US Nationals: AlBalooshi bows out in semi-finals

September 03, 2014 - 12:00:00 am
Khalid AlBalooshi executes a burnout in front of a huge Labor Day crowd prior to his semi-final appearance in Monday’s NHRA US Nationals in Indianapolis, Indiana.

 

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana: For years, Dubai native Khalid AlBalooshi watched the NHRA US Nationals from afar, hoping that someday he would get a chance to win the biggest drag race in the world. On Monday, AlBalooshi had that chance here but came up short for the Qatar Al Anabi Racing Top Fuel Team, the three-time and defending World Championship team owned by H E Sheikh Khalid Bin Hamad Al Thani.

With a consistent race car, AlBalooshi advanced to the semi-finals at the just-completed 60th annual Chevrolet NHRA US Nationals, the 18th of 24 races that make up America’s 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing season.

Although he qualified 14th in the quickest field in NHRA history, AlBalooshi had a very consistent race car that made excellent laps almost every time it went down the track.

He began race day with a brilliant 3.788second effort that dispatched veteran driver Morgan Lucas. In the second round, veteran driver Bob Vandergriff was also dispatched by the Top Fuel driver when he dazzled the huge Labor Day holiday crowd at the US Nationals and advanced to the semi-finals against good friend Steve Torrence.

With the gold Al Anabi dragster making consistent run after consistent run, the Al Anabi team were confident entering the semi-finals. But AlBalooshi’s gold Al Anabi car smoked the tyres almost immediately after he hit the throttle and he could only watch as Torrence raced to the win light.

With the semi-final appearance, AlBalooshi finished the regular season in seventh place in the NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel point standings. He will be the number seven seed when the Countdown to the Championship NHRA Play-offs begins in two weeks in North Carolina.

“This weekend was very good for our team,” AlBalooshi said. “The Al Anabi car was good enough to take us to the final round but the car surprised us in the semi-finals (when it smoked the tires). We really aren’t sure yet when happened but we were in good shape all weekend. Our car was very good every round except one qualifying run and the semi-finals today (Monday). Other than those two, we had a car that could have won the race. I was happy to be in the semi-finals of the US Nationals. I am so happy with our car and I am excited to start the Countdown.”

On the other side of the Al Anabi pit area, defending US Nationals champion Shawn Langdon was the number five qualifier.

With his silver Al Anabi car running with the same level of consistency as AlBalooshi’s, there was reason for optimism.

Langdon was outstanding in the first round and easily dispatched Spencer Massey with a 3.787second pass. In the second round, Langdon’s car launched perfectly and was leading the race when the car smoked the tires mid-way through the run, allowing Australian driver Richie Crampton to cruise to the round win. Crampton later in the day won the US Nationals race.

Langdon finished the regular season in third place in the point standings and will be the number three seed when the Countdown to the Championship NHRA Play-offs begins.

“It was great racing this weekend at the US Nationals; it was a really tough field and sometimes when you’re running in a tough field, it’s just difficult,” Langdon said. “The US Nationals is just a big race and we’re disappointed. It was a tough loss but we have six very important races left to go. We’ll do our best to defend our Mello Yello championship and that process starts in two weeks at Charlotte. I know the Al Anabi team will be ready when we get to Charlotte.”

The Al Anabi Racing team will be back in action on September 12-14 at the seventh annual Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals in Concord, North Carolina.

THE PENINSULA

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