BAYTOWN, Texas: Khalid alBalooshi was brilliant in Baytown and advanced to his second final round in six races for the Qatar Al-Anabi Racing Top Fuel Team, the three-time and defending World Championship team owned by Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Thani.
In addition to alBalooshi’s stellar showing, reigning World Champion Shawn Langdon advanced to the semi-finals at the 27th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals yesterday, the sixth of 24 races that make up America’s 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing season.
AlBalooshi was the No. 13 qualifier at the race track located some 45 miles east of Houston, and he faced a daunting challenge in the first round: seven-time NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel World Champion Tony Schumacher.
AlBalooshi made it a short day for the seven-time champ with a dazzling 3.802 run at more than 321 mph – his best run of the weekend in the hot, humid conditions.
From there, the Dubai native dispatched Leah Pritchett and No. 1 qualifier Steve Torrence on his way to the final round.
There, he met 2012 NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel World Champion Antron Brown – yet another formidable opponent.
Brown got the jump off the starting line, but the cars were close until nearly half track when the tires on the gold Al-Anabi dragster lost traction a bit allowing the veteran Brown to cruise to the win light and his third victory in six races this season.
For his efforts, alBalooshi jumped one place to fifth in the NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel point standings.
“It was a good day, especially winning the first round with a very close win over Tony,” alBalooshi said.
“The Al-Anabi car was very good all weekend. In the final round, I made a mistake and got the car outside the groove, and it smoked the tires. I am sorry that happened.
“I hope we will keep running this way and even get way better in the next couple of races. I feel good about how we started this season with a win and a runner up so far. Our team is going in the right direction now; both cars are running good numbers. I think we are in a good way right now. I appreciate the hard work from everyone on our team, and I thank Sheikh Khalid for giving me this opportunity.”
Reigning NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel World Champion Shawn Langdon also had a solid day in Texas.
The No. 3 qualifier defeated Troy Buff and then points leader Doug Kalitta on his way to the semifinals.
There, he made a good run, but Brown defeated him and moved onto the final round.
Langdon remains fourth in the NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel point standings.
“Results wise, the Al-Anabi team had a good weekend; we qualified well, made it to the semis and we’re fourth in points,” Langdon said.
“We still struggled a little with our tune-up, but we’re close. We’re still learning about some of the changes we’ve made.
“We missed it a little in the semis and didn’t make as good a run as we thought we would; we’re still kind of diagnosing everything.
“When the car goes down the track, it’s really good so we know we’re close.
“When things get right, we’ll be in good shape going forward. We need to get that first win out of the way.
“Once we get over that hump, we are confident we’ll have a great race car again. Thanks to Sheikh Khalid and everyone in Qatar for supporting us – we’re getting closer every day.”
The Al-Anabi Racing team will be back in action May 16-18, 2014 at the 34th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals near Houston.
Al-Anabi Racing operates out of multiple locations in both the United States and Qatar.
In the US, 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 Qatar while highlighting the nation’s international sports outreach.
Alan Johnson is a 15-time NHRA champion in various capacities including crew chief, team owner and team manager.