Defending NHRA POWERade Champ Larry Dixon makes history with consecutive Winternationals & Shootout victories. POMONA, CA (Feb. 10) -- Defending NHRA POWERade champion Larry Dixon became the first Top Fuel driver in 42 years to win ...
Defending NHRA POWERade Champ Larry Dixon makes history with consecutive Winternationals & Shootout victories.
POMONA, CA (Feb. 10) -- Defending NHRA POWERade champion Larry Dixon became the first Top Fuel driver in 42 years to win consecutive Winternationals titles as his lap of 4.541 seconds (322.04 mph) in his Miller Lite Dragster defeated Cory McClenathan and capped one of the most lucrative weekend's in the sport of drag racing.
Dixon came into the weekend with the opportunity to make history by successfully defending both his $100,000 Top Fuel Shoutout and Winternationals victories which he earned during his 2002 championship campaign. After two days of qualifying, Dixon's first shot at the record books came as the No. 2 qualifier for Saturday's Shootout. Wins over No. 7 Doug Herbert and No. 4 Doug Kalitta put the Miller Lite Dragster up against a familiar foe in the Brandon Bernstein-driven Top Fueler. Dixon used a pass of 4.55 seconds (324.59 mph) to defeat rookie pilot Bernstein (4.56 seconds) and took his place atop the Clydesdales with a $100,000 check for the third time in his career. With the win, Dixon became only the third Top Fuel driver in NHRA history to win consecutive $100,000 Top Fuel Shootout crowns.
"You've got the two beer companies going against each other and you have now idea how important those rounds are for them," said Dixon. "It puts a lot of pressure on you to do well. I cut my best light of the weekend and I still got left on. It let's you know that Brandon, that kid is going to be strong. I didn't think that there was going to be any learning curve for him because he showed how strong he was in an alcohol car and he is in a bad ass car right now. It's similar to what I went through when I got into Snake's car. It was a great car when I got in it, and he has the same opportunity. There's no reason why he shouldn't come out of the box and win. I feel almost lucky to win that one. It could have gone either way."
Prior to Sunday's elimination rounds, Dixon took part in the pre-race ceremonies where we was presented with his 2002 championship ring as the first NHRA POWERade Top Fuel Champion. While it was a nice reminder of last season's past accomplishments, Dixon had a hard day's work ahead of him, beginning with a first round meeting against No. 14 qualifier Robert Reehl. Dixon used the first of his four 4.5-second elimination runs (4.535 seconds, 327.19 mph) to advance past Reehl (13.627 secs.) and then posted a winning time of 4.533 seconds (325.61 mph) to defeat Tony Schumacher (4.625/315.64 mph). The semifinals provided an interested side note as reigning NHRA Top Fuel Champ Dixon squared off against Clay Millican, the defending IHRA Top Fuel king. Dixon's crew chief Dick LaHaie let his car do the talking as his tune up provided for low elapsed time of the day (4.514 seconds, 326 mph) as Millican lost traction (7.358 secs.).
The final round again gave Dixon the opportunity to make history and collect an additional $50,000 bonus if he could defeat McClenathan. Although a close race, destiny could not be denied as Dixon's pass of 4.541 seconds was enough to get the job done over 'Cory Mac' (4.597 secs.) and completed a monumental opening weekend of racing.
The win gave Dixon 26 for his career as he currently sits fourth on the NHRA Top Fuel all-time wins list and is just one race win shy of tying McClenathan for third place, as well as tying 'Cory Mac's' mark for career wins by an active Top Fuel pilot. Sunday's win was Dixon's third at the famed Winternationals (1998, 2002, 2003) and put him at the top of the POWERade Top Fuel point standings with 116, 25 points ahead of McClenathan (91 points).
"From a money standpoint, the only thing we have done bigger than this was winning the POWERade championship," said an excited Dixon from Pomona Raceway's Shav Glick Media Center. "Winning almost $200,000 in a weekend is a perfect way to start out a season. Last year was just a phenomenal year, but to start out having the car run as strong as it did Saturday and today (Sunday), I just appreciate having a car like that. When you get a car like that, you love it. In 42 years no one has won here back-to-back and it makes you wonder why not. Everybody on our team kept their heads together and was focused on getting the job done."