Atlanta: Dixon gets to semi's

COMMERCE, GA (May 6) -- Don Prudhomme's Miller Lite Top Fuel Dragster Team reached the third round of eliminations for the fifth time this season as Larry Dixon posted a semifinal finish Sunday at the Advance AutoParts Southern Nationals. Dixon...

COMMERCE, GA (May 6) -- Don Prudhomme's Miller Lite Top Fuel Dragster Team reached the third round of eliminations for the fifth time this season as Larry Dixon posted a semifinal finish Sunday at the Advance AutoParts Southern Nationals.

Dixon and crew came into the day's elimination round as the NHRA Winston Top Fuel points leader and as the No. 3 seed. Crew Chief Dick LaHaie had the Miller Lite Dragster running strong as his car was the only one to produce a pair of 4.5-second laps during the heat and humidity found during qualifying earlier in the weekend.

No. 14 seeded Bobby Baldwin was Dixon's first opponent of the day as their first round meeting marked the fourth time this season, the sixth overall, that the two drivers have squared off. Dixon remained undefeated against Baldwin as his lap of 4.598 seconds at 316.15 mph bettered Baldwin's pass of 4.956 seconds at 247.29 mph. Dixon's elapsed time in the opening round was just one of two 4.5-second laps in the opening round and was second quickest of the session. In spite of what looked like an easy win, Dixon was not so sure it was going to work out that way.

"Every time you go up there to race there are only two cars racing, so you have a 50-50 shot a winning or losing," he said. "You can start to think about the law of averages catching up with you and maybe this could be the time that he gets the win, but we had a really great run."

The second round gave LaHaie a chance to tune against his former team as Dixon met up with No. 6 seed Doug Herbert. In the first meeting of the season between the two pilots, Dixon improved to a career record of 9 wins and 2 losses against Herbert as the Miller Lite Pilot won a thrilling pedal fest down Atlanta Dragway. Dixon's time of 5.796 seconds at 268.01 mph prevailed over Herbert who also pedaled his way down the track en route to a time of 6.357 seconds at 236.96 mph.

"I think our team got a little greedy," said Dixon. "We weren't happy with our 60-foot time and we thought we were maybe leaving a little on the table. We tried to improve that performance safely, but it didn't happen and I got into a pedal contest. He was chasing me for most of the run and I needed to get in and out of the throttle three or four times, but I never saw him so I had no idea how to gauge where he was at or if he had broke. I just tried to go down the track as fast as I could without hitting anything or blowing up. With everything that has transpired over the past few races, to have the car let me down and for me to go out and win a round for the team was nice. It is great to win a tire smoker because it is out of everyone's hands except mine and winning that round gave us the opportunity to find out what was going on with the car before the next round."

Dixon's second round win also gave him the right to advance to the semifinals for the fifth time out of the first seven races of the 2001 season, as well as his third match-up of the year with Mike Dunn. Dunn's season record against Dixon remained unblemished however as the New York Yankees ride clocked in at a winning time of 4.687 seconds at 316.23 mph to defeat Dixon (5.579 seconds at 178.64 mph). Dunn (576) went on to defeat Darrell Russell in the final round and moved 25 points ahead of Dixon (551) for first place in the Top Fuel points race.

"We backed the car down even more than what we had for the first round, but we just missed the set up," said Dixon. "The car smoked the tires early, so I pedaled it and it caught up for a bit before it smoked again. Dunn made a really good run and he just whooped us, flat out."

The Miller Lite Team will enjoy a short break as they have a week off before the 32nd Annual Matco Tools Spring Supernationals (May 18-20) at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ.

-Snake Racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Larry Dixon , Mike Dunn , Don Prudhomme , Dick LaHaie