Commerce: Sunday final summary

Dixon, Pedregon, Johnson, Scali win at Commerce COMMERCE, Ga. - Larry Dixon reclaimed the POWERade points lead Sunday with his Top Fuel victory at the 23rd annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway. Tony...

Dixon, Pedregon, Johnson, Scali win at Commerce

COMMERCE, Ga. - Larry Dixon reclaimed the POWERade points lead Sunday with his Top Fuel victory at the 23rd annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.

Tony Pedregon, Warren Johnson and Geno Scali also won their respective categories at the $1.4 million race, the seventh of 23 races in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Dixon's Miller Lite dragster covered the quarter-mile track in 4.569 seconds at 323.89 mph for his third win of the season and the 28th of his career. Dixon defeated Darrell Russell, who lost traction in his Bilstein dragster immediately, giving Dixon his second straight win at Atlanta Dragway.

"If you win races you get points, but if you go a lot of rounds you can get a lot of points too," said Dixon. "It's nice to be on top of the standings again, but we are only done with seven races this year and we have 16 more to go. I want to be in front of everybody after the last race of the year. I just try to work on eliminating the things that took us out of the points lead. If we do that then we don't need to worry about that stuff."

Dixon was able to move atop the standings when Brandon Bernstein lost in the second round to Clay Millican. Dixon made three of his four elimination passes in the 4.50-second range, driving past Mike Smith, John Smith, Millican and Russell for the victory. Dixon is now fourth on NHRA's all-time win list for Top Fuel drivers, seven wins behind Kenny Bernstein and Don Garlits. "I work with a talented bunch of individuals on this team," said Dixon. "Everyone just does their thing in a professional manner and there is never any sense of panic, even last week (following a crash). To me, turning around a new car Saturday night in Bristol (Tenn.) to the point where I could go out and run a solid lap Sunday morning and win the opening round, even though the guys had like three hours of sleep, made me more proud of them than this win. This win was back to business as usual."

Dixon now leads Bernstein by 35 points in the POWERade standings.

Pedregon collected his fourth win of the season and 23rd of his career as his Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang crossed the finish line in 4.874 at 318.77, outrunning final round opponent Johnny Gray, whose Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird lost traction and rolled to a 6.839 at 202.94.

"It was a good day at the office for our team," said Pedregon, who is trying to become the first driver other than John Force to win a Funny Car championship since 1992. "There were a lot of races in the heat this weekend and we were able to run 4.70s. That Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang is one high-powered car. The last few races we haven't been able to dominate like we did today. We made some impressive runs today and those are the end results when everything on the team starts to click. I am impressed with what (crew chief John) Medlen has done with this team. To win four out of seven races is really impressive. We do it by sticking together and relying on each other."

Pedregon defeated Dale Creasy Jr., Ron Capps, Whit Bazemore and Gray en route to the win at Atlanta Dragway, the site of his first career win in 1996. Pedregon now leads Whit Bazemore by 108 points in the POWERade standings. Defending POWERade champion John Force advanced to the semifinals for the first time this season, falling to Gray. Force moved up to eighth overall, 99 points out of the top five.

Johnson earned his 90th career victory and second of the season when he left the starting first in his GM Performance Parts Pontiac Grand Am and recorded a run of 6.853 at 201.46. Johnson's final round opponent was his former crew chief Greg Anderson, who recorded a quicker pass of 6.839 at 202.94 in his Vegas General Construction Chevy Cavalier but was unable to catch Johnson at the finish line. It was Johnson's fifth win in eight final rounds at his hometown track. The 59-year-old Johnson had three holeshot round wins on the day.

"I'll take good lights when I can get them because it doesn't always work out that way," said Johnson, who averaged a .020-second reaction time Sunday. "I think the years of experience dealing with and adjusting to the varying temperatures and atmospheric conditions at this track certainly helped us today. But other than that, there isn't much that being a local does to help you. The track is prepared totally different when the NHRA is here and fuel cars are running. Not that the local track officials don't do a good job, they do, but it's different when the NHRA is in town."

Johnson defeated Terry Adams, his son Kurt, defending Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin and Anderson for the victory. Kurt remained in the POWERade points lead, 53 points ahead of Anderson

Scali moved into the Pro Stock Bike points lead for the first time in his career when final round opponent Antron Brown left the starting line early, handing Scali his second career victory and first of the season atop his Team Trim-Tex Suzuki.

Scali was able to move into the points lead when defending POWERade champion Angelle Savoie was eliminated in the first round when she fouled out for leaving the starting line early. Scali won all four elimination rounds compliments of red-light starts by his opponents. He is the second rider to do this, as Antron Brown won at Dallas in 1999 in the same fashion.

"I hope people can now see that this team is a serious contender," said Scali. "To be in the points lead, well, that's something I can't even comprehend yet. I hope it sinks in at some point. But I do know we got together before this season when we first put this Trim-Tex team together and we talked about being a top-five team or a top-three team. Finally, we decided we should be a championship team. We have all the pieces here and we definitely have the experience, so why not?"

The NHRA's next event is the 34th annual K & N Filters SuperNationals, May 15-18, at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Clay Millican , Antron Brown , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Greg Anderson , Dale Creasy Jr. , Don Garlits , Geno Scali , Brandon Bernstein , Terry Adams , Johnny Gray , Mike Smit