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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.”

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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.

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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.

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FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

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.

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FINAL RESULTS:

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.

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FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

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.

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UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

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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Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.