CHARLOTTE – Gotta be the beard.
Sporting a growing mountain-man beard, Shawn Langdon roared to the first Top Fuel victory of his career, beating U.S. Nationals champion Tony Schumacher in the finals of the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at zMax Dragway on Sunday.
"I'm going to have to stick with the beard," Langdon said. "Maybe it's a good-luck charm. Whatever it takes to win."
Langdon was joined in the Charlotte victory lane by Ron Capps in Funny Car, Jason Line in Pro Stock and Andrew Hines in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Langdon was competing in his 87th career race, having reached the finals five times before this weekend. But his Al-Anabi dragster was terrific all weekend, as he qualified No. 1 and raced to the victory.
"I'm really a firm believer in everything happens for a reason," Langdon said. "I guess, 87 races into it, I've always wondered, 'Why haven't I won? Am I doing something wrong?'"
Langdon is in his first season with the powerful Al-Anabi team, which won the Top Fuel title last year with Del Worsham driving. Langdon had two poles and one other final-round in the regular season, where he was seventh in the points standings.
"You get to the Countdown (to the Championship), and it becomes crunch time," Langdon said. "You start to think, 'Am I doing something wrong as a driver because we still haven't won yet?' But the way I look at it right now is I couldn't have scripted it any better. Excellent job to start out the Countdown with a win. It's a surreal feeling, I'm loving it right now."
And Langdon is encouraged by history at Charlotte: eight of last 12 race winners at Charlotte have the won championship.
"Any time you can put yourself in a good stat like that, it's definitely a confidence-booster," Langdon said. "To start off the Countdown here, get the No. 1 qualifier, get the win, it's just a great start for the team. The last couple of races, the car's really turned around quite a bit."
Langdon's race-winning pass was 3.785 seconds at 326.71 mph, out-gunning Schumacher's 3.808-second run at 322.27 mph.
Capps entered the NHRA playoffs as the top seed, thanks to a pairing with crew chief Rahn Tobler than began here in April.
"All of a sudden, it was fun again," Capps said of the start of their relationship. "We went to the final round, and then we went on a streak of six final rounds."
The victory Sunday was Capps' fourth of the season, and it extended his points lead. He beat Indy winner Mike Neff in the finals with a lap of 4.067 seconds at 315.49 mph in his NAPA Dodge. Neff was never in it, coasting to a pass of 10.406 at 79.25 mph.
"You're confident, but you're stupid to get cocky about it," Capps said his title chances. "I don't take anything for granted. I really thought we were in trouble without lane choice against Cruz (Pedregon in the semifinals). He went .03, we went .06 first round, and I thought, 'We're in trouble.' Rahn Tobler pulled out an .06 in that right lane, and I thought, 'Man, this is going to be fun.'"
Fun would not be the way several Pro Stock drivers would describe Sunday's race, especially not Shane Gray. After Erica Enders pulled her chutes early while leading Warren Johnson in the first round to regain control in the left lane, Gray slipped out of the groove in the same lane in round two before getting sideways, slamming the wall and flipping. He was OK, but his Camaro was destroyed.
Indy winner Dave Connolly followed in the left lane, and he, too, got sideways before pushing in the clutch. NHRA then sprayed the track, and no one else had trouble – until the final.
Both Line and Allen Johnson shot right off the line, but Line was able to pedal his Summit Racing Equipment Camaro to his second victory of the year.
"I shouldn't say this, but I'm going to say it anyway: Allen, very rarely does he pedal when he shakes," said Line, the defending Pro Stock champion. "So all I knew was I was getting back in it, no matter what, if I didn't see him. I didn't see him. I glanced over one time, and I could see the nose of his car, but obviously he was not going any faster than I was. I destroyed the clutch in the process, but who cares? We won the race. It was a big won for us, for sure."
Line's pass was the slowest of any Pro Stock round winner Sunday, 7.518 seconds at 200.20 mph, but it beat Johnson's run of 11.800 seconds at 78.71 mph.
The Summit team holds the record of consecutive victories by teammates, 13, but Hines and the Screamin' Eagle Harley Davidson team tied that mark Sunday. Hines beat teammate Eddie Krawiec in the final on a holeshot, using a .008-second advantage on the starting line to outrun Krawiec's better ET (6.862 at 194.49 mph for Hines to 6.858 at 195.14 mph for Krawiec).
"That's a big deal, tying the Summit boys," said Hines, who has five wins this year. "I remember when the streak started, after Atlanta when we had five in a row, my dad asked me out the blue, 'What's the longest streak for a team in NHRA history?' I didn't know the official stat, but I knew those guys did so well in 2005. I went and looked at it, and they had 13 in a row, all in one season. That was astounding.
"Every race we win – we expect to go to the race and win – but we still shake our head about it, like, 'I can't believe we're leaving here with another one.'"
ROUND ONE -- Bob Vandergriff, 3.831, 323.27 def. Steve Torrence, 3.824, 320.58; Khalid alBalooshi, 4.425, 182.43 def. Antron Brown, 4.716, 159.31; Brandon Bernstein, 3.838, 321.50 def. Cory McClenathan, 3.842, 311.92; Shawn Langdon, 3.888, 311.34 def. Chris Karamesines, 4.105, 283.85; Tony Schumacher, 3.793, 324.83 def. David Grubnic, 5.147, 131.99; Spencer Massey, 3.812, 322.73 def. Terry McMillen, 3.949, 314.83; Doug Kalitta, 3.807, 325.92 def. Clay Millican, 3.882, 314.75; Morgan Lucas, 3.808, 325.85 def. Larry Dixon, 3.897, 296.31; QUARTERFINALS -- Langdon, 3.796, 325.45 def. Vandergriff, 3.851, 321.58; Massey, 3.777, 324.36 def. alBalooshi, 5.819, 113.99; Bernstein, 3.822, 324.36 def. Kalitta, 3.827, 323.50; Schumacher, 3.788, 323.66 def. Lucas, 3.865, 262.18; SEMIFINALS -- Langdon, 3.808, 322.19 def. Bernstein, 3.948, 298.73; Schumacher, 3.749, 324.75 def. Massey, 3.804, 321.04; FINAL -- Langdon, 3.785, 326.71 def. Schumacher, 3.808, 322.27.
ROUND ONE -- Jeff Arend, Toyota Camry, 4.335, 305.77 def. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 6.165, 114.33; Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.096, 307.58 def. Todd Lesenko, Chevy Impala, 4.223, 293.73; Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.069, 312.06 def. Jim Head, Toyota Solara, 5.423, 137.30; Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.066, 312.42 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.110, 311.20; Mike Neff, Mustang, 4.271, 262.18 def. Johnny Gray, Charger, 5.931, 114.88; Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.035, 314.31 def. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 6.031, 116.83; John Force, Mustang, 4.142, 313.37 def. Courtney Force, Mustang, 12.473, 30.42; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.057, 311.56 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 6.313, 108.04; QUARTERFINALS -- Neff, 4.065, 312.57 def. J. Force, 4.129, 314.17; Beckman, 4.063, 310.48 def. Arend, 4.108, 313.44; Capps, 4.064, 313.88 def. C. Pedregon, 4.541, 188.31; Hagan, 4.062, 307.09 def. Wilkerson, 9.461, 81.00; SEMIFINALS -- Neff, 4.050, 314.53 def. Beckman, 4.298, 305.49; Capps, 4.047, 317.05 def. Hagan, 4.343, 218.65; FINAL -- Capps, 4.067, 315.49 def. Neff, 10.406, 79.25.
ROUND ONE -- Dave Connolly, Chevy Cobalt, 6.657, 209.04 def. V. Gaines, Dodge Avenger, 6.624, 208.97; Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.639, 207.08 def. Ron Krisher, Pontiac GXP, 6.641, 208.39; Warren Johnson, GXP, 6.658, 208.65 def. Erica Enders, Cobalt, 6.785, 165.25; Mike Edwards, GXP, 6.623, 209.98 def. Ronnie Humphrey, GXP, 6.665, 208.78; Shane Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.675, 208.39 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 7.215, 155.96; Vincent Nobile, Avenger, 6.596, 210.21 def. Lewis Worden, Mustang, 9.986, 92.07; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.576, 211.06 def. Frank Gugliotta, Mustang, foul; Allen Johnson, Avenger, 6.594, 210.73 def. Jeg Coughlin, Avenger, 6.644, 208.42; QUARTERFINALS -- W. Johnson, 6.637, 208.36 def. Gray, DQ; Nobile, 6.620, 208.04 def. Connolly, 6.872, 169.32; A. Johnson, 6.585, 210.08 def. Edwards, 6.619, 208.46; Line, 6.567, 210.97 def. Morgan, 6.643, 206.67; SEMIFINALS -- A. Johnson, 6.567, 211.00 def. Nobile, 6.588, 209.46; Line, 6.554, 211.39 def. W. Johnson, 6.651, 208.71; FINAL -- Line, 7.518, 200.20 def. A. Johnson, 11.800, 78.71.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
ROUND ONE -- Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.984, 191.70 def. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.989, 191.08; Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.927, 189.92 def. John Hall, Buell, 6.981, 190.14; Michael Ray, Buell, 6.950, 191.65 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.032, 190.19; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.899, 194.30 was unopposed; Hector Arana, Buell, 6.900, 193.88 def. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, foul; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.871, 194.55 def. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 7.078, 190.43; Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.939, 190.83 def. Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.959, 190.22; Matt Smith, Buell, 6.954, 191.46 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.039, 188.60; QUARTERFINALS -- Arana, 6.893, 192.49 def. Smith, 7.075, 184.09; Arana Jr, 6.914, 190.89 def. Ray, 6.918, 191.76; Hines, 6.871, 192.99 def. Gann, 7.739, 131.28; Krawiec, 6.846, 194.91 def. Pollacheck, foul; SEMIFINALS -- Hines, 6.858, 193.16 def. Arana, broke; Krawiec, 6.831, 195.45 def. Arana Jr, foul; FINAL -- Hines, 6.862, 194.49 def. Krawiec, 6.858, 195.14.