Topeka: Round eight preview

DIXON EXCITED ABOUT CHAMPIONSHIP RUN HEADING INTO O'REILLY NHRA SUMMER NATIONALS TOPEKA, Kan. -- Success is a word that NHRA Top Fuel driver Larry Dixon has heard a lot at Topeka. The driver of the SkyTel dragster has not only won the event at...

DIXON EXCITED ABOUT CHAMPIONSHIP RUN HEADING INTO O'REILLY NHRA SUMMER NATIONALS

TOPEKA, Kan. -- Success is a word that NHRA Top Fuel driver Larry Dixon has heard a lot at Topeka. The driver of the SkyTel dragster has not only won the event at Heartland Park (2003), he's also been to the final round four times and holds the current track record for speed at 331.61 mph.

Dixon is also heading into the 19th annual O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals presented by Castrol GTX fourth in the NHRA POWERade series point standings. With the addition of the new Countdown to the Championship playoff format, Dixon says that fourth is exactly where he wants to be at this point in the season.

"Our goal is to be in the top eight and the better our car runs, the higher up we can get in the top eight," said Dixon, a two-time POWERade series champ in Top Fuel ('02-'03). "There's more of a comfort zone if you can stay within those top eight and that gives you a chance to try new things and make new adjustments that can really give you that advantage as you gear up for the Countdown to Four."

With the addition of the Countdown to the Championship this season, at the end of the first 17 races the top eight in points in each category will have their points reset, with increments of 10 points separating each driver; a total of only 70 points separating eighth-place from first place. Topeka is the half-way point between those first 17 races, and Dixon feels that Topeka is the spot where many good teams will have to turn it up if they want to move on.

"There's going to be a fight to make the top eight and then to make the top four and top two after that," Dixon said. "Once they reset the points it will be like you're starting all over, but I think there will still be stronger teams in those top eight. It will definitely make it exciting down there stretch. It will give people something to talk about."

Dixon feels that Heartland Park Topeka is the perfect spot to make a run at the championship, because of all the improvements that have been made at the track over the past few years.

"I really like the track," Dixon said. "Ever since (Raymond Irwin) purchased the race track, things have just been really good. He's just put a lot of money into it and has turned it into one of the finest race tracks we go to. Every year we go back there you see more and more improvements to the facility. It makes you proud to go to a place that's so happy to have the NHRA in town."

Dixon will have plenty of competition when the Top Fuel class heads to Heartland Park Topeka. Drivers to watch include current points leader Rod Fuller, former event winner Brandon Bernstein, who has a win in Las Vegas and Atlanta this season, as well as J.R. Todd, who won the season-opener in Pomona, as well as the Houston event.

The competitive Funny Car field will feature several drivers to keep on the radar including eight-time Topeka winner and NHRA legend John Force. Force's teammate and son-in-law Robert Hight, who is coming off back-to-back wins at Las Vegas and Atlanta, and current POWERade points leader and defending event champion Ron Capps, who has collected wins in Gainesville, Houston, and St. Louis this season, have earned multiple wins this season.

In Pro Stock, drivers to keep on eye on are defending event-winner Dave Connolly, who is coming off a win in St. Louis this year, current points leader and '05 winner in Topeka Greg Anderson, and five-time Topeka winner and 2007 International Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee, Warren Johnson.

SCHEDULE: Professional qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. on June 1, and 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on June 2. Pre-race ceremonies will begin at 10 a.m. on June 3, followed by the first round of professional eliminations at 11 a.m.

TICKETS: For tickets, call Heartland Park Topeka at (800) 43-RACES. Tickets also are available at Ticketmaster or online at hpt.com.

ON TV: On June 2, ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise two hours of qualifying at 5:30 p.m. (ET). On June 3, ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will broadcast NHRA Race Day, a 30-minute pre-race show, at 11 a.m. (ET) and televise three hours of eliminations at 4 p.m. (ET).

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Ron Capps , John Force , Greg Anderson , Brandon Bernstein , Robert Hight , J.R. Todd