CONCORD, North Carolina: It was a dazzling day of qualifying for the Qatar Al-Anabi Racing Top Fuel team, the three-time and defending NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel World Champions owned by Sheikh Khalid Bin Hamad Al Thani.
2013 NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel world champion Shawn Langdon is first, and Dubai native Khalid alBalooshi is third after two rounds of qualifying for the fifth annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, the fifth of 24 events making up the United States’ 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season. Qualifying resumes this week.
At the Four-Wide Nationals, a once-a-year event, teams compete four cars at a time, side-by-side, rather than the normal two-wide competition. And for whatever reason, the Al-Anabi team has excellent history at zMAX Dragway capturing wins here in 2010, 2011 and 2012. One year ago at this event, Langdon appeared on the way to victory when the silver Al-Anabi car smoked the tires in the final round of eliminations.
On Friday, the team was once again able to compete at a very high level.
In the first round of qualifying, Langdon’s 3.802-second effort was good enough for second best while alBalooshi was sixth. In the late-afternoon round, Langdon set the pace with a stunning 3.753-second effort at nearly 322 mph to claim the No. 1 position halfway through the qualifying process.
“The Al-Anabi team made a pretty fair run for what we were trying to do in the first round,” Langdon said. “We made a couple of changes on the car from the last run in Las Vegas. We’ve tried to fix a couple things that have been missing on Sundays this year. In the second session, we were really trying to go for that No. 1 spot, and we were confident in the Al-Anabi car. Alan (team manager Alan Johnson) and Brian (crew chief Brian Husen) made some really good calls, and we were able to make an excellent run. We actually had a couple of problems with the engine, so we know we can run a little better later in the weekend. We are in position to have a great weekend, and we hope we can make the most of this opportunity for Sheikh Khalid.”
When alBalooshi made his second-round qualifying run, four drivers had moved around him, and he was 10th … but not for long.
AlBalooshi drove the Jason McCulloch-tuned machine brilliantly down the race track posting a fantastic 3.793-second pass at 325 mph to move from 10th all the way up to the No. 3 position with two rounds of qualifying remaining.
“So far, so good for our team,” alBalooshi said. “Our team is running well, and so is Shawn’s so I think we are in a good position for the weekend. I know everybody on our team has been working hard to get us back to where we were when we won in February, and I am proud of our team.”