LARRY DIXON 2006 NHRA Q&A VISTA, Calif. (Jan. 23, 2006) -- While Larry Dixon's drag racing accomplishments and gaudy statistics speak volumes about the veteran Top Fuel driver's place in NHRA history, things will be slightly different around the...
LARRY DIXON 2006 NHRA Q&A
VISTA, Calif. (Jan. 23, 2006) -- While Larry Dixon's drag racing accomplishments and gaudy statistics speak volumes about the veteran Top Fuel driver's place in NHRA history, things will be slightly different around the Miller Lite Top Fuel pits this season. For the first time since the 1999 NHRA season, Dixon will be without tuning services of the crafty and successful Dick LaHaie. As all good things eventually come to an end -- LaHaie rode off into the sunset last November after calling the shots on Dixon's second-place Miller Lite rail last season -- the sun still gleams vibrantly in Don Prudhomme! ;s Top Fuel camp as LaHaie's long-time assistant Don Bender takes the reigns of one of the more high-profile cars in NHRA drag racing. The two-time NHRA Top Fuel champion and 38-time NHRA winner is as excited as ever to kick-start the 2006 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series season on February 9 at Pomona (Calif.) as he looks to add a fourth career Winternationals title to his list of achievements. In this Q&A, the jovial Dixon gives his thoughts on the 2006 season and reflects back upon a solid '05 campaign that saw him add three more wins to his resume, including a third career Mac Tools U.S. Nationals title.
Q: Last season, you passed Don Garlits for third place on the all-time Top Fuel win list. Now that you've had some time to reflect upon it, how do you feel about the accomplishment?
DIXON: I passed him in numbers, but not in a respect factor. There weren't that many races on tour when he raced. It's certainly an honor to be mentioned in the same breath with him, but I still don't feel worthy. Numbers-wise, we did pass him, and the next person is (Kenny) Bernstein and after Bernstein we're going to try for (Joe) Amato. When I got here, Snake was tied with (Don) Garlits at 36 wins, so to have been around or part of almost 70 of them makes me feel proud."
Q: Following a tough 2004 season, the team rebounded last year. What was the difference in the solid 2005 campaign for the Miller Lite Top Fuel team?
DIXON: Simple, less rule changes. There were quite a bit of rule changes that went into effect in 2004, plus we were working with different parts and pieces to pick up the performance of our race car. We got caught in the middle and didn't quite have a consistent running car, and I think that the points position is indicative of how consistent your race car is. It wasn't bad, but five others were better than us in 2004. In '05, there were no major rule changes other than the rev limiter, and so I think that allowed our team to build power and we went forward from that and won three races and picked up some spots in the standings.
Q: How did it feel to give Snake his 100th win last April at Las Vegas?
DIXON: To be honest, I didn't care if it was me or Tommy (Johnson Jr.). I was more excited about doing it and getting it over with. We didn't have to talk about when it would happen any longer. It's done and that was a great race to do it at. After that, we could start on his next 100 wins. Personally, I would have been just as happy if Tommy had gotten the win.
Q: With all the success you had together, how do you feel going into the '06 season without Dick LaHaie at the helm?
DIXON: I feel better about going into the 2006 season then I did going into the first year with (Dick) LaHaie in 2000. Donnie Bender is a very capable person, which we've already seen in some of the testing with him running the car. He's been with LaHaie since 1993 and I think he's got a better car, crew and driver than what LaHaie inherited when he first came here late in 1999. I'm really looking forward to the 2006 season.
Q: How important is it to have retained your veteran pit crew?
DIXON: I'm thrilled that everybody stayed. I think that we have a great race team. It proves that the whole crew believes Donnie (Bender) can do the job. When LaHaie announced he was retiring, we didn't have anybody jump ship. I think that's a stamp of approval from the team that we're behind Donnie and we'll do everything we can to help make him a winner as a crew chief. He's already been on four championship teams and he knows how important a good crew is. He has all the same people to work on the car and I think it will pay off.
Q: What else is new for the Miller Lite team in 2006?
DIXON: Lots of testing.
Q: What is the most important factor for the Miller Lite dragster to contend for the NHRA title in 2006?
DIXON: To make strong, solid runs on race day. There were a lot of rounds that we lost on smoking the tires and the years that we won the championship (2002-03), we kept those at a minimum. You need a car to go down the race track to win rounds and we'll be concentrating on getting our car to go down the track.
Q: The 2006 season will be your 12th with Miller Brewing Co. How proud are you to have sustained that relationship for more than a decade?
DIXON: I certainly feel honored. Obviously we try and go out and represent them the best that we can. For them being with us, they approve of the job that we've been doing. I think it's great and important for the sport to have household-name companies sponsoring race cars. It's important for the legitimacy of the sport and I'm proud to be associated with one of them.
Q: You're entering your 19th season as an employee of Don Prudhomme Racing. What is your relationship like with Snake going from crew member to champion driver?
DIXON: It's changed throughout the years. I've always stayed working at (Don) Prudhomme's because every time that he went to the starting line, he was trying to bring the absolute best package to the starting line and I feel that I can't go anywhere else and get more than what he gives. The only difference now, as opposed to then, is that I'm driving the car. I didn't stay here because I thought I could drive his race car; I stayed because I like the way he steers his ship.