Joliet II: Dixon finals report

JOLIET, ILL (Sept. 30) Larry Dixon and Don Prudhomme's Miller Lite Dragster posted a semifinal finish Sunday at the Inaugural NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway and now sit second in the Winston Top Fuel points race. As the No. 3 qualifier, ...

JOLIET, ILL (Sept. 30) Larry Dixon and Don Prudhomme's Miller Lite Dragster posted a semifinal finish Sunday at the Inaugural NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway and now sit second in the Winston Top Fuel points race.

As the No. 3 qualifier, Dixon extended Top Fuel's longest current opening round winning streak to 22 wins as he turned in a lap of 4.531 seconds at 323.66 mph to defeat No. 14 qualifier Paul Romine (4.648 seconds at 315.42 mph). The win moved Dixon's career mark to 6-2 over Romine and 2-0 for the season. It also helped erase memories of Romine's opening round upset over Dixon at Route 66 Raceway in 1998.

The second round paired the Miller Lite Team against No. 6 qualifier Gary Scelzi, the defending Winston Top Fuel champion. Dixon used a pass of 4.539 seconds at 322.47 mph to defeat Scelzi (4.601 seconds at 316.52 mph), improving his season record to 5-2 against the Winston pilot and 9-15 for his career. Dixon's second round victory placed him in the semifinals for the 16th time out of 20 races this year and a marquee match up with rival points contender Kenny Bernstein.

Dixon and crew chief Dick LaHaie found themselves without lane choice in the semis as No. 2 qualifier Bernstein earned that right by just .006 of a second based on his second round elapsed time. Both beer cars ran nearly identical numbers all the way down the quarter mile but it was Bernstein (4.545seconds at 317.12 mph) who took the win light over Dixon (4.578 seconds at318.92 mph). Dixon now has 2 wins and 5 losses against Bernstein and is 11-18 in head-to-head match-ups for his career.

"They stepped up a little bit," said Dixon. "We both took a little bit on the starting line, but our car fell off a bit. The clutch wasn't as aggressive as we thought it was going to be. We were really trying to run a .52 and I think it surprised everybody that we weren't even close to that."

"The things that have gotten us into our position points wise we still were able to carry over to today," said Dixon. "The car is very consistent. We had the second-quickest car on the day, it's just that we had to race the quickest car. It's a bummer to lose to him. We have both been right there for the past couple of races and it's still no different now. We've got four races left and whoever does the best is going to win the deal. And, whoever it is deserves it. There's no other way around it."

"You don't have to wish bad luck on anybody, you don't have to do anything to upset the apple cart or anything, you just got to go out and run strong, drive well and if you do all that stuff the points will be there," he said. "These last two races they have made a move on us, they have been better the last two races. We were better the two before and hopefully it will come back to us at the next two."

Dixon owns a total of 1,701 points and now trails Bernstein (1,715) in the hunt for the Top Fuel Championship for the first time since August 19. The chase continues for the Miller Lite Team next week at the 17th Annual Keystone Nationals (Oct. 5-7) in Reading, Penn. The race was originally scheduled for Sept.14-16, but was rescheduled after the September 11 incident.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Paul Romine , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Don Prudhomme , Dick LaHaie