In a perfect world, teammates Shawn Langdon and Khalid al-Balooshi would never race before the final round of eliminations, but sometimes, qualifying forces the two to face off in the first round. That is how race day started for the Qatar Al-Anabi Racing Top Fuel Team, the three-time and defending World Championship team owned by His Excellency Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad al-Thani. And that meant one teammate would begin the Countdown to the Championship NHRA Playoffs with a first-round loss at the seventh annual Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals yesterday, the 19th of 24 races that make up America’s 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing season and the first of six races that comprise the Countdown to the Championship NHRA Playoffs.
When qualifying concluded Saturday afternoon, Langdon, the No. 6 qualifier, and al-Balooshi, No. 11, knew they would race in Sunday’s first round. The weather was warm and humid Friday and Saturday, but Sunday dawned cool and cloudy meaning racing conditions were completely different. With excellent racing conditions, fans were treated to a fantastic performance, and the Al-Anabi drivers didn’t disappoint. Landgon left the starting line first. Al-Balooshi’s 3.780-second effort at more than 317 mph was a tick better than Langdon’s 3.800-second run, and al-Balooshi reached the finish line 15 thousandths of a second before Langdon and won the thrilling first-round matchup.
A short time later, rain moved over the race track, and NHRA was unable to complete the first round for all of the classes. The remainder of the seventh annual Pep Boys Carolina NHRA Nationals will be completed during qualifying at next week’s race near Dallas, Texas. Al-Balooshi will have lane choice over NHRA veteran driver Morgan Lucas when the Top Fuel portion of the event resumes next weekend.
“Our team made a very good run in the first round against Shawn,” al-Balooshi said. “It was our best run of the weekend, and it was a good way to start race day. I wish we could have raced Shawn in the final instead, but this is the race.
“Finishing the race today would have been good, but I hope our team can win next week in Dallas. I know Jason (crew chief Jason McCulloch) and all of my crew guys will be ready for next weekend, and I thank everyone on our team for his hard work.”
Because the event is incomplete, point standings have not been updated; Langdon and al-Balooshi are still listed third and seventh in the NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel point standings, respectively.
The Al-Anabi Racing team will be back in action Sept. 19-21, 2014 for the conclusion of the NHRA Carolina Nationals during the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals in Ennis, Texas. For additional information, please visit www.nhra.com. For additional information on the Al-Anabi Racing Team, please visit www.alanabiracing.com.
Al-Anabi Racing operates out of multiple locations in both the United States and Qatar. In the United States, the Brownsburg, Ind.-based operation is a two-car NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series team that is managed by Alan Johnson Racing. Sheikh Khalid’s initiative has created increased international awareness of the State of Qatar while highlighting the nation’s international sports outreach. Alan Johnson is a 15-time NHRA champion in various capacities including crew chief, team owner and team manager.