BAYTOWN, Texas: It’s amazing what a little bit of success can do.
After some moderate struggles at the last few races, an excellent performance in Charlotte two weeks ago has 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, headed into this weekend’s race with high hopes of a return to form.
Shawn Langdon and his teammate, Khalid alBalooshi, look to keep moving forward at this weekend’s 27th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals, the sixth of 24 races making up the United States’ 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
Qualifying is set for tomorrow and Saturday with eliminations scheduled for Sunday.
Langdon’s run to the final round of eliminations two weeks ago in Charlotte propelled the reigning world championship team to fourth place in the NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel point standings – Langdon’s highest ranking of the season.
Entering the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals two weeks ago, Langdon’s silver Al-Anabi car had been running well, but race days had not been kind to the champions.
With just three round wins in the season’s first four races, Langdon was seventh in points.
In Charlotte, all of the team’s hard work came together. The silver Al-Anabi team made four brilliant qualifying runs and dazzled the crowd with the quickest run of the weekend and Langdon’s second No. 1 qualifier in five races.
In eliminations on Sunday, Langdon’s team found the consistency it had been lacking and raced to the final round of eliminations missing the victory by mere thousandths of a second. They didn’t win the race, but they made a major move in points, and that means good things ahead.
“I feel great about what’s going on with our race team right now,” Langdon said.
“The Al-Anabi car has definitely been making big improvements in the areas that we’ve been working on for the last few races. Even though we struggled at the beginning of the year, we still felt like we had a great car. We just missed a couple calls on Sunday. We were able to make a lot good calls on Sunday in Charlotte, and the car responded well. Counting qualifying, we made seven great runs in Charlotte, and the car went down the track throughout the weekend so we’re hoping to carry that momentum into Houston this weekend.”
One year ago in Houston, Langdon was the No. 3 qualifier and raced to the final round of eliminations where he met veteran racer Bob Vandergriff who won the race.
Langdon’s runner-up finish in Houston last year coupled with his runner-up finish in Charlotte two weeks ago means the world champions are hungry for a return visit to the winner’s circle at Houston’s Royal Purple Raceway.
“We did well in Houston last year; the Al-Anabi car was good, and we were the runner-up,” Langdon said.
“We made a little mistake in the final, and the car smoked the tires at the starting line. We were able to learn from that, and that actually helped us get the car running quite a bit better throughout the rest of the year. We’re going into Houston this year with good thoughts and a lot of confidence. We’re hoping this Al-Anabi team can get the job done this year.”
AlBalooshi enters the Houston race with similar optimism and rightfully so. After winning the season’s first race in February, alBalooshi’s gold Al-Anabi car has been inconsistent, just like their team-0mates.
But two weeks ago in Charlotte, like their teammates, alBalooshi and the gold team returned the level of excellence that made it possible for them to win in February.
They made excellent runs in qualifying, posted their best qualifying effort of the season and advanced to the semifinals.
One year ago in Houston, alBalooshi was the No. 2 qualifier – his career best.
He advanced to the semifinals where Langdon ended his day and went on to the finals. Still, it was a very good weekend for alBalooshi.
Successful outings two weeks ago in Charlotte and a year ago in Houston have alBalooshi thinking this weekend could be another good one for the gold Al-Anabi team.
“Our Al-Anabi car was very good in Charlotte (two weeks ago); we made good runs in qualifying and on race day,” alBalooshi said.
“I think our car will also be fast this weekend. We started out the season perfectly, but after that, we had some tough races. I have been talking with our crew chief, Jason (McCulloch), and after Charlotte, I think we have our hot rod back. From what we did in Charlotte, I think we are getting close to running the way we did earlier this year. I know our car will keep on getting better and better and better. I am looking forward to racing again this weekend – we were good at this race last year; we can be good again this time.”
Al-Anabi Racing operates out of multiple locations in both the United States and Qatar.
In the United States, the Brownsburg, Ind.-based operation is a two-car NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series team that is managed by Alan Johnson Racing.
Sheikh Khalid’s initiative has created increased international awareness of the State of Qatar while highlighting the nation’s international sports outreach.