Leah Pruett, Shawn Langdon Chase Rare ‘Double’ at NHRA U.S. Nationals

Kalitta Motorsports’ Shawn Langdon and Don Schumacher Racing’s Leah Pruett, both of whom compete in the NHRA’s Top Fuel class, have been drag-racing rivals since their Jr. Dragster days in Southern California.

And each will be trying this weekend at the Dodge SRT U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis to become the first at this Camping World Drag Racing Series classic to earn trophies in two different categories.

Langdon is competing in the Top Fuel and sportsman-level Super Comp classes. For the sixth time this year, Pruett will add Factory Stock Showdown driving duties to those she has every national event in Top Fuel.

Through Friday’s action, he has qualified No. 9 and advanced to the third round of eliminations in Super Comp. He took the provisional No. 16 position in Top Fuel under the lights at Lucas Oil Raceway.

“I just enjoy racing in general. I’m quite a bit more hands-on on the sportsman side of things, which is kind of my roots,” Langdon said. “I enjoy racing Super Comp and doing some bracket racing,” Langdon said.

“They’re just two different styles of racing,” he said of the pro and sportsman brands of drag racing.

The DHL Toyota Dragster driver figured he has about as many passes in a sportsman or bracket car this year so far as he does in an 11,000-horsepower dragster.

“Pretty close,” Langdon said. “A lot of times, when you go bracket racing, they allow you to double enter. A lot of the bracket races will be from three to five days of racing. So it’s not uncommon to after the weekend of racing get 30-plus runs.

He couldn’t begin to predict how many non-Top Fuel races he has run in this already crazy-busy 2021, not without consulting the schedule posted in his office. He indicated it might be easier to count the weekends he has been out of some kind of race car.

“I’ve basically raced almost – between working with my nephew [Caden Casner, of Southern California], doing his Jr. Dragster races, and my bracket racing, and the Top Fuel racing, I’ve maybe had one or two off weekends,” Langdon said, admitting that “doing everything, I get pretty exhausted quite a bit.

“I guess it’s my style of living, he said. “Usually, I’ll get back from a race and my downtime is working in my garage on my bracket car. That’s my downtime to relax. Throughout the year, you go race to race. I take it kind of each week at a time. Just kind of depending on how the NHRA schedule falls, I try to fit in bracket races on the off-weekends and try to fit in my nephew’s Jr. schedule, as well.”

Langdon indicated he has a special purpose for dashing from one pit to another this weekend.

“That will keep me busy. I like running the extra class, because with only one nighttime pro session on Friday, I can get my mind into race mode all day running my Super Comp dragster,” he said. “I think it makes me a better racer, because I am thinking about driving better, having good reaction times. And I am focusing on all the small details. Keeping your mind active and focused is a big deal when you have a race as important as the U.S. Nationals.”

Langdon has two Top Fuel victories here at Lucas Oil Raceway, including last year’s U.S. Nationals. He also won this event in the Super Gas class.

“Getting the win last year was big with Connie Kalitta as my crew chief. I really wanted to get a win with him and the DHL team,” he said. “It is the last race of the regular season, and teams are trying to get into the Countdown or get ready for the playoffs. So there is a lot of attention on this race.”

One of Pruett’s longtime goals has been to win two races on the same day, and she has been coming close. She has driven her Dodge Mopar Drag Pak to back-to-back final-round appearances at the two most recent Factory Stock Showdown events (at Denver and Topeka). She was runner-up at this race in the stock car last year.

She said, “I always conceptualize winning Indy as a ‘snowglobe.’ We all see what it looks like from the outside, yet want to be inside. We’ve heard stories of how magical it is inside that globe from those that have visited by way of a win and see the prestige that goes with it. Some call this place the winners circle but for this Dodge team, it is our globe. The more years I race Indy, the less I become infatuated with having a name tied to the prestigious race win and more obsessed with our journey, memories, and character-building through the challenges of obtaining such a goal.

“My perspective may be somewhat unconventional,” Pruett said, “but it is because I was fortunate enough to experience the Indy ‘snowglobe’ of prestige when the Mopar Drag Pak FSS team won the U.S. Nationals in 2018. Some of my highest-ranked memories are of that win, because it was tough and ultimately the pinnacle of races to accomplish a win.”

Pruett ended opening day of qualifying in fifth place. Two more sessions remain before the field is set Saturday for Sunday eliminations.

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