From The Snake Pit Larry Dixon Kicks Off Don Prudhomme's 40th Anniversary Season With Second Career Win At Winternationals POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 10) The first race of the 2002 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series could not have started off any...
From The Snake Pit Larry Dixon Kicks Off Don Prudhomme's 40th Anniversary Season With Second Career Win At Winternationals
POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 10) The first race of the 2002 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series could not have started off any better for Larry Dixon & the Miller Lite Snake Racing Dragster as they defeated chief rival Kenny Bernstein in the final round Sunday to win the 42nd Annual K&N Filters NHRA Winternationals at Pomona Raceway.
Dixon and crew kicked off Don Prudhomme's 40th Anniversary in style as he defeated Darrell Russell, Don Lampus, Clay Millican and Bernstein to claim his second Winternationals title and the 17th win of his eight-year career. Dixon started the day as the No. 2 qualifier and took a 5-0 career mark into his first round meeting with Russell. The Miller Lite Team extended Top Fuel's longest consecutive opening round winning streak to 27 as Dixon's lap of 4.992 seconds at 274.27 mph beat Russell's 6.659-second pass. The second round saw Dixon use a lap of 4.708 seconds at 318.77 mph in the Miller Lite/Mac Tools ride to defeat Lampus' effort of 8.705 seconds at 84.40 mph and exact some revenge as Lampus's late 2001 season win in Las Vegas helped put an end to Dixon's championship hopes.
The semifinals saw Dixon get back on track with a lap of 4.580 seconds at 324.98 mph, cruising to victory over defending IHRA 2001 Top Fuel champ Millican (4.705 seconds at 317.79 mph). The semifinal win put Dixon in his fourth career final round at Pomona and marked his first return to the money round since his runner-up effort in 1998.
Dixon showed just how serious he was about stealing the Top Fuel crown from Bernstein this season as he welded the tree with an amazing reaction time of .449 enroute to a winning lap of 4.535 seconds at 324.75 mph, marking his quickest lap of the day in the Miller Lite/Lucas Oil rail. Bernstein's run of 4.612 seconds ensured Dixon's win and moved his career final round record to 17 wins and 17 losses (.500) in 34 career final rounds. It also meant that Dixon would go down in history as the very first NHRA Top Fuel winner under the new POWERade series sponsor banner and would take the points lead heading into the next NHRA event in Chandler, Arizona (Feb. 21-24).
"Pomona is one of the oldest and most established races to be able to come here and win right out of the gate was pretty nice," said Dixon. "It definitely helps the morale. We made so many changes over the wintertime to the racecar and the engine. Testing went real well for us, but testing doesn't mean anything if you can't come to the races and produce against the competition. We got lucky the first two rounds and that gave us enough of a break so that (crew chief) Dick LaHaie was able to dial it back in and we got our act together when we needed it."
Dixon's victory at the first race of the season was made even sweeter as it came against his biggest rival, Bernstein, who is beginning his retirement tour. "It was nice with Kenny being on his tour," said Dixon. "I mean, he used us up last year and won the championship and he deserved it because he had a better car and a better team last year. But we worked real hard over the winter to make our car better and our team better and right now, today, so far so good."
The win also served as a great way to acknowledge Prudhomme's 40th Anniversary season as Dixon's win moved "The Snake's" overall win total to 77 wins (49 driver, 28 as owner). "This is huge because while Kenny has his tour going on, Snake is in his 40th year of racing so to be able to start off the year with a win is great. At least I know we aren't going to go winless for the season," he joked.
Dixon and the Miller Lite Team take a week off before traveling back to Arizona for the 18th Annual Checker-Schuck's Kragen Nationals at Firebird International Raceway (Feb.21-24).