NHRA shocker: Alan Johnson Racing halts operations


On the eve of the start of it’s premier event, the Countdown to the Championship, the National Hot Rod Association was rocked Tuesday with news that Alan Johnson Racing is suspending operations of its Top Fuel team, effective immediately.

That means 2013 Top Fuel champ Shawn Langdon, who qualified sixth for the Countdown, will likely miss his bid to go for a second championship in three seasons.

“We are extremely disappointed to make this decision, but at this point it is our best option,” team owner Alan Johnson said in a statement.

“The AJR marketing staff has worked diligently throughout the year securing funding to complete the 2015 season. Unfortunately we have come up a bit short.”

AJR has struggled with funding since its primary sponsor and benefactor, Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Thani and the Qatar Racing Club, suspended funding for Johnson’s two-dragster Al-Anabi Racing team just four weeks before this year’s season-opening Circle K Winternationals.

MORE — NHRA: Alan Johnson Racing moves forward without Al-Anabi

When that occurred, Johnson was forced to scale back his operation to just one dragster, keeping Langdon while releasing fellow driver Khalid alBalooshi, who had been idle this season until replacing Spencer Massey two weeks ago at Don Schumacher Racing.

Johnson has funded the team primarily out of his own pocket since al-Anabi departed, albeit with some additional funding from Toyota, as well as celebrity chef Guy Fieri’s Knuckle Sandwich brand, both long-time partners of AJR.

Throwing in the towel just before the playoffs is difficult, but Johnson felt he went as far as he could go financially.

But that doesn’t mean the Brownsburg, Indiana-based team is gone for good.

“The process of securing funding is still ongoing, but our focus has shifted to the 2016 season,” Johnson said. “This break will result in some of our crew members moving on to other opportunities, and we wish them all the best.

“Lastly, I want to thank our loyal fans for their encouragement and support throughout this difficult year. We have every intention of returning to NHRA drag racing in 2016. I’ll keep you posted.”

Johnson’s teams have won NHRA Top Fuel titles in 1997, 1998, 2000, 2010, 2011 and 2013 with five different drivers: Gary Scelzi, Tony Schumacher, Larry Dixon, Del Worsham and Langdon.

Johnson did not address Langdon missing the Countdown to the Championship in Tuesday’s statement.

Langdon started out the season with a win in the Winternationals, but since then it has been somewhat of an up-and-down campaign for the team, including seven first-round exits in eliminations of the 18 races held thus far.

The Winternationals win was one of two key season highlights for Langdon and AJR, along with Langdon recording the fastest elapsed time (3.662 seconds) ever seen on a 1,000-foot drag strip, last month at Brainerd, Minn.

Langdon still has the potential to continue in the Countdown, which begins this weekend in Concord, N.C., according to NHRA spokesman Anthony Vestal.

“Per NHRA rule, the points go with the driver, so he would be eligible to continue in the Countdown If another team wants to put him in another car or a second car,” Vestal told NBCSports.com.

If Langdon does not secure another ride, he’ll likely finish the season in the 10th and final spot in the Countdown.

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Chase Sexton wins Triple Crown Anaheim 2 Supercross: Levi Kitchen unseats Jett Lawrence in 250s

Supercross Anaheim 2
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Chase Sexton won two of the three races in the Monster Energy Supercross Anaheim 2 Triple Crown, which was enough to overcome a fifth-place finish in Race 2 and give him the overall victory. It was the second Supercross win of his career.

“Super big night for me,” Sexton told NBC Sports’ Will Christien. “After last weekend with that being a struggle, I just need to come out here and stop the bleeding a little bit and I did that tonight.”

Sexton suffered a crash on Lap 1 of his heat, sending him into Last Chance Qualifier. The bad gate pick put him in a difficult position to start the race and he was able to climb to only fifth at the checkers.

At Anaheim 2, three riders entered the final race of the Triple Crown in a winner-take-all scenario. Sexton, Jason Anderson and Eli Tomac each had a shot at victory. It raised the intensity level for all riders in an evening that featured a lot of comers and goers.

Jason Anderson took the early lead in Race 3, which set him up for the overall victory. Sexton stalked and passed him midway through the race and then a minor mistake late allowed Webb to slip around as well. Anderson’s 5-1-3 gave him second overall.

“I had a tough couple of rounds, getting off that Anaheim 1 crash and then last week weekend I fumbled a little bit, but I’m excited to get back on the box and start moving forward,” Anderson told Jason Thomas.

Anderson finished seventh in the first two rounds of 2023.

RESULTS: How they finished for the 450 Main in Anaheim 2

Ken Roczen was the model of consistency in the opening rounds and at Anaheim 2. In three races so far this year, he’s gotten progressively better each time with a fifth in A1, a fourth last week in San Deigo and a third this week.

With results of 2-3-4, he earned his first podium of the season, which lands him fourth in the standings.

“This was hard earned,” Roczen said after the race. “I completely botched the start and then to have to work my way up. I only happen on the very last lap to step up here on the podium.”

Webb’s solid second-place finish in the third race allowed him to leapfrog several riders and finish fourth overall, but a seventh in Race 1 kept him off the podium. He improved in each race in Anaheim, however, with a 7-4-2.

With a 4-6-5, Dylan Ferrandis rounded out the top five.

The intensity of the race was a little too much for Tomac.

While battling side-by-side with Webb in Race 3 at the one-third mark, Tomac jumped wide and crashed hard. He fell to 14th, doing some damage to his bike in the process. He advanced only one position in that race to 13th. His first two races, a third and second, were strong enough to give him sixth overall. He retains the points lead, but it has shrunk to a gap of only four over Sexton and Webb.

Malcolm Stewart injured late in the week and was not able to mount.

Levi Kitchen became the first rider to unseat Jett Lawrence in the Triple Crown format at Anaheim 2 and won the overall with consistency. In his three races, Kitchen finished 4-2-2 to narrowly edge the winner of the first two races.

“This whole day; this is unbelievable. I took a few good slams in practice and I was down on myself,” Kitchen told NBC Sports Jason Thomas afterward. “The first moto I got a good start and got shuffled back, then I knew I just needed to be consistent.”

Jett Lawrence saved his best for last – which wasn’t hard given the struggles he experienced in the first two races.

Despite those problems, he entered Race 3 of the Triple Crown three points behind Kitchen after suffering a pair of disappointing races by his personal measuring stick. In the first and second 250 races of the night, Lawrence hit the ground. He dropped to the final rider in the running order in Race 2 with a Lap 1 fall. But in both races, he was able to overcome his mistake and close the gap so that he had a chance to take his first Triple Crown win of his career.

Click here for full 250 West Main Results

Lawrence rode to third in Race 1 and sixth in Race 2. In the final race of the night, Lawrence did all he could. He earned the holeshot, but when Kitchen fell in behind him, Lawrence’s fate was sealed. His 3-6-1 tied him in points with Stilez Robertson, but the tiebreaker goes to the final round and his win secured second-place.

“I can definitely say Triple Crowns are not my thing,” Lawrence told NBC Sports Will Christien. “We have one more to try and fix this, so hopefully we can get that done.”

Lawrence will move into the 450 class for the Lucas Oil Motocross outdoor season and his 250 record book will be closed.

The best news for Lawrence is the other riders who entered this round in the top three had a worse night, so Lawrence leaves Anaheim with a 16-point gap on Cameron McAdoo and 17 over RJ Hampshire.

Roberston finished 6-1-3 to take the final step of the podium.

“Getting that win in the second Main meant a lot,” Roberston told Thomas. “I wish I could have done a little better in the third one, but we’re still up here on the box.”

Mitchell Oldenburg used consistency to earn fourth in the overall. He finished 5-4-6.

After missing the Main last week in San Diego, Max Vohland finished 7-8-4 to round out the top five.

RJ Hampshire set himself up as the early favorite with his Race 1 win. In Race 2, it all fell apart. He fell in the sand section and damaged his bike, finishing last in that race. The final event of the night for the 250s provided only a 13th-place finish, leaving Hampshire deep in the points.

Cameron McAdoo hard crash in qualification, which was scary news for a team that has seen three of their riders sidelined with injury. McAdoo was never quite able to get his rhythm with an 8-7-5.

2023 Race Recaps

San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Tomac wins opener for the first time

Anaheim 2 coverage

Power Rankings Week 2
SuperMotocross tightens playoff schedule
Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence go two-for-two in San Diego
Results and points after San Diego
Seth Hammaker to miss 250 E season opener with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner with injury
Injury sidelines Austin Forkner for remainder of 2023 SX