A familiar face will be missing when the 2017 National Hot Rod Association season kicks off early next month in Pomona.
Shawn Langdon, the 2013 Top Fuel national champion, won’t be pulling up to the starting line when the 57th annual Circle K Winternationals kick off the 24-race NHRA season over the weekend of Feb. 9-12.
For just over a year, Langdon has been piloting the Red Fuel sponsored Top Fuel dragster as a member of the Don Schumacher race team.
But with the loss of Red Fuel’s sponsorship, Schumacher has decided to park Langdon’s car while the team searches for new sponsors.
This is the second time a loss of sponsorship cost Langdon his ride.
When Langdon won his 2013 national championship, he was driving for Santa Maria’s Alan Johnson and the Al Anabi team.
But just before the 2015 season began, the Qatar Racing Club and Sheikh Khalid Al Thani abruptly canceled funding of the team they’d sponsored since the end of the 2008 season.
While Johnson searched for new sponsorship, he self-funded his team through the end of the regular season, finally pulling the plug just before the season-ending, six-race Countdown to the Championship.
Since Langdon had qualified for the Countdown, he was able to catch a ride with Schumacher for the rest of the season.
That led to an unusual Pomona double – winning the season-opening Circle K Winternationals and season ending Auto Club Finals on the Pomona track.
Langdon wasn’t the first to complete this particular double, but he was the first racer to ever accomplish it driving for two different teams.
So for the second time in just over two years, Langdon's car will sit in the garage.
Langdon told Bobby Bennett of CompetitionPlus.com that he is disappointed but understood Schumacher's decision.
"It’s the hardest thing about our sport, there’s no question about it," Langdon said. "Going from something that I experienced back with Alan when we lost our funding over there, and then coming over here to Don’s team, and then going through it again. You know the first time (with Johnson) I learned about it in January, this time I learned about it in December. But I can tell you, it really doesn’t matter when you learn about it. There’s really no good time to get that news."
Schumacher, in a statement to CompetitionPlus.com, said he's not giving up hope the car will race this season.
"I am working on some things that will hopefully work out and give me the funding to run the car as soon as possible," Schumacher said.
Even without a ride, Langdon remains a member of the Don Schumacher Racing team.
Langdon said he's already hit the pavement in search of a marketing partner to come aboard with a team capable of winning. Last season Langdon captured three wins and finished fifth in the final championship standings.
"At this point, there’s really no other option than just to get back at it and just start talking with companies that we feel would be a good fit over here at Don Schumacher Racing," Langdon explained to Bennett. "We have all the tools; we have all the parts, the pieces, and two brand new race cars that just got off the jig."
At this point, it is uncertain whether the team could or would return on a part-time basis during the season.
"We haven’t really got into any discussions like that," Langdon said. "I don’t really think that either of us are interested in doing just a part-time deal and having a car that will come out for four or five races. I think the right way to do it is to find an adequate sponsor to come out and to do it the right way, to hire the right people to work on the race car and to go out full time. Depending on at what point we’re able to secure the sponsorship this year, it’s going to be very difficult to get it done by Pomona ... but I know right now my primary focus is to get funding for this race car to get back out there racing."
Johnson also continues to search for sponsorships as he tries to get at least one of his two Top Fuel race cars back on track.
In the meantime, he will continue to work as an advisor to two Top Fuels teams – Steve Torrence’s family-owner Capco Contractors and Brittany Force’s Monster Energy dragster that is part of her father John Force’s team.