HOLLYWOOD -- Larry Dixon headlined four championship winning drivers crowned Monday evening during the 2003 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series awards ceremony at the spectacular Kodak Theatre.
Three first-time NHRA POWERade champions -- Tony Pedregon, Greg Anderson and Geno Scali -- also were presented checks and trophyware for their season-long accomplishments in their respective pro categories as the NHRA officially closed the curtain on its 2003 season.
The evening was highlighted by a special tribute to motorsports pioneer Shirley Muldowney, a three-time NHRA champion, who retired from driving following Sunday's completion of the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Pomona (Calif.) Raceway. Muldowney, the first female driver in NHRA history to be licensed in Top Fuel, won series championship titles in 1977, 1980 and 1982. For her many contributions to the sport of drag racing over the years she was presented the Don Prudhomme Award and received a standing ovation from an appreciative audience.
Dixon, who earned eight victories in Don Prudhomme's Miller Lite dragster, received a check for $400,000 from NHRA and POWERade for his second consecutive Top Fuel championship.
Pedregon also received a check from NHRA and POWERade for $400,000 for winning his first Funny Car crown in the John Force-owned Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang. Anderson earned $200,000 for winning his first NHRA POWERade Pro Stock title in Ken Black's Vegas General Construction Pontiac Grand Am, while Geno Scali, rider of the Trim-Tex Suzuki, was presented a $50,000 check from NHRA and POWERade for claiming his first Pro Stock Bike crown.
Top Fuel driver Brandon Bernstein headed the list of special award winners, as he was presented the $20,000 Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award, which recognizes NHRA's rookie of the year. For the first time in NHRA history, a distinguished panel of auto racing journalists selected the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future winner. Despite missing 15 events following a crash at Englishtown, N.J., Bernstein drove his Budweiser/Lucas Oil dragster to three victories, posted a runner-up finish in the Budweiser Shootout, led the NHRA POWERade points order for one race and earned two No. 1 qualifying positions.
NHRA championship-winning team owners Prudhomme, Force and Black were presented Pro Owner's Cup trophies.
Pontiac was awarded the NHRA Manufacturers Cup for the seventh time and AutoWeek was presented the NHRA Media Award.
The future stars of the sport, drivers in seven categories in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, also were recognized as 2003 champions: Alan Bradshaw (Top Alcohol Dragster); Frank Manzo (Top Alcohol Funny Car); Dean Carter (Competition Eliminator); Peter Biondo (Super Stock); Kevin Helms (Stock Eliminator); Jack Beckman (Super Comp) and Bryan Robinson (Super Gas).
The 2003 NHRA POWERade Awards Ceremony will be televised on Nov. 23 at 3 p.m. (ET) on ESPN2.