NHRA Charlotte: Langdon earns first Funny Car victory; Torrence, Hines also win

Photo/videos courtesy NHRA

Since Shawn Langdon switched from Top Fuel to Funny Car for the first time in his career at the start of the 2018 season, it would not be surprising if some of his fans began to set their watches to him.

After all, when you switch to another class from one in which you earned 14 career wins and the 2013 Top Fuel championship, it likely was just a matter of time before Langdon would achieve success in a Funny Car.

And indeed it finally was Langdon’s time Sunday in the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in suburban Charlotte, North Carolina, defeating legendary John Force, Robert Hight and Matt Hagan.

The Kalitta Motorsports driver finally broke through with his first career Funny Car triumph, and one he hopes to have many more to come. He also becomes the 17th driver in NHRA history to win a national event in both Top Fuel and now Funny Car.

Ironically, zMAX Dragway was also the site of Langdon’s first career Top Fuel win, back in 2012, and the site of his first final round appearance in NHRA competition (2009).

When asked if he woke up Sunday morning thinking he would finally break through with his first Funny Car win, Langdon was philosophical.

I thought that for 24 races last year and the first five this year,” he said. “It didn’t go as planned for the first 29. It just shows how tough the sport is. There are so many things that we went through – changes within the team, learning curves for me, crew chiefs, etc.

We’ve had a good Global Camry, we just need to have some things fall our way. It seems like we’ve had a lot of buzz-saw races where we get the quickest guy of the first round and we’d run the third- or fourth-quick time of the round.

I’ve been so fortunate to have the opportunity to race for a legend like Connie Kalitta. I was telling a story the other day that I was up in Richie (Crampton’s lounge) and I was on the simulator up there working on my reaction times. Connie took time out of his day and sat down next to me and I looked at him and I asked him if he was doing alright and he said, ‘Yep, I’m just keeping on eye on you, though, making sure you’re getting the treatment.’

He sat there and watched me, then he gave me a couple of little pointers. Working with a guy like that and having a guy like J.R. Todd as a teammate and he’s a champion. So I bounce ideas off him all of the time. Working with (crew chief) Nicky Boninfante, who’s been out here for years and working with some of the greatest drivers in the sport. Then to bring Del Worsham (co-crew chief) in has been a key factor.

After I did a bit of a drifting job in the second round, Del told me you can’t do that in the final. We looked at the race packet between sessions and he told me I needed to turn down the steering a little bit because it’s a hot track and if you do it again like that it’s going to smoke the tires. Just working with these guys has really elevated my game in terms of driving.

The guys we had to go through today in the second round and the finals were the best in the class. To get this win is very gratifying. I went .069 in the final and left fourth. It just shows how good these guys are and how hungry they are to win. There’s so many things going on in my life, that I just sat in the car while staging and closed my eyes and said just give me this one time right here, I need to use it. I don’t say that too often, but this time it worked.”


IN TOP FUEL: Defending Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence has been knocking on the door of the winner’s circle for the first five races of the season – and finally kicked that door down Sunday in the sixth national event of 2019.

Torrence’s final round run of 3.778 seconds at 323.19 mph took the top prize over Leah Pritchett, Clay Millican and Terry McMillen.

Richard Hogan (crew chief) and Bobby Lagana (assistant crew chief) and every one of those Capco boys, they just instill confidence in you,” Torrence said. “I hadn’t been driving with the most confidence.

Maybe I was driving on the defense instead of on the offense. I changed my mindset and just went out there and did what I know how to do instead of thinking about it. In Vegas at the Four-Wide I got up there and let my mind get in front of my foot. We’ve had a lot of success here at zMAX. I really like this place.”

With his win, Torrence overtook Doug Kalitta for the points lead in Top Fuel.

Also, the win came on the 61st birthday of Steve Torrence’s father and Top Fuel teammate, Billy Torrence.


IN PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Andrew Hines became the first two-wheeled rider in NHRA history to earn his 50th career win.

Hines took the top spot with a run of 6.831 seconds at 198.17 mph on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Street Rod.

He defeated teammate Eddie Krawiec, Hector Arana Jr. and Ryan Oehler.

The day went pretty good,” Hines said. “It got hotter and hotter which made it tougher and tougher.

Our crew is pretty good at persevering in different weather conditions and we had to do that all weekend long. Not one of those days was similar to the other.”

Notes: The Pro Stock class did not compete in the 4-Wide Nationals. … The series now heads to Atlanta Dragway for next weekend’s Arby’s NHRA Southern Nationals, May 3-5, at Commerce, Georgia, the seventh race of the 24-race 2019 season.



TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence; 2. Clay Millican; 3. Terry McMillen; 4. Leah Pritchett; 5. Scott Palmer; 6. Doug Kalitta; 7. Mike Salinas; 8. Dom Lagana; 9. Spencer Massey; 10. Antron Brown; 11. Austin Prock; 12. Richie Crampton; 13. Audrey Worm; 14. Brittany Force; 15. Lex Joon; 16. Cameron Ferre.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Shawn Langdon; 2. Robert Hight; 3. John Force; 4. Matt Hagan; 5. Tim Wilkerson; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 7. J.R. Todd; 8. Jack Beckman; 9. Jeff Diehl; 10. Cruz Pedregon; 11. Bob Tasca III; 12. Dave Richards; 13. Jonnie Lindberg; 14. Ron Capps; 15. Terry Haddock; 16. Bob Gilbertson.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Andrew Hines; 2. Eddie Krawiec; 3. Hector Arana Jr; 4. Ryan Oehler; 5. Cory Reed; 6. Hector Arana; 7. Karen Stoffer; 8. Angie Smith; 9. Jerry Savoie; 10. Jerry Savoie; 11. Matt Smith; 12. Matt Smith; 13. Joey Gladstone; 14. Joey Gladstone; 15. Jim Underdahl; 16. Jim Underdahl.



TOP FUEL: Steve Torrence, 3.778 seconds, 323.19 mph def. Clay Millican, 4.035 seconds, 310.48 mph and Terry McMillen, 4.349 seconds, 219.08 mph and Leah Pritchett, 4.435 seconds, 246.30 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Shawn Langdon, Toyota Camry, 4.125, 305.08 def. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 4.159, 242.89 and John Force, Camaro, 4.517, 200.59 and Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 5.252, 172.89.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.831, 198.17 def. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.858, 197.68 and Hector Arana Jr, EBR, 6.908, 198.82 and Ryan Oehler, Buell, 6.959, 196.27.



TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Leah Pritchett, 3.775, 327.03 and Doug Kalitta, 3.779, 320.13 def. Richie Crampton, 4.851, 153.72 and Lex Joon, 6.231, 111.37; Steve Torrence, 3.743, 321.42 and Terry McMillen, 3.815, 322.96 def. Spencer Massey, 3.861, 317.57 and Audrey Worm, 4.589, 181.50; Scott Palmer, 3.782, 325.61 and Dom Lagana, 3.796, 320.51 def. Antron Brown, 4.161, 276.92 and Brittany Force, 5.495, 102.18; Clay Millican, 3.815, 321.27 and Mike Salinas, 3.768, 324.90 def. Austin Prock, 4.224, 250.13 and Cameron Ferre, broke; SEMIFINALS — Millican, 3.877, 295.59 and Pritchett, 3.947, 271.30 def. Kalitta, 4.736, 163.65 and Salinas, 5.423, 149.81; Torrence, 3.777, 324.05 and McMillen, 3.828, 316.75 def. Palmer, 4.279, 217.53 and Lagana, 9.246, 81.51; FINAL — Torrence, 3.778, 323.19 def. Millican, 4.035, 310.48, McMillen, 4.349, 219.08 and Pritchett, 4.435, 246.30.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.920, 326.56 and Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.953, 325.14 def. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 4.671, 184.02 and Jonnie Lindberg, Ford Mustang, 4.786, 181.25; J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 3.966, 320.81 and Robert Hight, Camaro, 4.617, 267.22 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.687, 192.03 and Bob Gilbertson, Chevy Monte Carlo, broke; Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.925, 324.83 and Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.954, 317.27 def. Dave Richards, Mustang, 5.044, 175.32 and Ron Capps, Charger, 5.172, 152.95; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.978, 321.35 and Shawn Langdon, Camry, 3.982, 321.19 def. Jeff Diehl, Camry, 4.492, 236.09 and Terry Haddock, Mustang, 11.602, 69.75; SEMIFINALS — Hight, 3.977, 322.58 and Langdon, 4.311, 248.93 def. Johnson Jr., 4.363, 213.60 and Todd, 5.051, 252.14; Force, 4.046, 320.81 and Hagan, 3.997, 316.30 def. Wilkerson, 4.062, 290.07 and Beckman, 7.194, 99.31; FINAL — Langdon, 4.125, 305.08 def. Hight, 4.159, 242.89, Force, 4.517, 200.59 and Hagan, 5.252, 172.89.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: ROUND ONE — Eddie Krawiec, Harley Street Rod, 6.886, 196.85 and Ryan Oehler, Buell, 6.889, 196.56 def. Joey Gladstone, EBR, 6.925, 194.83 and Steve Johnson, Suzuki TL, 6.933, 192.33; Andrew Hines, Street Rod, 6.849, 197.39 and Hector Arana, EBR, 6.876, 196.82 def. Jerry Savoie, TL, 6.877, 195.59 and Kelly Clontz, TL, 18.533, 34.79; Karen Stoffer, TL, 6.811, 197.57 and Cory Reed, EBR, 6.888, 195.65 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki GS, 6.937, 195.03 and Angelle Sampey, Street Rod, 7.133, 151.58; Hector Arana Jr, EBR, 6.817, 198.12 and Angie Smith, EBR, 6.923, 197.16 def. Matt Smith, EBR, 6.908, 196.24 and Scotty Pollacheck, EBR, 6.966, 193.49; SEMIFINALS — Krawiec, 6.859, 197.91 and Oehler, 6.890, 196.90 def. Reed, 6.914, 195.03 and Stoffer, 6.956, 177.60; Hines, 6.825, 198.06 and Arana Jr, 6.928, 196.27 def. Arana, 6.979, 196.42 and A. Smith, 7.019, 192.14; FINAL — Hines, 6.831, 198.17 def. Krawiec, 6.858, 197.68, Arana Jr, 6.908, 198.82 and Oehler, 6.959, 196.27.



TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence, 460; 2. Doug Kalitta, 426; 3. Clay Millican, 394; 4. Mike Salinas, 384; 5. Brittany Force, 382; 6. Leah Pritchett, 378; 7. Antron Brown, 317; 8. Terry McMillen, 309; 9. Richie Crampton, 296; 10. Billy Torrence, 265.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Robert Hight, 582; 2. Matt Hagan, 440; 3. John Force, 417; 4. (tie) Jack Beckman, 394; J.R. Todd, 394; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., 371; 7. Tim Wilkerson, 339; 8. Shawn Langdon, 338; 9. Ron Capps, 318; 10. Bob Tasca III, 282.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Andrew Hines, 319; 2. Eddie Krawiec, 281; 3. Hector Arana Jr, 278; 4. Matt Smith, 204; 5. Ryan Oehler, 158; 6. Karen Stoffer, 152; 7. Jerry Savoie, 139; 8. Joey Gladstone, 138; 9. (tie) Hector Arana, 137; Angie Smith, 137.

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Alexander Rossi ‘fits like a glove’ with his new IndyCar teammates at Arrow McLaren Racing

Alexander Rossi McLaren
Nate Ryan

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – There are more than three dozen fresh faces on the Arrow McLaren Racing IndyCar team, but there was one that Felix Rosenqvist was particularly keen to know – Alexander Rossi.

The driver of the No. 7 Dallara-Chevrolet is the most high-profile new hire for McLaren, which has expanded to a third car to pair with the No. 6 of Rosenqvist and No. 5 of Pato O’Ward.

And there is another layer than Rossi just being the new kid. McLaren marks only his second team in NTT IndyCar Series after seven seasons at Andretti Autosport, where he began with a victory in the 2016 Indy 500 and was a championship contender for several seasons.

Rossi is a mercurial talent, and when things go wrong, the red mist quickly descends (and sometimes has led to feuds with teammates). He went winless during two of his final seasons at Andretti and was out of contention more often than not, often bringing out the prickly side of his personality.

Yet there has been no trace of the dour Rossi since joining McLaren. The pragmatic Californian is quick to remind everyone he hasn’t worked with the team yet at a track (much less been in its car), and there surely will be times he gets frustrated.

But it’s clear that Rossi, who made five Formula One starts in 2015 after several years racing in Europe, already is meshing well with an organization whose England-based parent company has deep roots in F1.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” Rosenqvist said Tuesday during IndyCar’s preseason media availabilities. “I think Alex kind of has that bad-guy role a little bit in IndyCar. He’s always been that guy, which is cool. I think we need those guys, as well.

“Actually having gotten to know him, he’s been super nice, super kind. He fits like a glove in the team. I think it fills a role where Pato is kind of like the crazy guy, I’m somewhere in the middle, and Alex is the more engineering guy in the team. I think Alex has more experience, as well. He just feels like a guy who knows what he wants.

“Yeah,  good addition to the team and great guy at the same time.”

There are many reasons why Rossi’s transition from Andretti to McLaren should be smoother than his abrupt move from F1 to IndyCar seven years ago. Namely, he no longer is the only newcomer to the team’s culture.

“It’s been kind of a good time to come in because everyone is finding a new role and position and kind of learning who’s who, finding everyone’s strengths and weaknesses,” he said.

But while Rossi might have questions about the team, he has none about the series. Unlike when he arrived at Andretti without any oval experience, Rossi joins McLaren with his IndyCar credentials secured as an established star with eight victories, seven poles and 28 podiums over 114 starts.

Even in his swan song with Andretti, Rossi still managed a farewell victory last July at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course that snapped a 49-race, three-year winless drought. It seems reasonable to believe he immediately could re-emerge in his 2017-19 title contender form.

“I know the series, and I know kind of everything that goes into American open-wheel racing vs. the European open-wheel racing, which is really the biggest transition,” Rossi said. “Certainly it’s the largest kind of team switch. I’ve obviously driven for different teams in the past in Europe, in sports cars, whatever, but never really in my full-time job. I’ve driven for the same organization for a very long time and have a lot of respect and fabulous memories with those people.

“So it has been a big kind of shift, trying to compare and contrast areas that I can bring kind of recommendations and experience to maybe help fill the gaps that exist at Arrow McLaren. Again, all of this is in theory, right? I don’t really know anything. We’ll have a much better idea and plan going into St. Pete (the March 5 season opener).”

He has gotten a good handle on how things work at its Indianapolis headquarters, though, and has been pleased by the leadership of new racing director Gavin Ward (who worked in F1 before a championship stint with Josef Newgarden at Team Penske). McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown also seems omnipresent on both sides of the Atlantic, making appearances at IndyCar races seemingly as much as in the F1 paddock.

“I think what’s very cool about Arrow McLaren is we do have the resources of the McLaren F1 team,” Rossi said. “They very much are being integrated in a lot of respects. It’s not two separate entities. McLaren Racing is one organization that has its people and resources and intellect in kind of everything. It’s been pretty cool to see how that can be an advantage to us in terms of people, resources, simulations, software, kind of everything. We’ve been able to kind of rely on that and use that as a tool that maybe other teams certainly don’t have.”

That will be helpful for Rossi with the methodologies and nuances of racing a Chevrolet for the first time after seven seasons with Honda.

And of course, there will be the relationship with O’Ward, who has been McLaren’s alpha star since 2020.

Rossi was in a similar role for Andretti, which raises questions about how McLaren will handle having two stars accustomed to being the face of the team. But O’Ward said IndyCar regulations should allow each driver to maintain their own style without being forced to adapt as in other series.

“At the end of the day, as much as teammates will help in order to gather data, it doesn’t mean they’re going to specifically help you in what you need because it’s a series where you can really tailor the car to what you want,” O’Ward said. “Rather than in Formula 1, (it’s) ‘This is the car, you need to learn how to drive this certain car.’ In IndyCar, it’s very different where you can customize it to what you want it to feel like or drive like.

“From past experience, I think Alex likes a car similar to what I do. I do think we have a very strong car in certain areas, but I definitely think he’s coming from a car where that other car has been stronger than us in other racetracks. I feel like if we can just find gains where we haven’t quite had a winning car, a podium car, that’s just going to help all of us.”

Though Thursday at The Thermal Club will mark the first time the trio works together at a track, Rosenqvist said he’s hung out a lot with Rossi (both are 31 years old) and deems his new teammate “well-integrated” in the simulator.

“I think the fit has been good with him, me and Pato,” Rosenqvist said. “On a trackside perspective, it’s obviously huge to have always a third opinion on things. Every driver’s opinion is valuable in its own way.”

Said O’Ward, 23: “It’s been great. (Rossi has) been great to have around. I think he needed a fresh start. I think he’s excited to really work with all of us, create the strongest package.”

Ever the realist, though, Rossi still is tempering some of his enthusiasm.

“Again, we haven’t really done anything yet other than some meetings and some team activities together,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for what they’ve done in IndyCar and also their prior careers. I think that we all bring something a little bit different to the table, which I think is really unique in terms of not only personalities but driving styles and experience levels.

“I think we have the ingredients to really be able to develop the team and continue to push the team forward to even a better level than what they’ve shown in the past. It’s been a really positive experience. Really I have nothing at all negative to say and can’t actually wait to get to work, get on track and start working together.

           Other nuggets from the first day of preseason IndyCar media activities that lead into two days of testing at The Thermal Club:

— Rosenqvist returns for his third consecutive season at McLaren, the longest stint with one team for the Swede since 2014 in F3.

But he finds himself somewhat in a similar position to last season when his return was uncertain for months during the Alex Palou-Chip Ganassi Racing saga. Palou is back with Ganassi but still expected to join the team in 2024, and with Rossi and O’Ward on long-term deals, Rosenqvist would be unable to stay unless the team added a fourth car.

He is taking it all in stride with the same grace in which he managed last season’s uncertainty.

“I think I handled it probably as good as I could,” Rosenqvist said of last year. “That’s probably a reason why I’m here this year. I think it’s a massive opportunity for me to be back for a third year. I feel like I have all the tools I need to perform, feeling very good with everyone at the car. As I said, there’s so many things happening last year on and off the track. I think as a team, we just really learned a lot from that that we can bring into this season.

“I think we’ll be tough this year. We have a lot of things in the bag to try early this season. A couple of things here at Thermal we want to try. Going into the season, we have pinpointed some areas where we feel we were lacking a little bit, like the short ovals, for example. I feel like we’ve done the best we can to attack all those areas and bring the best possible package we can.”

Rosenqvist is winless since his breakthrough victory over O’Ward at Road America in 2020. Ending that skid certainly would improve his prospects, but he isn’t worried.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future,” he said. “That’s a long time until next year. I think it’s a great opportunity for me. I’m in a good spot. I’m in a well-performing team. I feel well with everyone around me. I feel like I have a good support from the team. I don’t really think too much about that stuff. I just try to do what I can do, which is go fast forward and try to win races.”

–After being frozen out of remote access to team data last year, Palou said his working relationship at Ganassi is “back to 100% like it was before from both sides.” The 2021 series champion said he had full privileges restored after he closed the season by winning the finale at Laguna Seca Raceway and then settled on staying with Ganassi a day later.

He is allowed to continue his F1 testing with McLaren, too, though IndyCar will be the priority in season.

“It was a tough year,” said Palou, whose contract dispute lasted for two months. “Could have been a lot worse, for sure, than what we had but also could have been a little bit better if we didn’t have anything around in our minds. It’s a part of racing.

“I’m just happy that now we know that even with things in our minds, we were able to be successful. Hopefully we can be back to 2021 things during this season. Yeah, obviously there’s always some moments (in 2022) where you’re like, ‘Oh, no, my God, this is not going the direction I wanted.’ But there was things that were out of my control, obviously. Some things that I could control, as well. But at the end of the day I had all the information from my side, from other sides. I knew that everything could be settled, and it did.”

–O’Ward unplugged from the racing world for six weeks during the offseason, ensuring he was fully recharged when the new year arrived.

“I haven’t had the opportunity to do it in the past few years,” said O’Ward, who tested an F1 car in 2021 and then went right into preparing and racing (then winning) the 2022 Rolex 24 at Daytona. “I said, ‘I want at least six weeks. Don’t talk to me, don’t text me, I don’t want to hear anything.’ It’s healing. It’s very healing.

“As much as you love what you do, you need to find a balance of just doing something else. I always tell people, there’s a huge difference between relaxing and recharging. How I recharge is doing things I don’t normally do during the year. Just being at the beach to me is my favorite thing to do after driving race cars. I made sure that I had that kind of time to just enjoy my loved ones. After I was finished with that, I was like, ‘OK, race cars now.’ ”