Atlanta: Larry Dixon finals summary

"High fives" all around ror Larry Dixon & Miller Lite Dragster as they win fifth race of 2002 at Atlanta'S NHRA Nationals COMMERCE, GA. (May 5) - Larry Dixon and Don Prudhomme's Miller Lite Snake Racing Top Fuel team celebrated Cinco de Mayo...

"High fives" all around ror Larry Dixon & Miller Lite Dragster as they win fifth race of 2002 at Atlanta'S NHRA Nationals

COMMERCE, GA. (May 5) - Larry Dixon and Don Prudhomme's Miller Lite Snake Racing Top Fuel team celebrated Cinco de Mayo with "high fives" Sunday as the 2002 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series points leader collected his fifth win of the season at the Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.

Dixon's 21st win of his career came in his 39th overall final round and moved him into sole possession of 22nd place on the NHRA's All-time wins list, as well as sixth overall in the history of the Top Fuel category. The win marked the second time Dixon has won at Atlanta (1996) and was the 82nd overall win for team owner Don "The Snake Prudhomme (49 as a driver, 33 as owner). Dixon, who has held the point lead all season long, now has earned 718 points in the first seven races of the year while increasing his comfort level to 162 points over second place Kenny Bernstein. He has reached the finals six times out of the first seven races of the year - winning finve times.

Entering the day as the No. 5 qualifier, Dixon looked to rebound from a wacky weekend of qualifying which saw rain delays, broken parts and tire shake. He kicked things off with a first round meeting against No. 12 qualifier Luigi Novelli in the first meeting between the two teams. Dixon used a safe, 4.686-second lap (306.40 mph) to earn the win over Novelli (11.056 secs.) and a moved on to a second round match up with fellow Mac Tools driver Doug Kalitta.

Dixon's run against Kalitta was the closest of the day in Top Fuel as the Miller Lite/Lucas Oil Dragster ran a time of 4.586 seconds (321.81 mph) to defeat Kalitta's effort (4.606/318.32). "I think second round in Top Fuel, that was the race of the day - a 4.58 to a 4.60," said Dixon. "We had our car running good when we needed to."

The semifinals marked a pivotal race for Dixon as he squared off against No. 1 qualifier and nemesis Kenny Bernstein. Dixon's run of 4.639 seconds (317.72) gave Miller Lite a perfect 3-0 edge over the "red" team for 2002 as Bernstein smoked the tires (5.206/202.42).

"That was another big round," admitted Dixon. "I was glad we had lane choice and I was glad the sun was coming out even more. I really thought that would help us more than it would hurt us. Their early numbers were quicker than ours, but it didn't stay hooked. Then they spun the tires and it was over. We had to be on our game in the second run and after you win, your consolation prize is that we get to race Bernstein - somebody who is even tougher. When you are fortunate to get by that round, then you are in the finals and it doesn't matter who you face then because there is only one person who is going to walk out with the trophy."

In the finals, it was Dixon who would walk home with the "Wally" as he was faced with his first career championship meeting with No. 6 qualifier Doug Herbert. Dixon came out on top with a winning lap of 4.637 seconds at 318.09 mph. Herbert's losing effort of 5.039 seconds at 231.87 mph moved Dixon's career mark to 13 wins and two losses to the Snap On Tools driver.

"The conditions certainly changed and I think that helped us out," said Dixon referring to Sunday's sunny weather in comparison to the rainstorm which delayed qualifying earlier in the weekend. "It seems like in the warm weather we have a better set up than we do in cold weather, so when that sun started coming out in the second round, I was liking it. We had a lot of trouble this weekend with some freak breakage and some dumb things happen during qualifying, but come race day fortunately we had our act together when it counted.

When asked if he could believe the kind of start he has had to the 2002 season, Dixon simply replied, "No!" "You dream about having seasons like this," said Dixon. "You certainly don't ever imagine it. The only person who can think of having a season like this is I think is (Formula 1 Champion) Michael Schumacher. He is an awesome driver and he is in an awesome car. For me, I have been out here racing for a long time and I have never even been close to that, even when I worked for 'The Snake' when he was driving we never had a package of races this good. The most I have ever won is a season was last year with six and I have already won five. We have got 16 more races to go. It's more than I ever could imagine."

Dixon and the Snake Racing Miller Lite Team take a week off and will return to Don Prudhomme Racing - Indy before returning to action (May 16-19) at the 33rd Annual Matco Tools Super Nationals at Englishtown, NJ.

-www.snakeracing.com-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Michael Schumacher , Doug Herbert , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Doug Kalitta , Don Prudhomme , Luigi Novelli