|(L-R) Shawn Langdon, Jack Beckman, Alex Laughlin and Jerry Savoie celebrate at Gateway|
Shawn Langdon raced to his third victory of the year Sunday at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest 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 in their respective categories at the 20th event of 24 on the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule. The AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals is the second race of the six-race NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
Langdon powered to a 3.798-second pass at 323.66 mph to defeat eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher's 3.783 at 317.49. 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 at Bristol, Tenn., and Norwalk, Ohio. "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 racecar today."
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 to better Tommy Johnson Jr.'s 4.185 at 231.40 during the Funny Car final round. 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, N.C., 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."
In Pro Stock, Laughlin sprinted to his first career final round appearance and victory by powering to a 6.611 at 208.68 to outlast Butner's 6.637 at 209.26.
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 breadths 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."
Alligator farmer and Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Jerry Savoie rode to his first victory of 2016 with a 6.933 at 189.36, defeating Angelle Sampey's 6.852 at 195.85 in an all-Louisiana 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 at 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, N.J., made her third final round appearance of the season by riding past Angie Smith, Hector Arana 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.
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will continue with the 21st event of the season and third of the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship Sept. 29-Oct. 2 with the Dodge NHRA Nationals in Reading, Pa.
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