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Defending NHRA Top Fuel champ Shawn Langdon ready to pick up where he left off in 2013

Feb 6, 2014, 4:07 PM EDT

NHRA Auto Racing AP

If anyone has a home track advantage at this weekend’s National Hot Rod Association season-opening Circle K Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway, it’s defending Top Fuel champ Shawn Langdon.

Langdon began and ended his run for the 2013 championship with season-opening and season-ending event wins at the Pomona, Calif., track, just 20 miles from where he grew up in nearby Mira Loma.

It was nothing short of a career year for Langdon, who led the Top Fuel ranks in wins (seven), was the No. 1 qualifier seven times, and had an outstanding record in elimination rounds (54-17 for a .760 winning percentage).

In addition to winning both races at Pomona, Langdon had additional big wins at the U.S. Nationals, the Toyota Summernationals and the Traxxas Shootout.

And now the driver for the Toyota-powered Al-Anabi Racing Team, which has won the Top Fuel title three of the last four seasons, is ready to pick up where he left off in 2013.

“We’re going to approach 2014 the same way that we have the last two years,” Langdon said. “We’re just very excited to get back out there and get running again.

“We feel very confident; the whole Al-Anabi team has done a lot of homework in the off-season. We had a successful test session. I don’t think there are going to be too many things that we want to change.”

The key to defend his first-ever Top Fuel title is to stay the course, don’t deviate much from last year’s gameplan, focus on wins – and if you can’t win, at least go for consistency.

“We just kind of want to stay in the same attack mode as we have the last two years,” Langdon said. “In 2012 season we struggled a little bit throughout the year, but we also gained a lot of information that we were able to use last year with winning the championship.

“So we’re hoping to just further that along for the 2014 season. We’re just very excited to get back out there and get racing at Pomona.”

And there’s some bad news for Langdon’s key rivals heading into Pomona: in a recent test last month at West Palm Beach, Fla., the defending champ recorded the fastest pass down the 1,000-foot dragstrip at 3.726 seconds.

Sounds like Langdon is already in midseason form.

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