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NHRA: Langdon, Johnson, Enders-Stevens take home Bristol hardware

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Reigning NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel world champion Shawn Langdon captured his first victory of the season Sunday at the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers.

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Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car) and Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) also were winners in their respective categories at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event at Bristol Dragway.

Langdon raced to his first Bristol Dragway victory and ninth win of his career in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster by posting a final-round performance of 3.819 seconds at 320.51 mph to defeat series points leader Doug Kalitta. With the win, Langdon moves to third in the points standings.

"With the stiff competition in Top Fuel, one thing you have to learn is patience and not to take anything for granted," Langdon said. "We knew it was going to be tough. We're still learning. Fortunately, we got this win, and most importantly, we hope to continue earning those Mello Yello points."

Langdon, who qualified No. 7 for the event, defeated teammate Khalid alBalooshi, Terry McMillen, and Bob Vandergriff Jr. en route to his third final-round appearance of the season.

"I was a little worried about pedalling in the final going up against the Kalitta group," Langdon said. "They are definitely the hottest car in the circuit. But that's why it's great to be a part of a great team like the Al-Anabi team and to work with Alan Johnson. You feel like you have a pretty good race car, too."

n In Funny Car, Johnson earned his first victory since 2007. The Indianapolis driver took his 10th career win and first in Bristol with a performance of 4.156 at 302.14 in his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger, defeating Tim Wilkerson's Levi Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang in the final.

"I'm thrilled that we were able to get it done and all that work paid off," Johnson said. "The guys did a great job today. We've qualified great; we just couldn't get it to go our way on race day. We've been competitive, and we just couldn't close the deal. It's tough out here. I wanted to prove that we're not in a slump and we needed to step it up a little bit, and we did."

Johnson, who was the No. 5 qualifier of the event, defeated Cruz Pedregon, points leader Robert Hight, and local favorite Matt Hagan en route to the final round.

"We didn't get to run Friday night because of the weather, and Saturday we had a problem in the car and didn't get to run the last session," Johnson said. "We just kept with our lane choice and able to stay in the right lane all day. It worked perfect, and the car was running great."

n Enders-Stevens continues to shine in the Pro Stock category this season. The series points leader secured her third win of the season and ninth of her career with a performance of 6.698 at 207.15 in her Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro, defeating rookie Jonathan Gray in the final round. It was the first win in Bristol for Enders-Stevens, who increased her series lead with the win.

"We had to dig deeper this weekend," the Texas native said. "Everybody out here is hungry. As a driver, I knew I had to step up to the plate and get up on the wheel. Momentum is huge in this sport, and we just need to continue to carry it. To get it done today meant the world to me, and my team gave me a car to drive to the winner's circle."

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues in Epping with the second annual Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway, June 19-22.

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