This one’s for you, dad.
With his dad recovering from a liver transplant not that far from zMAX Dragway, Shawn Langdon put his Toyota Funny Car in the winner’s circle Sunday for the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA 4-Wide Nationals.
“Dad, I got you one, buddy,” Shawn Langdon said after accepting the Wally trophy for winning his first Funny Car race.
Chad Langdon recently received a new liver at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., and he’s recovering in Mebane, N.C.
“I tried to be there as much as I could for him,” Shawn Langdon said. “I told him, ‘I’m going to get you one.’ I was hoping to do it last race, but beggars cant’ be choosers. Second race in, I’ll take it. Fortunately, he’s healthy. He beat cancer, had a liver transplant, and he’s doing good. I’m going to see him this week, so we’ll be able to get him that trophy.”
In addition to winning his first Funny Car race, Langdon made more history Sunday. He became the 92nd driver to win in Funny Car, 17th driver to win in Top Fuel and Funny Car, and the second one to win in both nitro categories at zMAX – joining, interestingly, his crew chief, Del Worsham.
“It’s humbling when my name gets put next to those guys because I grew up idolizing those guys,” Langdon said. “To have my name next to them, I don’t really know how to take it. I’m very happy that I’m here, but a lot of times I look at it like, ‘Man, I don’t know what I did to deserve that.’ Very, very humbling and very gracious to have my name alongside those guys.
“The way I do it, I don’t really pay attention to a lot of that stuff. I just do the best I can every single time, and they kind of fall where they fall.”
Langdon took advantage of the unique format of the 4-Wide Nationals to advance to the final round. He finished second in his first-round quad to Tommy Johnson Jr., and then finished second in his semifinal quad to Robert Hight.
The semifinal was a bit of a survival race, as Langdon spun the tires but pedaled and ran 4.311 seconds at 213.60 mph. That helped him overcome Johnson, who slowed to a run of 4.363 at 213.60 mph. The top two from each early-round quad advance to the next round.
That put Langdon in the final against No. 1 qualifier Robert Hight, No. 3 qualifier John Force and No. 6 qualifier Matt Hagan. And the final wasn’t at all pretty, as Hight ran 4.159, Force 4.517 and Hagan 5.252.
But Langdon, despite leaving last with a .069-second reaction time, legged out the victory with a not-so-stellar pass of 4.125 seconds at 305.08 mph.
“I wasn’t really sure what Force was going to do because sometimes it’s a little crapshoot,” Langdon said. “He throws it in deep, and I look and go, ‘Damn, Force is in deep.’ And then I’m looking at the Tree, and I was mad when I left because I didn’t feel like I got it good. Then, it’s going down there, and you have so many emotions in your head when you’re driving, and I’m thinking in the back of my head, ‘This thing’s really not running well.’ It’s just kind of petering down there, and I’m glancing out to my left, thinking, ‘Well, damn, I don’t see anybody.'”
Langdon was in the far right lane, but Force wasn’t next to him. Still, the drama wasn’t over. Because two drivers advance from each quad, a flashing light with the winning lane number indicates the winner, with a solid light with the runner-up lane number indicating who finished second.
“I go through the finish line and see a blinking light,” Langdon said. “I thought, ‘Well, OK, I haven’t seen that yet today.’ I Know I’ve been second twice and it’s been a solid light, so I’m like, ‘Damn, I think we might have won.’
“I got on the radio and said, ‘Did we win? I got a flashing light. I don’t know what that means.’ I didn’t hear nothing.”
That’s because his Kalitta Motorsports crew were celebrating as it usually does, in a giant moshpit on the starting line, though Langdon didn’t know that at the time.
Finally, as Langdon came around the corner at top end, he was pointed to where winners go.
“I had about 10 seconds to think, ‘OK, cool, I just won,'” Langdon said. “Just an awesome feeling. This is cool.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019