Madison: Pre-race notes and quotes

Sixth annual Sears Craftsman NHRA Nationals, June 27-30, Gateway International Raceway, Madison, Ill. * DIXON AIMS FOR NHRA RECORD BOOKS: If Larry Dixon continues to dominate the Top Fuel category with the consistency he has displayed over ...

Sixth annual Sears Craftsman NHRA Nationals,
June 27-30, Gateway International Raceway, Madison, Ill.

* DIXON AIMS FOR NHRA RECORD BOOKS: If Larry Dixon continues to dominate the Top Fuel category with the consistency he has displayed over the first half of the season, the Top Fuel chapter of the NHRA record books will need to be rewritten for the driver of the Miller Lite dragster.

In the first 11 races of the season, Dixon has seven wins in 10 final round appearances. The record for Top Fuel wins in a season in nine (Gary Scelzi, 2000) and the record for Top Fuel final round appearances is 12 (Kenny Bernstein, 2001). Dixon recently tied an NHRA record by appearing in his sixth consecutive final round and will be attempting to make his first final round appearance ever at Gateway International Raceway. Should he advance to the final he will establish a new mark for the most consecutive finals, a record he currently shares with Scott Kalitta (1994) and Cory McClenathan (1997). In his five career races at St. Louis, Dixon has one first round loss (1997), three second round losses (1998-99, 2001) and one semifinal loss (2000).

Dixon currently has a 37-4 record in elimination rounds heading into St. Louis. The Top Fuel round win record was established last season by Bernstein (61) in a 24-race season. The all-time mark is 65 set by John Force in 1996 in 19 races. Jeg Coughlin Jr. won 62 elimination rounds during his run to the 2000 NHRA Pro Stock title (23 races). In the last 12 races of the 2001 season beginning with the Sears Craftsman Nationals (excluding the 50th Anniversary Nationals at Pomona, Calif.) Dixon amassed a 29-8 record with four wins in five final round appearances.

With his seven wins in the year Dixon has 23 career victories, two behind Scelzi for fifth on the all-time win list in Top Fuel. Joe Amato is the career win leader in Top Fuel with 52 victories, followed by Don Garlits (35), Kenny Bernstein (33) and Cory McClenathan (26).

"What a season," said Dixon after his win at Columbus, Ohio. "It's more than I've ever imagined. We've had a good start and now we need a good finish. If we are going to win this championship we need to keep this pace going."

Team-owner Don Prudhomme has experienced some of the same success Dixon is having this season. He had a similar season in 1976, winning seven of eight races in Funny Car.

"It's hard to win these races and what Larry is doing is phenomenal," said Prudhomme. "The chemistry that these guys have is the best I've ever seen. It's really cool to watch."

* THE PROFESSOR SEEKS TO EXTEND STREAK: Defending NHRA POWERade Pro Stock champion Warren Johnson recently qualified for his 300th consecutive NHRA national event. The last time Johnson posted a DNQ (did not qualify) was in 1987 at Gainesville, Fla. Ron Krisher has qualified for 58 straight national events, the second longest active streak among Pro Stock drivers behind Johnson's milestone achievement. There are only three drivers this year that have qualified for every event of the 2002 NHRA season (Johnson, Krisher, and Jim Yates). Despite the impressive streak, Johnson remains focused.

"I don't put too much emphasis on the qualifying streak," said Johnson, a six-time Pro Stock champion. "(The NHRA) doesn't pay anything for it, but what they do pay for is that No. 1 spot (in qualifying) and that's what we're shooting for. Getting qualified though comes first and foremost. When you consider how close these fields are getting, just qualifying is a feat in itself."

Johnson has yet to be the No. 1 qualifier in Pro Stock at any of the events in 2002. The last time he went this long into a season without posting a top spot in qualifying was 1989, when it took him until the 15th race of the year to earn top honors. He then did it for three straight races.

* ONLY KALITTA CAN REPEAT: Doug Kalitta, the defending event champion and driver of the Mac Tools dragster, is the only active Top Fuel dragster driver who has visited the winner's circle at Gateway International Raceway. In the inaugural event, Top Fuel legend Joe Amato was the event winner and three-time series champ Gary Scelzi won from 1997-'99. Amato retired following the 2000 season and is the owner of the Bilstein Engine Flush dragster driven by Darrell Russell while Scelzi left the cockpit of a dragster to pilot a Funny Car before putting his career on hold after seven races of the 2002 season.

* CALIFORNIA DOMINANCE: Of the past five Sears Craftsman Nationals winners in the Funny Car category, every one is a native Southern Californian. Tony Pedregon (Chino Hills), Jerry Toliver (Huntington Beach), John Force (Yorba Linda), Frank Pedregon (Phillips Ranch) and Ron Capps (Carlsbad).

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Frank Pedregon , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , John Force , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Ron Krisher , Don Garlits , Cory McClenathan , Scott Kalitta , Don Prudhomme , Jerry Toliver