DIXON ANXIOUS TO KICK-OFF 2006 TESTING WITH BENDER NOW IN CHARGE OF MILLER LITE RAIL VISTA, Calif. (Jan. 18, 2005) -- The times are indeed changing. For NHRA drag racing's winningest active Top Fuel driver, the status quo has been very good to...
DIXON ANXIOUS TO KICK-OFF 2006 TESTING WITH BENDER NOW IN CHARGE OF MILLER LITE RAIL
VISTA, Calif. (Jan. 18, 2005) -- The times are indeed changing. For NHRA drag racing's winningest active Top Fuel driver, the status quo has been very good to Larry Dixon. For the past six seasons, Dixon and Don Prudhomme's Miller Lite Top Fuel team was under the direction of champion crew chief Dick LaHaie. The five-time champion tuner led the Miller Lite crew to consecutive titles in 2002-03 and called the shots for 30 Larry Dixon victories.
As the veteran Top Fuel racer enters his 12th season behind the wheel of Prudhomme's Miller-backed rail, the LaHaie era is in the past and the Don Bender age is now a reality. After tutoring as LaHaie's right-hand man and assistant crew chief for more than a decade, Bender will lead Dixon and Co. into the 2006 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series beginning this weekend as preseason testing commences on January 20 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with the Nitro Blast Off, Jan. 20-23.
"I'm looking forward to start testing and to see how we progress as we head into the Winternationals in a few weeks," Dixon said.
Dixon, a 38-time NHRA winner, returned to championship form last season as the 1995 NHRA Rookie of the Year collected three victories, including the prestigious Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, on the way towards a second-place finish in the Top Fuel rankings. While the 2006 NHRA season is just three weeks away, the Miller Lite/Lucas Oil team will spend the next few weeks getting comfortable with Bender at the helm and prepping for a title run in '06.
"I'm sure it will change a little bit, everybody is a little bit different with their routine," Dixon said. "I haven't had a lot of crew chiefs. Donnie (Bender) will be the fourth I've had. You just try and fit in and help the team out in whatever way possible. And everything that we, as a team, can do to help Donnie out will benefit us all."
One of the major factors, along with an experienced driver at the wheel, that will help lead to the team's success is the return of the majority of the Miller Lite pit crew. The team won't have to spend testing getting comfortable with new personnel and can concentrate on improving the performance of the Miller Lite dragster that Dixon drove to a career-best performance last February at the season-opening Winternationals (4.481-seconds).
"We want to work on our baseline because we have some new parts that we need to get worked out," Bender said. "We also have to test the new Goodyear tire that we'll be required to run at Pomona (Calif.). We had a solid setup last year, now we just need to pick it up a little when the track conditions are better. We want the same baseline that we had, but with a wider window to make adjustments to pick up the performance."
<pre> 2005 MILLER LITE DRAGSTER PRESEASON TESTING SCHEDULE
January 20-23 Nitro Blast Off The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Las Vegas January 28-30 National Time Trials Firebird International Raceway Chandler, Ariz. February 3-5 Last Chance Pro Test The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Las Vegas