NHRA: Leah Pritchett replaces Larry Dixon, Shawn Langdon stays at DSR
Even though it’s the off-season, things have been very busy on the NHRA circuit of late.
Let’s catch you up with some of the most recent news:
* Despite finishing fourth in the final standings, three-time Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon is looking for a new ride for 2016.
According to a report by RacingJunk.com’s Jay Wells, Dixon has been replaced at Bob Vandergriff Racing for 2016 by female driver Leah Pritchett, who will become teammates with Dave Connolly for the two-dragster operation.
Connolly finished 10th in his rookie Top Fuel season in 2015.
Pritchett, who will be sponsored by Quaker State for at least five races, made the big announcement last Thursday at the PRI motorsports industry trade show in Indianapolis.
“The opportunity to run a complete NHRA Top Fuel season has been a goal that I have worked towards for a very long time,” Pritchett said, according to RacingJunk.com. “I am beyond excited for the opportunity to focus on making the countdown next season, competing for a championship, working alongside Bob Vandergriff Jr., and re-introduce the Quaker State brand back into the NHRA.
“This dream is now a reality, thanks in large part to the vision of Bob Vandergriff Jr., as well as the support of great companies and people along my way to this personal and professional milestone, and of course my fans.”
Pritchett drove part-time in 2015 for Dote Racing.
The NHRA season-opening Winternationals is Feb. 11-14 at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California.
* Top Fuel driver and former champion Shawn Langdon will start 2016 with a lot more stability than he had starting the 2015 season.
Langdon, who caught on late last season with Don Schumacher Racing, replacing Spencer Massey, has been signed to a permanent full-time ride with DSR for 2016.
Langdon drove the last three seasons for Alan Johnson Racing, including racing under the sponsorship of Al-Anabi Racing in 2013, when he won the Top Fuel championship, as well as 2014.
But Al-Anabi unexpectedly pulled the financial plug less than a month before the 2015 season, leaving AJR to race on a race-by-race basis.
Finally, after the first 18 races of the season and heading into the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoff, AJR could not continue and Langdon was temporarily parked.
But not for long as DSR reached out to him to replace Massey, who was released from the team prior to the U.S. Nationals for unspecified reasons.
Langdon, 33, will join 2015 and two-time Top Fuel champ Antron Brown and eight-time and 2014 champ Tony Schumacher as teammates.
“After Pomona last month, Alan and I sat down and discussed 2016 and beyond,” Langdon said, according to RacingJunk.com. “Alan and I decided it was in both of our interests to go separate ways.
“That was tough. I had a great three years with Alan Johnson Racing and being part of the Johnson family. I’ll have special memories for the rest of my life.”
Langdon, who won the 2015 season-ending race at Pomona for DSR, will have veteran Todd Okuhara and Phil Shuler as his new co-crew chiefs at DSR.
“I’m very excited about this new chapter in my life,” Langdon said. “It was perfect to end the season the way we did at Pomona in the Finals. Hopefully, that’s a sign of what’s to come in 2016.”
DSR also announced that it has extended a partnership with Mopar dating back to 2003 on the Funny Car side. That means Jack Beckman, Matt Hagan, Ron Capps and Tommy Johnson Jr. will continue to drive Dodge Charger RTs in 2016.
“We had our most successful season competing in Funny Cars in 2015, and much of the credit goes to Mopar and all of its engineers and technicians who developed the new 2015 Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car body that we used,” Schumacher said, according to RacingJunk.com. “The aerodynamics and new Charger body combined with the power of the Mopar HEMI engine to produce the sport’s quickest times and fastest speeds, and we couldn’t be prouder to be partners with them.”