Gainesville: Larry Dixon Gatornationals final qualifying

GAINESVILLE, FL. (Mar. 16) - Defending Gatornationals champ and current 2002 NHRA POWERade Top Fuel points leader Larry Dixon drove the Miller Lite/Snake Racing Dragster to his 14th career low qualifier award as his pass of 4.604 seconds (321.96...

GAINESVILLE, FL. (Mar. 16) - Defending Gatornationals champ and current 2002 NHRA POWERade Top Fuel points leader Larry Dixon drove the Miller Lite/Snake Racing Dragster to his 14th career low qualifier award as his pass of 4.604 seconds (321.96 mph) set on Friday held as the quickest for this weekend's 33rd Annual Mac Tools Gatornationals.

For Dixon, this weekend's No. 1 qualifying effort was his second of the season (Phoenix) and also marked the second time he has been low qualifier at Gainesville Raceway (1999). Dixon has now posted two No.1 and one No. 2 qualifying performances after the first three races of the season.

The Miller Lite Team's hard work will result in a first round meeting with No. 16 qualifier Andrew Cowin and the New York Yankees Dragster. Dixon puts Top Fuel's longest consecutive opening round win streak (28) on the line against Cowin, whom he holds a career mark of 1 win and 1 loss over.

While he stated Friday night that his 4.607 second lap would not hold as low after Saturday's qualifying sessions, that was in fact what happened to the eight-year veteran driver's surprise. "I think we were real fortunate with that," said Dixon. "I think today was a little bit warmer than what we anticipated it to be and it ended up holding up. That last session we stepped it up a little bit to see just what we could do as far as tomorrow goes but we couldn't do it, so we got that out of our system and now tomorrow we will try and race."

The second day of Gatornationals qualifying under the hot Florida sun saw Dixon post a lap of 4.669 seconds (213.28 mph) in the left lane and remained in the No. 1 position as no other drivers were able to better his low mark. "Our first run today I thought was pretty good," said Dixon. "It was a real, real safe run at a 4.66 which ended up being low of the session," said Dixon. "I would look for the same kind of conditions and the same kind of performances out of everybody tomorrow."

The final session gave Dixon and the Miller Lite/Lucas Oil ride a second chance at the right lane but would not help him improve as he shut down to a time of 6.357 seconds (138.47 mph). In spite of difficulties getting down the right lane, he does not believe the racing surface to be a one-lane track. "I think you can get 4.60s out of both lanes and I don't think they are an issue," said Dixon. "What we were doing is the reason why we smoked the tires on both runs in the right lane, so I don't look at it as a one lane race track. This track is too good for that."

The two full, 4.6-passes that Dixon and crew chief Dick LaHaie put together during qualifying are exactly what the Miller Lite pilot expects to need in order to become only the fifth Top Fuel driver in history to successfully defend a Gatornationals crown. "I think we will have the same kind of weather that we did when we came back here last year after the rainout," said Dixon. "It was real hot like this and running 4.60s every run is what won the race. Somebody might get sent home running a 60, but it's going to take consistent 60s to win tomorrow."

Dixon takes a 66-point lead over Tony Schumacher into Sunday's elimination round. Television coverage can be seen on ESPN 2 from 5:00 - 7:00 PM ET.

-www.snakeracing.com-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Tony Schumacher , Andrew Cowin , Dick LaHaie