Pomona 2: Dixon Top Fuel eliminations recap

From The Snake Pit Larry Dixon & Miller Lite Dragster Close To Within 62 Points Of Lead With Semifinal Finish At NHRA 50th Anniversary Nationals POMONA, CA (July 7) - Larry Dixon and the Don Prudhomme Racing Miller Lite Dragster closed the gap...

From The Snake Pit

Larry Dixon & Miller Lite Dragster Close To Within 62 Points Of Lead With Semifinal Finish At NHRA 50th Anniversary Nationals

POMONA, CA (July 7) - Larry Dixon and the Don Prudhomme Racing Miller Lite Dragster closed the gap in the NHRA Winston Top Fuel points race to just 62 points with a semifinal finish at the Pep Boys NHRA 50th Anniversary Nationals at Pomona Raceway.

Dixon, the No. 4 seed going into today's elimination round, entered the 13th race of the 2001 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series season ranked second in the point standings and sat 80 points behind current leader Kenny Bernstein.  Bernstein's second round loss allowed the Miller Lite Team to narrow that margin.

Dixon's first round opponent was No. 14 seed Rhonda Hartman-Smith and the Fram Dragster.  Crew Chief Dick LaHaie's warm-weather tune-up worked wonders as Dixon posted the second lowest elapsed time of the round with a winning pass of 4.692 seconds at 305.63 mph to better Hartman-Smith's lap of 4.923 seconds at 294.43 mph.  The first round win extended Dixon's opening round win streak to 14 consecutive events and improved his season record to 3-0 over the Fram pilot and 6-1 for his career.

The second round saw Dixon pair up against No. 12 seed Bobby Baldwin for the sixth time this season.  Dixon had defeated Baldwin in all five of the previous meetings, which all came in the first round.  Dixon's rare second-round match-up against Baldwin would not play out any differently as the Miller Lite Dragster again posted the second lowest e.t. of the round.  Dixon motored down the quarter mile to a time of 4.660 seconds at 310.20 mph, bettering Baldwin's effort of 5.794 seconds at 166.50 mph.  The win moved Dixon to the semifinals for the 10th time after the first 13 events of the season and resulted in an appointment with 2000 Winston Top Fuel Champ Gary Scelzi. 

The fans at this weekend's historic event were not disappointed as the Dixon-Scelzi race was a great side-by-side display of horsepower.  Dixon improved on his second round numbers as his lap of 4.601 at 318.24 mph fell to Scelzi's winning lap of 4.551 seconds at 317.72 mph.  The semifinal finish moved Dixon's season record to 4 wins and 2 losses against Scelzi and is now 8-15 against the Winston pilot for his career.

"Everybody likes to talk about the points, but I don't really care about the points right now," said Dixon.  "They don't give you the Winston Championship trophy for leading in the points at the halfway mark.  I am bummed we lost this race because I thought we had a real consistent car.  Scelzi and Alan Johnson were better than us.  They showed it in qualifying and when they went up to race us they didn't take any shots at us, they just flat out beat us.  It was kind of a similar scenario to Chicago where they had a real good package and we were on the short end of it."

Dixon's march to the semis was not an easy one as the Miller Lite Dragster battled mechanical problems during the first two rounds.  "The fine tuning of the fuel system, with the weather and everything, made it tougher to get the car to run on eight cylinders down to the starting line," said Dixon.  "That wasn't a problem in the semifinals and the weather kind of came around to us.  But that really didn't matterbecause our car still ran good in the first and second round.  We knew that there was improvement there if we could get the car to run on eight cylinders.  We did get the car to run on all eight in the semis and we worked on other areas to get the car to run better but it wasn't enough."

Dixon's season record now stands at 29 wins and 11 losses and owns a total of 1,046 points, 62 points behind Bernstein (1,108). The Miller Lite Team takes one week off before they go back to racing at Denver's Bandimere Speedway (July 19-22) for the 23rd Annual Mopar Parts Mile High Nationals.  

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Rhonda Hartman-Smith , Gary Scelzi , Don Prudhomme , Dick LaHaie