80.59; Massey, 3.808, 325.37 def. Torrence, 3.821, 324.05; Langdon, 3.748, 323.19 def. Pritchett, 3.801, 323.66; Brown, 3.758, 322.73 def. Kalitta, 7.817, 94.51;

SEMIFINALS — Brown, 3.790, 322.27 def. Dixon, 3.774, 320.36; Langdon, 3.762, 326.48 def. Massey, 3.778, 327.98;

FINAL — Langdon, 3.799, 309.91 def. Brown, 3.804, 310.70.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.065, 318.84 def. Tony Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.381, 227.54; John Hale, Charger, 4.264, 266.42 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 5.028, 159.25; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.045, 315.19 def. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.568, 193.52; Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.097, 312.42 def. Gary Densham, Chevy Impala, 5.422, 137.71; Bob Bode, Camry, 5.126, 202.82 def. John Force, Camaro, 5.599, 156.72; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.137, 305.22 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.110, 301.07; Robert Hight, Chevrolet Camaro, 4.066, 315.05 def. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.385, 208.97; Del Worsham, Camry, 4.048, 317.05 def. Chad Head, Camry, broke;

QUARTERFINALS — Capps, 4.104, 313.88 def. Bode, broke; Hight, 4.085, 313.29 def. Johnson Jr., 4.080, 306.33; Worsham, 4.068, 316.60 def. C. Force, 7.289, 87.42; Hagan, 4.128, 303.50 def. Hale, foul;

SEMIFINALS — Capps, 4.134, 312.57 def. Hight, 7.854, 84.40; Hagan, 4.068, 316.75 def. Worsham, 4.081, 314.90;

FINAL — Hagan, 4.011, 320.89 def. Capps, 4.078, 314.90.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Chris McGaha, Chevy Camaro, 6.547, 211.66 def. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, foul; Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.589, 211.26 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.637, 211.56; Larry Morgan, Camaro, 6.546, 212.56 def. Jimmy Alund, Pontiac GXP, 14.251, 59.26; Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.574, 211.83 def. Vincent Nobile, 6.561, 211.76; Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.570, 211.53 def. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.586, 210.93; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.545, 212.09 def. Joey Grose, Camaro, foul; Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.548, 211.43 def. Matt Hartford, GXP, 6.651, 208.78; Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.548, 212.43 def. Deric Kramer, Dodge Avenger, 6.609, 209.95;

QUARTERFINALS — Skillman, 6.595, 210.90 def. Johnson, 6.595, 211.10; Enders-Stevens, 6.569, 211.36 def. McGaha, 6.565, 210.73; Brogdon, 6.565, 211.46 def. Morgan, 6.566, 212.36; Line, 6.564, 211.56 def. S. Gray, 6.574, 211.00;

SEMIFINALS — Skillman, 6.590, 210.41 def. Enders-Stevens, 6.573, 211.53; Line, 6.560, 211.36 def. Brogdon, 6.560, 211.76;

FINAL — Line, 6.545, 211.83 def. Skillman, 6.556, 211.13.

POINTS STANDINGS

Top Fuel: 1. Shawn Langdon, 124; 2. Antron Brown, 92; 3. Spencer Massey, 78; 4. Larry Dixon, 73; 5. Richie Crampton, 59; 6. Doug Kalitta, 56; 7. Steve Torrence, 54; 8. Leah Pritchett, 52; 9. Tony Schumacher, 36; 10. Brittany Force, 33.

Funny Car: 1. Matt Hagan, 107; 2. Ron Capps, 94; 3. Del Worsham, 74; 4. Robert Hight, 73; 5. Courtney Force, 61; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., 60; 7. John Hale, 51; 8. Bob Bode, 46; 9. John Force, 40; 10. Cruz Pedregon, 38.

Pro Stock: 1. Jason Line, 123; 2. Drew Skillman, 97; 3. Erica Enders-Stevens, 81; 4. Rodger Brogdon, 80; 5. Chris McGaha, 55; 6. Larry Morgan, 54; 7. (tie) Shane Gray, 52; Allen Johnson, 52; 9. (tie) Greg Anderson, 34; Vincent Nobile, 34.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski