Pomona III: Larry Dixon qualifying, Shootout report

POMONA, CA (NOV. 10) Larry Dixon and Don Prudhomme's Miller Lite Top Fuel Team spent some quality Miller Time in the winner's circle Saturday celebrating a $100,000 first-place check after winning their second career Budweiser Shootout at...

POMONA, CA (NOV. 10) Larry Dixon and Don Prudhomme's Miller Lite Top Fuel Team spent some quality Miller Time in the winner's circle Saturday celebrating a $100,000 first-place check after winning their second career Budweiser Shootout at Pomona Raceway.

Dixon and crew chief Dick LaHaie posted low elapsed time for three consecutive rounds and parlayed that into a huge payday at their chief rival's expense. Dixon, who entered the eight-car, specialty race as the No. 2 seed based on his qualifying performance over the past calendar year, kicked things off against No. 7 seed Tony Schumacher. Dixon's lap of 4.555 seconds at 315.78 mph moved him past Schumacher's lap of 4.733 seconds at 281.89 mph.

The second round put Dixon up against No. 3 seed Mike Dunn and the New York Yankees Dragster. Dixon's run of 4.527 seconds at 323.74 mph resulted in the top speed of the event and bettered Dunn's effort of 4.535 seconds at 319.07 mph. With the win, Dixon advanced to his third career Shootout final after qualifying in each of his seven years as a professional driver on the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

The final round placed Dixon up against No. 5 seed Doug Kalitta and the Mac Tools Dragster. Dixon, LaHaie and the Miller Lite Crew saved their best effort for last as their pass of 4.514 seconds at 323.19 mph defeated Kalitta's run of 4.557 seconds at 321.73 mph to take the top prize.

The elapsed time also helped Dixon improve on his previous best qualifying time as he now sits second in the 16-car field for Sunday's elimination round that will determine the 2001 Winston Top Fuel Championship. Dixon trails points leader Kenny Bernstein by 55 points heading into race day and needs to win tomorrow's race to have an opportunity to earn his first NHRA season title.

"I did okay today," laughed Dixon, who was sharp at the starting line in each round. "This is the last weekend of 2001 so you can't hold back. You have got to try and give it everything you can. I love this racetrack. I grew up out here watching and every time we come here, I seem to do well. I seem to get a little more confidence like its home court advantage. Growing up 30 miles from here in the San Fernando Valley, I get excited about racing here."

Dixon's No. 2-qualifying effort saw him lose one point to Bernstein who qualified in the top position. Dixon does not believe that plays much of a factor for Sunday. "One point isn't going to decide this championship," said Dixon. "Was I worried about it? Did I care? Not at all. It's the round wins, the 20-point chunks that we have got to work on. But I am just happy. Our car ran good and we took home a lot of money. For us, there's $400,000 on the table that both our team and Kenny's has a potential of winning. We have got $100,000 so far so there's still $300,000 out on the table between (event sponsor) AAA, NHRA and Winston, so we have one down and three more to go."

Dixon's second-career Top Fuel Shootout win gave team owner Prudhomme his fourth Shootout title as an owner as Snake Racing teammate Ron Capps has also won the Funny Car Shootout in Indianapolis on two occasions.

Dixon will put Top Fuel's longest current opening round win streak (25) on the line Sunday when he squares off with No. 15 qualifier Rhonda Hartman-Smith and the Fram Dragster. Dixon is 6-1 for his career and 3-0 this season over his female counterpart.

www.snakeracing.com

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Series NHRA