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

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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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Eli Tomac’s near-perfect season ended perfectly
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From the start, Eli Tomac wanted to go into the season-ending race at Ironman Raceway with the 2020 red plate already in his possession. That final race has been know to devolve into muddy conditions and it is best not to leave things to chance.

For a rider with an almost perfect record of overall podium finishes, one would not have thought there would be much drama at the end of Round 11 at Budds Creek, but it took until the last lap of the final moto for Tomac to achieve his goal.

One reason was that Tomac’s near-perfect season was not so perfect. From the very beginning at Hangtown, Tomac struggled with poor starts to his events. Getting a bad jump out of the gate and finishing fourth in Moto 1 that weekend was not the auspicious beginning he wanted in search of his third consecutive 450 outdoor championship.

The hallmark of Tomac’s season has been overcoming bad starts. He rode through the field at Hangtown and nearly stood on the podium. Then he won Moto 2 and finished second overall. It was his first of nine consecutive overall podiums. Tomac came back the following week for a perfect sweep at Pala.

In Round 3, Tomac once again got off to a bad start. He finished fifth in Moto 1 at Thunder Valley – and then won Moto 2 in a duplication of his opening round.

In Round 5, Tomac had his worst performance until that time. He finished seventh in Moto 1. Nearly halfway through the season, a pattern was firmly established with his Moto 2 win.

Vanessa O’Brien, Kawasaki USA

One should recall that the hallmark of Tomac’s season was strong finishes. Four the next four weeks Tomac failed to podium only one time in a moto. On that occasion, he would stumble in Moto 2 at Spring Creek in Round 8 before scoring his second perfect race at Washougal.

And that is where it got interesting. Tomac left Washougal with a 50-point advantage over Marvin Musquin. It was just the scenario Tomac had seesawed his way through the season to achieve. But it was too good to be true.

In most of his previous bad performances, there was an extenuating circumstance for Tomac’s bad start: a fall or an off course excursion. This time, he simply rode an uninspired race and finished seventh again to match his worst single moto performance. He could not fully rebound in Moto 2 and finished third.

For the first time in 2019, Tomac failed to stand on the overall podium in fourth. Worse still, he lost 10 points to Musquin and no longer had his one-race cushion.

But this is a season of recovery for Tomac. At Budds Creek last week it was reported that Tomac’s lackluster performance in Washington was due to his overdoing his chores on his Colorado ranch. Rested and restored, Tomac scored his third perfect race with Moto 1 & 2 wins. And this time, he looked sharper than he had in any previous race.

Tomac did all the could do by winning both motos, but in the closing laps at Budds Creek he needed a little help to clinch the title. As it turned out, Tomac needed the perfect performance to clinch his third consecutive championship.

In Moto 1, he narrowly edged Ken Roczen and Musquin, to give the three championship contenders a sweep of the top three spots; that was not enough to regain his cushion.

Roczen was close enough to force Tomac into The Ironman needing to score points to permanently affix the red plate on his Kawasaki in 2020, but just as Tomac’s season has been marked by second half improvements, Roczen’s has been marred by a lack of performance in the second motos.

Musquin passed Roczen late in Moto 2 last week and could have extended the drama one more week if he could have caught second-place Jason Anderson. Musquin could not erase an 11-second deficit to the runner-up and now Tomac’s almost perfect season has a distinctly perfect feel to it.

Vanessa O’Brien, Kawasaki USA

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