A day which started with doubts about both himself and his car, turned out to be one to remember for Shawn Langdon at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park Sunday.
The No. 5 qualifier in the Top Fuel Class, Langdon shocked four-time defending champion Antron Brown in the first round then defeated racing legend Tony Schumacher in the final as he won for the third time in the 2016 season.
Driving his Red Fuel/Sandvik Coromant dragster, Langdon got a quick start on the green and then held off Schumacher by the narrowest of margins as he covered the 1/4 mile strip in a speed of 323.66 mph.
“We really didn’t have a great car during qualifying this week and there were a couple of times today where we had some issues, but it was just a great team effort,” the 35-year old Langdon said. “We got off to a good start today against Antron (Brown). He has a great car but for some reason they just couldn’t get the car where they wanted it this week.”
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“It’s tough to race against a teammate (Brown), but at the end of the day you are racing for yourself. We won a couple of times this year but we had been in a little bit of a slump. You want to be able to give yourself a chance at the championship. We didn’t do a very good job last week, but we got back into the hunt a little bit today.”
With the win, Langdon moves to fourth in the Mello Yello year-long point standings with 2,181. Brown leads with 2,258 with four races remaining.
Brown, a four-time defending champion at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals and reigning Mello Yello Top Fuel series champion, never could get his car into top form this week. Qualifying only 13th, Brown lost to Langdon in the first round of eliminations on Sunday.
Brown breezed down the Gateway drag strip in 320.20 mph, while Langdon moved on with a top speed of of 325.53 mph.
Langdon’s title was just one of four which were carried out on this day as a large crowd gathered in near ideal weather to watch the best drag racers in the world compete.
Other winners on Sunday included Jack Beckman (funny car), Alex Laughlin (pro stock) and Jerry Savoie (pro stock motorcycle).
Schumacher, an eight-time world champion and champion at Gateway Motorsports Park in both 2006 and 2010, was appearing in his 143rd career final. He has more top fuel wins than anybody in history.
Beckman sweeps Illinois
Driving his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger, 50-year-old Jack Beckman captured his 24th career title and second in Illinois during the 2016 season by edging Tommy Johnson Jr in the final.
Beckman, who won in Chicago earlier this year cruised down the track in a speed of 324.51 mph. as he captured his second career crown at Gateway. Beckman also won in 2012, the same year he won the Funny Car Championship.
“Hey, I swept Illinois this year,” Beckman proclaimed in the post-race media conference.
“Every win is special, but I would say this one is even more so because of the fact that we slumping and the way the car reacted this week. To be honest with you, I think I’ve been a very mediocre driver the past few weeks. There are times when the car saves the driver and times when the driver does the same for the car. I don’t know what the difference was this week. If I did I would bottle it and sell it to every driver who doesn’t compete compete in the funny car class.”
The win moves Beckman to third in the funny car point standings. Johnson, a runner-up in 2001 at Gateway, is now second in the point standings.
A dream come true for Laughlin
Laughlin, a 27-year-old competitor, who failed to qualify for the Countdown to the Championship, provided the biggest surprise of the day, winning the pro stock championship in his first ever final.
Driving his Grease Monkey Garage Chevrolet Camaro, Laughlin finished with a speed of 208.68 mph. as he edged Bo Butner in the final. Butner is now winless in seven career finals.
But the pro stock division belonged to Laughlin.
“To be honest, it really hasn’t sunk in yet,” Laughlin said. “The car just was wonderful and my crew did a great job of making adjustments as the weekend went on.
“You really don’t think about who you are driving against. At least I try not too. I wasn’t nervous. I just went as hard as I could all weekend and hope things turned out. They did.”
Savoie wins in St. Louis, again
An alligator farmer in the swamps of Louisiana when he’s not cruising his White Alligator Suzuki, Jerry Savoie edged Angelle Sampey for the title on Sunday in the final of the pro stock motorcycle division.
Savoie, who also won at Gateway in 2014, won three times last year and has won twice in ‘16. He moves to third in the point standings.