National Hot Rod Association Media Conference
October 30, 2013
SCOTT SMITH: Shawn Langdon is in his fifth season in the Top Fuel ranks and is having a breakthrough season. Six wins, three runner-up finishes, seven number one qualifying positions.
Shawn, Jeg was talking about Pomona, what it means to wrap up strong there. You started the season with a win in Pomona. Obviously that's what you're looking for going into this next weekend. What would it mean to bookend the season with the win and then also the championship?
SHAWN LANGDON: Well, it would mean everything to me to be able to end the year at Pomona with a championship just for the fact that's where I grew up, racing junior dragsters, growing up, being a big fan of the sport, watching my idols race there.
Pomona to me is a special place. When I look at the season, Pomona to me is Indy, it's the biggest race of the year, that's because where I grew up racing, junior dragsters there, racing in the Lucas Oil Series, having a lot of friends and family out there.
Then, you know, like Jeg was talking earlier, you start the season there and you see a lot of new things come out for the year, and then you end the season there racing for the championships, all the excitement that goes into Pomona. It's definitely one of the, for me, most exciting races of the year.
SCOTT SMITH: We'll take questions for Shawn.
Q. Coming down to the end of the season here, having the lead for the championship, you've got the end goal in sight, how does the feeling right now compare to when you were in the same position for the two Super Comp World Championships?
SHAWN LANGDON: Well, there still is that pressure of having to perform. It's what you grew up wanting to do, wanting to accomplish. When you grow up as a kid, wanting to be a professional drag racer, you envision yourself putting yourself in championship scenarios in the biggest pressure moments.
To be in a Top Fuel championship, it is quite a bit different because of Super Comp. I think it's maybe more of the media attention and all the publicity that's drawn to it. So there's a lot of interviews, there's a lot of questions, there's a lot of people paying attention. I think it's just a little bit more of the outside pressure.
As a driver, I think you have the same amount of pressure. You're obviously wanting to perform. What really makes or breaks a driver is being able to perform under the biggest pressure moments. I think we're in it right now.
Q. You've expressed in the past your confidence in past teleconferences and interviews. That has gone well for you. How has that confident attitude helped you?
SHAWN LANGDON: Well, I think you have to have that confidence as a driver, without having a cocky attitude that you're the best. As a driver you're always trying to improve yourself. I think the biggest thing is you have to surround yourself with great people.
I think I've been able to do that over here with the Al-Anabi racing team. We have a great team. Everybody is focused. Everybody is dedicated to this team. Everybody is here because they want to win championships.
I think it's just surrounding yourself with great people, having that confidence, having that belief in yourself and in your team that you can accomplish great things, I think it can carry yourself a lot further.
Q. As far as Countdown playoffs go, you have to compete just to get into Countdown, then you have to kick it back up and keep going. Does that wear on you, affect you? How does that affect you?
SHAWN LANGDON: Well, I think from the four previous years that I've been in the Top Fuel category, obviously I was always looking forward to the Countdown. Going into the Countdown I was always in the fifth to ninth-place range. It would always bring me up to the points leader where I would have a shot in the final six races. This year is different. We went in leading.
I was reading on some stuff online. They said we would have already clinched the championship had we not had the Countdown.
I enjoy it. Obviously we want to win the championship, that's the ultimate goal. I think it's that drama leading up to the final race of the season, still having multiple drivers having a shot at that championship, that's what drives fans to show up, that's what creates all the drama. You have to have that in the sport.
I really enjoy the Countdown to leave it up to the last six races of the year. No mistakes. You have to be at your ultimate best. I think it's just great for the sport and the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
Q. As you look back at this year, was there a single moment that occurred where you said, I can be really effective in what I'm doing this year and have a true chance at winning this championship?
SHAWN LANGDON: Well, I think it all started in the beginning of the year when we went to West Palm Beach and we were testing out there. We've had a great car all year long. The car responded very well testing to a lot of the changes that we made through the off-season. Going right into Pomona, we were able to get the victory out there in Pomona.
Along the way throughout the year, the Al-Anabi car has been strong. We've been able to get a lot of track records this year, a lot of number one qualifiers, get a couple victories along the way.
It started off good at the beginning of the year. Fresh new year, you have that confidence that, Hey, it's a new year, we're going to go after the championship this year.
But I think just how the season has progressed, it's just our confidence is getting built up each week that we race along the way.
But I really think that it was in the summer part when we were able to get the back-to-back wins in Englishtown and Topeka where the car was really starting to turn that corner of not just being good but being very good, even to the point of being a little bit in the dominant side of it.
Q. How comforting is that as a driver when you feel your car going that way? Does it allow you to relax?
SHAWN LANGDON: Well, it's not anything to relax about. The thing in NHRA drag racing is anything can happen at any given time. We've seen that this year of a lot of championship-contending cars don't qualify, go out first round. Just like last weekend, with Doug and Spencer, they were both in championship contention, and they lost first round. Antron Brown didn't qualify, Khalid alBalooshi didn't qualify at one of the Countdown races. Even when we won the race in Redding, we came back to the shop where guys were working all day long. There were a couple areas of the car that we felt we were able to pick up in. The guys came back, worked very hard in the two off weeks that we had.
The thing about the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series is if you get complacent at any point you're going to get passed up. Even though you're winning, you still have to continue to take that next step and look forward to the future of making yourself and your team and your car that much better.
Q. I'm wondering what would be weighing on you more, performing in front of your hometown crown, potential championship in hand, or having Allen Johnson watch your every move?
SHAWN LANGDON: Both of them are a little bit of pressure on both sides of things. I think, you know, obviously we want to perform in Pomona. It's the last race of the year to be able to clinch a championship. It would be great.
But it's always nice to have your friends and family there. But sometimes those races can become a little bit of a distraction, just having a lot of people there that you're trying to perform in front of but also entertain, include them in on hopefully your great weekend.
But I think with stuff like that you just become accustomed to it. It's something that as a professional athlete, it's part of your job. You just become accustomed to it and learn when you're outside of the car to have a different mindset. But once you sit in that racecar, a lot of that stuff just goes away. You're not worried about all of the outside distractions.
On the other side of things, performing in front of Allen Johnson, it can be a little bit intimidating at times just because you look at Allen, what he's accomplished in his lifetime, the names of the drivers that have driven for him are the best in our sport. So for me, I'm a young up-and-coming driver, and I still have a lot to learn and a lot to prove. But I like that. I like the fact that I have the best in the business.
Whether he talks to me after a run, whether it's something that he says in a positive manner or whether it's something that he says in a manner of addressing something that I might have done wrong, he just makes me better.
There's nothing negative about working for Allen Johnson. I mean, the guy is absolutely the best of the best and I've learned more in these last two years, not only just being a driver, but how to handle being a driver, how to handle a lot of the outside positives or negatives just in life.
He's a great mentor. He's a great team manager, however you want to look at it. Allen Johnson is the best in the business.
Q. The end of last season, the beginning of this season, you took on a lot bigger role with the entire team than just the driver. Does that change the way you approach driving the car at all? Can you attribute any of your outside focuses on the rest of the team, can you attribute your success this season to that at all?
SHAWN LANGDON: Well, I don't think that anything that I've done in the office has attributed much to that. When Chad Head was over here, he did an excellent job as a team manager. He saw everything inside and out, basically ran the team like it was his. He did an excellent job with it.
So when I had the opportunity to take over a part of that role, I'm going through a lot of learning experiences of just learning a lot of things about the business, about racing in the Top Fuel class, dealing with a lot of different distributors.
You know, that's why I really love being a part of this team, because it's one big team. It's not where everybody does their individual job. Everybody is very quick to help and to pick up if somebody's busy doing something, they'll pick up some slack on their end.
I think I've just done a little bit to help along the way to ease a little bit of pressure off of some of the people in the front office, maybe some of the guys from the team, stuff like that.
It was an opportunity that was presented to me when Chad had left. I'm just trying to help out. I'm just trying to fill the void, make it easier. The way I look at it is, hey, if I can lake Allen's job easier, if I can make everybody's job in the office easier, if I can make all the crew guys' job easier, that's less pressure on them. It's just a big team effort over here.
SCOTT SMITH: Shawn, I think that will wrap-up things with you. Thank you very much for joining us. We will see you in Pomona next week.
SHAWN LANGDON: Thank you. We'll see you in Pomona.
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