Eleven years ago, Shawn Langdon used money he earned hanging drywall at $8 an hour to pay to travel more than 1,000 miles to Seattle to compete at Pacific Raceways.
Langdon won his Super Comp race that summer day in 2002 — his first national win — and his drywall career would soon come to an end.
Now Langdon and his Al-Anabi team sit solidly in first place in the Top Fuel points standings with four wins heading into this weekend’s 26th annual NHRA Northwest Nationals.
If that seems like a 350 mph climb to the top for a driver who entered the season with only one career win, it seems even faster for Langdon.
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“It has been a dream season,” he said with a smile. “To have four wins at this point in the season against such a strong, competitive field is a testament to our entire team.”
Seven drivers have won Top Fuel events this season with Langdon, who also has a pair of runner-up finishes, being the most consistent driver.
There are three races left before the Countdown to the Championship begins and Langdon knows how important it will be to go into that stretch of championship races with the points lead.
“Right now we’ve really kind of found the sweet spot between the car and the tuneup,” Langdon said. “As a driver, I just have to keep my head on straight and keep my reaction times good. We have to just keep doing what we’re doing.”
Last season, Langdon, 30, finished fourth in the point standings, winning once while leaving the starting line before his opponent a circuit-best 72 percent of the time.
Last week, team owner Sheik Khalid Al Thani visited the team in Sonoma, Calif., and Langdon, whose contract is up for renewal, reacted to the pressure by pulling out his fourth win.
“I always dreamed about being in this position, but never really believed it would come true,” Langdon said. “I’m just a small town kid who made it to the big leagues.”
• Brittany Force, the middle daughter of 15-time Funny Car world champion John Force, threw out the first fish during a ceremony at Pike Place Market Thursday morning. She caught both salmon tossed her way, an omen she hopes will bring her good luck this weekend.
She is a rookie, 13th in the Top Fuel point standings, still looking for her first win. Younger sister Courtney Force is tied for sixth in the Funny Car standings and is the defending Funny Car champion at Pacific Raceways. Older sister Ashley Force-Hood is an eight-time Funny Car winner who retired after having two children.
• Drivers will find the infamous bump in the left lane missing this year. Track owner Jason Fiorito said 200 feet of asphalt was replaced in both lanes after the transition area, which should make for a much smoother ride. “We are making incremental improvements 100 feet at a time,” Fiorito said.
• Defending Pro Stock champion Erica Enders-Stevens will not be here this weekend and is attending a different race. Points leader Mike Edwards is in the field along with Allen Johnson, who is in second place, 66 points back.