COLUMBUS, OHIO (June 16) -- Larry Dixon and Don Prudhomme's Miller Lite Top Fuel Team saw their season-long qualifying success continue Saturday as they ran low elapsed time of both Top Fuel qualifying sessions (4.682 & 4.668 seconds) to qualify...
COLUMBUS, OHIO (June 16) -- Larry Dixon and Don Prudhomme's Miller Lite Top Fuel Team saw their season-long qualifying success continue Saturday as they ran low elapsed time of both Top Fuel qualifying sessions (4.682 & 4.668 seconds) to qualify No. 2 for Sunday's eliminations at the 37th Annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals.
Dixon entered this weekend's race as one of the best qualifiers in the Top Fuel field, having put himself in the top half of the ladder after eight of the first 10 events of the season. Today's No. 2 qualifying effort reaffirmed the team's qualifying consistency as Dixon has now positioned himself among the top three cars at nine of the 11 events this year. Furthermore, only on two occasions has Dixon not qualified among the top three Top Fuel Dragsters (No. 9-- Las Vegas, No. 7 -- Topeka). Although he has yet to claim a pole position this season, he has captured the No. 2 spot five times in 2001.
Dixon,the 1996 runner-up at Columbus, began the day as the No. 15 seed (8.993 seconds at 90.78 mph) after getting just one chance at National Trail Raceway on Friday as rains washed out the evening session. Miller Lite Crew Chief Dick LaHaie (the 1987 Columbus Top Fuel Champ) called on his past experience and success at Ohio as he tuned for the afternoon heat typical to National Trail this time of year. His set-up paid off as Dixon shot down the left lane to a session-best elapsed time of 4.682 seconds at 307.44 mph to improve from 15th to third going into the final qualifying round.
The team's third and final attempt at the qualifying ladder would also be their first in the right lane, which is believed by many drivers to be the preferred of the two. Dixon and LaHaie proved that was the case as they produced their second low e.t. of the day with a run of 4.668 seconds at 307.86 mph to improve from the third seed to second.
"From a talent side of things, I wasn't worried about (qualifying) today," said Dixon. "I think our team is one of the best out there, so I wasn't worried about that, but if you take away the human element you can still have a blower belt fail or any dumb kinda thing that would make you abort the run. It's always nice to get all of your full runs in, but as it was, there was only one car that really got to do that (Bernstein). I am disappointed that we didn't get an opportunity to strut our stuff at night, but probably no more disappointed than any other team. We made two good runs today I thought, and there again, that's Dick LaHaie. He knows how to get down these slippery race tracks and hopefully we got something for them tomorrow."
"Fortunately we were able to run low e.t. of that session, as well as the first," said LaHaie. "We would have liked to have qualified No. 1, but we'll take it. We wanted to go out there and get the car down the race track and we knew there was a possibility that we could get low e.t. But it wasn't quick enough to get low e.t., but it was quick of the session, so we are pleased with it. Traditionally the right lane has been the better of the two, but we'll have to wait to see what tomorrow brings."
Sunday's first round will see Dixon take on No. 15 seed Chris Karamesines, marking the first time the two drivers have met in their careers. Dixon has reached three final rounds this season, including a win at Gainesville, FL, and currently sits 80 points behind Bernstein in the Winston points race. Sunday's finals will air on ESPN2 on Sunday from 6:00-8:00:00 PM ET.