Lang­don, Beck­ham head to Maple Grove off wins

The Southern Berks News - - SPORTS - Cour­tesy NHRA Com­mu­ni­ca­tions

Shawn Lang­don raced to his third vic­tory of the year Sun­day at the AAA In­sur­ance NHRAMid­west Na­tion­als at Gate­way Mo­tor­sports Park just out­side of St. Louis.

Jack Beck­man (Funny Car), Alex Laugh­lin (Pro Stock), and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Mo­tor­cy­cle) were also vic­to­ri­ous at the 20th event of 24 on the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Rac­ing Se­ries sched­ule. The AAA In­sur­ance NHRAMid­west Na­tion­als is the sec­ond race of the sixrace NHRA Mello Yello Count­down to the Cham­pi­onship.

The se­ries de­scends on the Read­ing area this week when

Lang­don pow­ered his Red Fuel/ Sand­vik Coro­mant drag­ster to a 3.798-sec­ond pass at 323.66 mph to de­feat eight-time world cham­pion Tony Schumacher’s 3.783 at 317.49 in his U.S. Army drag­ster on a holeshot. Lang­don notched his 14th ca­reer win and first at Gate­way Mo­tor­sports Park. The 2013 Top Fuel world cham­pion moved to fourth in the points. He out­lasted reign­ing world champ and points leader An­tron Brown, three-time 2016 event win­ner Doug Kalitta, and No. 1 qual­i­fier Richie Cramp­ton en route to the fi­nal round.

“We didn’t re­ally have a dom­i­nant car in qual­i­fy­ing, but we just kept pick­ing away at it,” said Lang­don, who also won in Bris­tol and Nor­walk. “That’s what we’ve been do­ing since we got those two vic­to­ries [ear­lier this year]. The car has just re­sponded well. All in all, this was a great team ef­fort. The whole team did a great job and gave me a great race car to­day.”

Schumacher, the most suc­cess­ful Top Fuel driver in NHRA his­tory, qual­i­fied sec­ond and out­lasted Chris Karamesines, Phoenix win­ner Leah Pritch­ett, and Sonoma win­ner J.R. Todd be­fore meet­ing Lang­don in the fi­nal.

Brown held his grip on the points lead de­spite the early exit and is fol­lowed by Kalitta in sec­ond and Schumacher in third.

Beck­man posted a 3.928 at 324.51 in his In­fi­nite Hero Foun­da­tion Dodge Charger R/T to bet­ter Tommy John­son Jr.’s 4.185 at 231.40 in his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T dur­ing the Funny Car fi­nal. Beck­man, the 2012 Funny Car world cham­pion, claimed his 24th ca­reer vic­tory and sec­ond at Gate­way Mo­tor­sports Park with the per­for­mance. The 2015 sea­son run­ner-up moved to third in the points stand­ings. Beck­man beat Dale Creasy Jr., 16-time cham­pion and re­cent Char­lotte win­ner John Force, and points leader Ron Capps in the ear­lier rounds.

“Our team was in a slump, and we did what was in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult with the way our car was act­ing un­pre­dictably,” said Beck­man, who won ear­lier this year in Chicago. “I’m not quite sure what changed, but I

think I had a good out­ing as a driver to­day; the guys tuned smart, and we turned on the win light every time.”

John­son, who won ear­lier this year in Bris­tol, raced past Las Ve­gas win­ner Alexis DeJo­ria, No. 1 qual­i­fier Robert Hight, and two-time 2016 win­ner Tim Wilkerson to make his fourth fi­nal-round ap­pear­ance of the sea­son. John­son jumped to sec­ond in the points stand­ings.

In Pro Stock, Laugh­lin sprinted to his first fi­nal­round ap­pear­ance and vic­tory by pow­er­ing his Gas Mon­key Garage Chevy Ca­maro to a 6.611 at 208.68 to out­last Bo But­ner’s 6.637 at 209.26 in his Jim But­ner Auto Chevy Ca­maro. Laugh­lin, com­pet­ing in only his sec­ond year in Pro Stock, did not qual­ify for the Count­down to the Cham­pi­onship. He knocked down Seat­tle win­ner Aaron Strong, two-time 2016 run­ner-up Vin­cent No­bile, and No. 1 qual­i­fier Shane Gray be­fore meet­ing But­ner in the fi­nal.

“It’s an un­be­liev­able feel­ing,” said Laugh­lin. “It’s not even real at this point. This has got to be a dream. The whole day has been a blur. Took it one round at a time and ended up com­ing up to the fi­nal. I was a lit­tle ner­vous but took a cou­ple deep breaths and told my­self, ‘It’s just like any other round, just go up there and do your deal.’ As soon as I let the clutch out, I knew my crew chief gave me a good car.”

But­ner, still pur­su­ing his first vic­tory, earned his fifth run­ner-up fin­ish of the sea­son and sixth of his ca­reer with the per­for­mance. He raced past Mark Ho­gan, In­di­anapo­lis win­ner Chris McGaha, and points leader Ja­son Line be­fore los­ing to Laugh­lin in the fi­nal. But­ner im­proved to third in points with the run­ner-up fin­ish.

Al­li­ga­tor farmer and Pro Stock Mo­tor­cy­cle racer Savoie rode to his first vic­tory of 2016 with a 6.933 at 189.36 on his White Al­li­ga­tor Rac­ing Suzuki, de­feat­ing An­gelle Sam­pey’s 6.852 at 195.85 on her Star Rac­ing/Pre­ci­sion Ser­vice Equip­ment Buell in an al­lLouisiana fi­nal. Sam­pey left the start­ing line early and red-lighted, giv­ing Savoie the go-ahead vic­tory. Savoie, who had not won a race since 2015 in Dal­las, tal­lied his fifth ca­reer win and sec­ond in St. Louis. The vic­tory moved Savoie up to fourth in the points stand­ings.

“You go to the fi­nals four times and win one, but out here, the com­pe­ti­tion is so strong, and it takes a lit­tle bit of luck,” said Savoie, who out­lasted vet­eran Steve John­son, Matt Smith, and rookie Cory Reed in the ear­lier rounds. “We got some luck in the fi­nals. Los­ing hurts so bad, but win­ning feels so good. My team is a great team. Our bike is re­ally con­sis­tent, and we’ve had some is­sues, but to­day was our day.”

Sam­pey, who won for the first time since 2007 ear­lier this year in English­town, made her third fi­nal-round ap­pear­ance of the sea­son by rid­ing past Angie Smith, Hec­tor Arana Sr., and Char­lotte win­ner Chip El­lis. She moved to sec­ond in points.

An­drew Hines re­mains the Pro Stock Mo­tor­cy­cle points leader, El­lis dropped to third, and Ed­die Kraw­iec dropped to fifth.

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