National Hot Rod Association Media Conference
September 4, 2013
THE MODERATOR: Our last guest today is Shawn Langdon in Top Fuel. He's the number one qualifier, No. 1 seed in the Top Fuel class, and he had a memorable weekend at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. He not only raced to a $100,000 payday when he won the Traxxas Nitro Shootout in Top Fuel, but then on Monday he raced to his first Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals title when he defeated Steve Torrence in both the race and the Traxxas event.
Shawn, I saw on Twitter you said that it was is the best weekend of your life, and you weren't sure if you were dreaming. Talk about last weekend. Has it sunk in yet all that happened last weekend?
SHAWN LANGDON: Yeah, slowly but surely it has been. Just going through today, going through my emails and Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and everything and just hearing all the nice messages from a lot of my friends and family and coworkers, you know, fellow competitors and a lot of the fans just what they've been writing. It's just such a great feeling to be a part of such a special event. To not only win the event, but to win the Traxxas Shootout the same weekend, it's just one of those weekends that it really doesn't get any better than that.
Q. I have to ask you the question that you just raised to me, if you can win the Championship, will you have found a better day than winning at the U.S. Nationals?
SHAWN LANGDON: Well, you know, yes, because the fact of winning the championship, that is your‑‑ that's your goal. That's what you were brought to the team to do. Our single goal is to win the championship. So with that weekend we had last weekend, winning the U.S. Nationals and winning the Traxxas Shootout, that one single weekend, it really doesn't get any better than that for that particular race.
The championship is just an overall achievement throughout the whole year. So I think, you know, if we go to Pomona and we win the championship in Pomona, that will be a year‑long accomplishment. But this weekend was pretty special to be able to win both races in one weekend.
Q. At the same time, and this was going to be my original question, in addition to winning the U.S. Nationals, you've also become far more involved throughout the entire season with actually managing and running the team. Can you talk a little bit about how that's helped you become a better driver?
SHAWN LANGDON: Well, I think it's just understanding a little bit more of what's going on. Last year when I was brought to the team, it was basically as long as I'm there by the time we warm up on Friday, and win or lose on Sunday, whenever we were done and the car was put away, basically hop on a plane and you can go home.
So it was just to the part of where I would show up to the track and just basically hang out with the guys and make my runs and do my job at the track. You don't really‑‑ it's tough to build team chemistry like that.
This year being able to be at the shop and talk to the crew guys a little bit more, talk with Alan more, talk with the crew chiefs more, knowing the direction of the team, knowing what we‑‑ certain parts or pieces that we're putting on the car, what we're trying, what we like, what we don't like. I really do think that it makes you a better driver just understanding the car. It definitely makes you sound a little better on the top end when you get out and you want to talk about the run. You have to have at least a little knowledge about what you're talking about.
Q. Here's something I don't think we've talked about much was the track conditions. You guys had a rain out. You lost a round. Then you had sun and cloudy all day Monday during the finals and semifinals and all of that. How much adjusting do you have to make in your driving to accommodate the track conditions, because it changes so much? It changes the engines. The weather stations go crazy every time it changes. How do you change mentally and physically in driving the car?
SHAWN LANGDON: Well, as a driver, it's a little bit easier on the driver. As a driver, I think the biggest thing that you want to focus on is just mentally preparing yourself correctly for the conditions. You know, obviously, when it gets hotter out, make sure you stay hydrated. Make sure you're eating properly. So there are some little things like that that you can do to help.
As far as on the track, they really made, the crew, Al Anabi crew made my job super easy on Sunday, because I didn't ever have to pedal the car. There are different ways to pedal a car in certain conditions of when the track is really cool or versus when it's really hot.
So for that, the crew made my job very easy. I didn't have to pedal the car at all. The car made flawless runs down the track at all times. But for the crew chief, it played a pretty big role just when you go from where we were at testing, and then we get there, it's a lot hotter, a lot more water in the air with the grains going up and the humidity going up, so there are a lot of things you're going to watch in the weather station.
You've got to play with the compression a little bit, play with the overdrive a little bit. A lot of different changes in the clutch department. Then it's just going from the first round where it's nice and cool to basically where it's hot and muggy second round. We slowed down from a 378 to a 384. That was intentional. Just because the crew chiefs read the track, and we just couldn't apply the same amount of power to the track that we did in the first round.
It's just, that's where it pays off to be part of a great team like this and basically trusting your crew chiefs and their calls.
Q. If you have problems at the other tracks, your crew chiefs will know what to do. I think that's a tremendous skill on the part of the crew chiefs.
SHAWN LANGDON: Oh, yeah, definitely. I mean, that's why the crew chiefs get paid the big bucks. They, obviously, this team over here, in the past they've known how to win in the past. I think that's just a benefit to having two cars is alBalooshi, unfortunately, alBalooshi smoked the tires in the semis, but with the tires right in front of us in that lane, we were able to adjust our car a little bit and slow our car down in that area where he smoked the tires.
So if we were first pair out probably we would have smoked the tires and he probably would have gone on to win the race. So it's a big benefit to having a two‑car team.
Q. Well it's going to be tough in all the classes, it looks that way. And it's going to be great for the fans and the press both because we'll have a lot to cover. Good luck with it and thanks so much.
SHAWN LANGDON: Thank you very much.
Q. Talk a little bit about the ups and downs in your career along the way and how it's along the way you've come to the ability of getting a big win at Indy and still be in contention in the Countdown?
SHAWN LANGDON: Well, I mean, as far as growing up in the racing the Sportsman categories, I learned a lot racing there of kind of running my own team, running my own car, learning basically just how to be a competitor, how to be a good sports man, how to handle winning and how to handle losing. There are a lot of years that I was out there racing just to pay my bills. Never really had much. Basically everything I had went into my racing operation.
Now being up in the Top Fuel category, it took a while for me to adjust. I mean, it was almost four years for me to get my first victory. There are just a lot of different things that can happen in the cars that can really help or hurt you. We had good cars at times. I mean, there were times where I made some driving errors, but I think the biggest thing is just learning from your mistakes and being kind of true to yourself. Don't make excuses. Don't blame things on other people. You know, if you make a mistake, you accept it, and you learn from it, and you try to make yourself a better person on and off the racetrack.
So I think it's just a lot of those things throughout the years of just trying to be an honest racer trying to make myself better to prepare myself for situations like this.
Racing for the Al Anabi team, they put you in a position to win. You know they're going to have a great car. Now it's up to me to perform and basically handle the pressure properly as a driver and not crack under the pressure.
Q. How about that win at Indy, and how long do you think the euphoria will last for you going into the pressures of the countdown?
SHAWN LANGDON: I'm sorry, what was that?
Q. How long do you think the excitement of winning Indy will go into the Countdown? The pressures that you're going to have in the Countdown.
SHAWN LANGDON: Oh, well, obviously, winning Indy is a single biggest thing every year other than winning the championship. So, obviously, it's great for team morale. It's great for team chemistry. That was one of the things on the list of things to do this year that we wanted to accomplish. So we're able to take this win, head into the Countdown, No. 1 seed, winning Indy, winning the Shootout.
We have a lot of momentum right now, a lot of good things are happening, a lot of good vibes. Going into the first race of the Countdown, you're on a high note. That is exactly how you want to start it out. Hopefully, we can do a repeat performance last year winning Charlotte, start off on the right foot and hopefully carry this momentum all the way through.
Q. You kind of touched on it. Is there any added pressure on you in terms of Al‑Anabi has obviously won championships. Alan's obviously won numerous championships. When you go into this number one, obviously, you're in a great setup with this team and one of the best drivers out there right now, how do you avoid maybe having that added pressure considering the history of your team and the success they've had and you trying to put yourself in to be a world champion?
SHAWN LANGDON: Well, I think a lot of the pressure‑‑ a lot of the pressure probably comes from myself. The pressure that I put on myself. Because I love the sport of drag racing. I love everything about it. This is my job, but I'm also living my dream.
I just want to be the best. I want to do whatever to make myself the best. It's not anything that comes from Sheikh Khalid or Alan Johnson, you just know that being part of the team, they're there to win championships. They're going to do whatever it takes to give you a race car that's going to win championships, so it's up to you to perform. I want nothing more than to be able to perform as a driver.
So, you know, it's basically up to me right now. It's not any pressure that these guys are putting on me. I mean, there is a lot of the pressure that maybe comes from the outside with, sometimes just media attention and stuff like that. But as far as internally on the team, I mean, we're just trying to do the best job that we can, and we just want to basically take it one round at a time, make the best run for that situation, and hopefully the wins and the championships will come along with it.
Q. Sort of along the lines of what you were just talking about, after you beat Steve Torrence, during his post‑race interview he made a remark that with Alan Johnson tuning the car, anybody could win in it. I'm just wondering if you're annoyed by the fact that there are still those kind of comments floating around, maybe among fans, certainly probably still that feeling among some drivers and competitors?
SHAWN LANGDON: No, because I know that‑‑ I mean, it's a fact. If you race for Alan Johnson, you're going to win. It's not to take anything away from Blaine Johnson. It's not to take anything away from Gary Scelzi or Tony Schumacher or any other guy that's driven for him. But Alan Johnson is going to win races and he's going to win championships. I don't mean any disrespect to anybody, but if you put a monkey in the car, it's going to win races.
But there are a lot of things that, as a driver, fortunately, I've been able to win a couple of races on the Holeshot. So you kind of take it with a grain of salt. A lot of the fellow competitors, everybody would die to have the opportunity to race for Alan Johnson. I mean, the guy is just an absolute genius. I've learned so much in these last two years racing for this guy. He's made me ten times the better driver than I was before.
So, you know, really, at this point, hearing comments like that, it just is what it is. People are going to have opinions and different opinions. I'm not worried about it. We're not worried about it. We've got a good thing going, and we're just focused on winning the championship, and that's it.
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