November 20, 2014

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NHRA Nationals: Shawn Langdon runs fastest time in history of Summit Motorsports Park

Elyrian Dave Connolly checks on his car Saturday. He qualified seventh in Pro Stock. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

Elyrian Dave Connolly checks on his car Saturday. He qualified seventh in Pro Stock. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

NORWALK — Hundreds of thousands of drivers have run down the drag strip at Summit Motorsports Park since it opened in 1963, but none has ever done it faster than Shawn Langdon did Saturday night.

The defending Top Fuel series champion blew away the crowd — and the competition — with a 3.745-second run in 325.22 mph, becoming the only driver to earn a No. 1 qualifying spot on Day 2.

The Friday qualifying times held up for Pro Stock Motorcycle’s Eddie Krawiec, Pro Stock’s Erica Enders-Stevens and Funny Car’s Del Worsham, and they will have the No. 1 seed in their respective classes going into today’s eliminations.

“That’s a pretty cool stat, but I’m proud more for the guys,” Langdon said of his crew. “They put in all the work and I just tried to keep it straight going down the track.
(The track record) really showcases all their work, and they’ve put in a lot of hours.”

It was somewhat of a surprising run for Langdon, who said his team has been struggling a lot lately in qualifying.

“They really changed a lot after last week,” he said. “We felt like tonight we could lay down a run like that. Now I have a lot of confidence … and you can see it in the guys, too. We feel like we have that little bit of a handle on the car going into eliminations.”

The top qualifying spot in Pro Stock came as no surprise to Enders-Stevens, who leads the series points race and was the fastest driver down the track during all four qualifying sessions — earning her 12 bonus points.

“Those little points do add up … we gained over half a round win in the bank going into tomorrow,” she said. “We’ve got a really consistent hot rod right now … consistency is what is going to get it done.”

Today’s first round will be Enders-Stevens’ second 1-vs.-16 matchup at Norwalk, as she was the No. 16 driver facing top qualifier Greg Anderson during the inaugural Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in 2007.

Enders-Stevens picked up the victory when Anderson failed to stage in time.

“I got chewed out at the end of that one,” she said. “But I had to do something, I had to take a chance. We didn’t have a lot of power back then … my dad and I owned our own team.”

Enders-Stevens has come a long way, picking up the first Pro Stock victory by a female driver and many more along the way. She now is feared more often than she’s afraid.

“I feel confident … I’m not stressed out anymore,” she said. “For the first time in my career, I’m not going up to the line worrying about what the car is going to do.”

Krawiec doesn’t have to worry about that, either. Of course, he rides a motorcycle … and he rides it well.

Krawiec picked up his fifth No. 1 qualifier of the season — not that he’s impressed much by that fact.

“The bad part is you have to get it done on Sunday,” he said. “I have one win out of those five No. 1 qualifying spots.”

Krawiec had one bad run during the two days of qualifying, but said it was an easy fix.

“We had an electrical glitch, which meant it was just one of a few things that could have gone wrong,” he said. “So we changed all that stuff and put the old stuff off to the side to analyze later. Actually … we’ll probably just put it right in the garbage. I don’t even want that stuff around.”

Krawiec will face Elvira Karlsson in today’s first round. Karlsson hails from Storvreta, Sweden, and traveled to the U.S. just weeks ago to compete on the NHRA circuit.

“For them to make it in (the eliminations), I think it’s great,” Krawiec said. “It shows the diversity of the class.”

The last top qualifying spot was won by Worsham, who set the track record the night before with a 4.000 elapsed time.

Worsham expected to see the first three-second run by a Funny Car on Saturday, and he was hoping he’d be the one to get the job done. Instead, Worsham matched his 4.000 time on his final qualifying run.

“That’s the most disappointing four-flat I’ve ever run,” said Worsham, drawing laughter during his post-qualifying interview. “I used four-letter words down there on a four-flat that I never thought I’d use.”

Worsham believes that someone can eventually make a run under four seconds, but he’s not sure that it can happen during today’s eliminations.

“We run at 11 a.m. tomorrow so it’s going to be a different story,” he said. “Maybe if a gray cloud comes in and there’s a little rain and the track cools down … actually, I’ll just take a first-round win instead.”

Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or sbennett@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @ShaunBennettct.

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