National Hot Rod Association Media Conference
November 13, 2013
THE MODERATOR: Thank you on behalf of the NHRA, the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series for joining us. Today during this call we'll be joined by our newest Top Fuel World Champion, Shawn Langdon, and Pro Stock World Champion, Jeg Coughlin who both clinched their championships at the season‑ending Auto Club NHRA Finals last weekend in Pomona. Also joining us will be Brittany Force who was the winner of the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award winner, which is given out to the top NHRA rookie at the end of each season.
We'll start today's call with Shawn Langdon. Shawn, thank you for joining us today.
SHAWN LANGDON: Thanks for having me.
THE MODERATOR: Shawn clinched his season‑long championship at the following qualifying on Saturday at Pomona with the strength of the category best seven wins, including the season‑ending event in Pomona. He also raced a three‑runner up finishes and seven number one qualifying positions. Shawn, now that you've had a couple of days to kind of sit and reflect on it, has it sunk in what you were able to accomplish this year winning the championship?
SHAWN LANGDON: Well, I think it's slowly starting to sink in a little bit. I'm still up on cloud nine. I think going to the banquet and being able to watch the video that they put up on the screen to kind of reflect back on the season and how everything progressed and just to watch all the different tracks that we went to, just thinking back. And I'm just so proud of the team and everything that they were able to do coming out of last year where it wasn't quite up to their expectations and we finished fourth.
They were very determined this year to get that No. 1 on the Al‑Anabi car. Just to see the hard work and dedication that went into it and to watch the guys. There wasn't a guy that left work early. Everybody stayed late. Everybody put in an A‑plus effort throughout the year. So I'm just so proud of the team. But I think it's slowly starting to sink in. Every time I look at that trophy, it's just a great feeling.
THE MODERATOR: Where is the trophy? Do you have it with you?
SHAWN LANGDON: Yeah, we actually have it with us. We're up in Santa Maria, California right now, getting ready for the Blake Johnson Memorial Golf Tournament. So we had it at dinner last night and then over at the Hitching Post, and then we went over to Elmer's after that and took it over there. So we're having fun with it. A lot of people taking pictures with it. So we have it out here today at the Memorial Golf Tournament. It's just a great feeling to be able to enjoy the championship. But it's even better to be able to enjoy the championship with a lot of great family and friends.
Q. Winning an NHRA Top Fuel championship has a lot of aftermath. What do you feel now, and what do you expect in the coming weeks and months that you'll feel after attaining this level?
SHAWN LANGDON: Well, I think there's obviously a lot of things that come with winning a championship. I hope I'm ready for it. I watched what Antron Brown did last year and you kind of see his rise to stardom, and now he's just a superstar of the sport. I still‑‑ I still just kind of look at myself as that little kid that's racing junior dragsters, and I don't really, I guess, think of myself as a superstar of the sport. I'm just very thankful to be out there, and I just enjoy what I do.
But there are responsibilities that come with it, so I think it's going to be very important to keep pushing the NHRA, Mello Yello Series and keep the sport alive and the next generation is coming up, and I'm a part of that next generation, I'm just going to try to do the best job that I can and try to be an ambassador of the sport and try to push our sport and show all the fans across the country and across the world just how great the sport is.
Q. You kind of touched upon it, but how long do you and the team get to celebrate this? You're obviously a fan of other sports and they talk about the next one is always the hardest. What is kind of the plan the next couple months here for you and the team?
SHAWN LANGDON: I think just go back to the shop and regroup a little bit. Right now we're just enjoying the California weather. We're enjoying spending a little bit of time up here in Santa Maria with the Johnson family and giving back to the community up here, also celebrate everything with the Johnson family, with the Blaine Johnson Memorial Golf Tournament.
We're just going to enjoy it up here for a little while. We'll be up here for a couple days, and then we'll get back to the shop to start coming up with a game plan for next year. I don't think we're going to test in December like we have done the last couple seasons, but we're just looking forward to going down to West Palm Beach in January and making a couple hits down there and getting everybody back in the swing of things.
We'll give everybody the much‑needed time off. It was a long season. There were a lot of weeks that we went back‑to‑back weeks. So it's pretty tough on some of the crew guys. They don't get to see their family and wife and kids. So we'll be able to go back to the shop and work hard, but also give these guys an opportunity to have a little bit of family time as well.
Q. Obviously, I know this was an ultimate goal to win a championship. How do you approach next year in terms of the pressure that's involved to try to repeat? Obviously, you proved yourself to be a great driver even before you won the championship, but is there more pressure now that you've won this one with this team? I know you don't want to stop at one championship, but is there more pressure for 2014 for you from that aspect?
SHAWN LANGDON: Yeah, I really like that a lot of pressure is off. I really think that this year this team was able to make a couple statements out there. I think for me as a driver getting that first championship out of the way, the way that I look at it is I'm so fortunate to be doing what I'm doing. I'm so thankful. I was able to get the championship in the junior Dragster category. I was able to get it in the Super Stock category, and now in the Top Fuel category.
So it's just the way that I look at it is for right now every goal that I've set, I've been able to achieve it with the help of some great people and anything for the rest of my life is just an added bonus. I've really fulfilled my life-long dream, and I'm able to live it right now. So obviously we're looking forward to next year, and we're definitely looking at defending the Mello Yello World Championship.
But I don't think it's going to be any added pressure or anything that we didn't see this year, anything that we didn't feel this year. There was definitely a lot of pressure for me being the first time where I've been able to be in the countdown and really be in these high‑pressure situations. I think it's going to help because now I know how to handle it. Now I know what to expect.
That was the biggest thing that I was a little worried about is the fear of the unknown. I didn't really know how I was going to perform under the pressure. I know how the teams are going to perform. They've proven that in the past. But for me as a driver, I think now I just know what to expect. So I think now we can go out, have fun, and extend this championship for the years to come.
Q. You mentioned several times during your interviews over the weekend that the team Alan and the Sheikh took a chance on you when they hired you because you hadn't won the race. I think a lot of people wondered the same thing, why you got hired for that job. I'm wondering, did you ever ask yourself back then why am I getting this job?
SHAWN LANGDON: I did a lot. I've asked myself that for years, even growing up in the sports and ranks when just people gave me so many opportunities to drive their cars then when I got opportunity in my first year to drive a Top Fuel car. And, yeah, when I got the phone call from Alan Johnson and Sheikh Khalid to drive their car.
I look at the sport and I look at how many talented drivers there are out there, and there are just some people that, man, you can put a mic in front of them and they could entertain people for hours. You put them in the race car, and they drive it like they own it. They can wheel these things.
Then for me, I'm a young and up‑and‑coming driver and it's all new to me, the media, the pressure and everything. So I get up in front of the microphone, and I don't always know what to say. My jaw, it's on the floor. I'm in awe of the opportunity that I have just to be out here.
For whatever they saw in me, I'm just very thankful to get that opportunity and to have a great team like this believe in me as a driver and believe in me as a person to represent their team for Sheikh Khalid to represent his country. It's just a great opportunity. Whatever it is I'm glad I did it for them to notice it. Like I said, it's just a great opportunity.
Q. If I could follow up, you talk about up and coming drivers. Obviously, Brittany is the Rookie of the Year. How would you assess her season? Because everybody bases them on wins and losses, but how would you assess her as a competitor?
SHAWN LANGDON: I think she did a great job. The first year is very tough because there are a lot of eyes on you, especially for her with her name, with her dad being a legend of the sport, obviously, she's going to have twice as many eyes on her. But I feel that she's handled it very well. She's handled the media very well. Her interviews have gotten better throughout the year, and she started off the year doing great interviews.
But the way they do the media over there at John Force Racing, they do an excellent job. They bring a lot of attention to the sport. She's still learning as a driver inside of the race car, but she's doing a great job. You saw the car performing well at the end of the year. They're making great runs. There were times where they had a top 5 car, and it's just the first time ever having a dragster over there.
That is definitely a Funny Car team. For them to come out the way they did, I really feel that they're going to be a top 10 car next year, and they're going to be in the countdown.
Q. Talk about the weekend a little bit. Shawn's from the Pomona area and that is his home track, winning the championship. Then going on to win the race. Sunday, you're going around; how did you stay focused? I know you had a lot of friends and family there. How easy or hard was it to keep the eye on the prize there Sunday night?
SHAWN LANGDON: Once you get into that race mode on Sunday, I feel it gets easier. The beginning of the week is always tough at your home tracks, just getting everything in order, getting your scheduling for the week. Thankfully Rob Goodman takes care of a lot of that for me. But it's getting everything in order for the week, getting the tickets, getting the hospitality right, and just making sure your schedule is right to where you can meet all your sponsor's obligation that's they have for you for the weekend.
But as the weekend rolls on you and get into that race mode and you get that focus going, it definitely gets a lot easier. It was just a great feeling. Last weekend was one of the highlights of my life. That was probably one of the best weekends of my life. To do what we did, to have to go out there and perform and we were able to clinch the championship and we were able to win the race and do it with all of our friends and family out there, you just could not ask for anything more. Shawn Langdon.
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