Bristol: Larry Dixon finals summary

Larry Dixon and Miller Lite dragster win fourth race of 2002 with first carrer victory at Bristol Dragway BRISTOL, TENN. (April 28) - Continuing his early domination of the 2002 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, Top Fuel points leader Larry...

Larry Dixon and Miller Lite dragster win fourth race of 2002 with first carrer victory at Bristol Dragway

BRISTOL, TENN. (April 28) - Continuing his early domination of the 2002 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, Top Fuel points leader Larry Dixon in the Miller Lite Snake Racing Dragster won his fourth race of the season after the first six races Sunday at the Second Annual Mac Tools Thunder Valley Nationals.

The victory came in his fifth final round appearance out of six contests and was the 20th of Dixon's career, tying him for 23rd on the NHRA all-time wins list with Mark Oswald. This season's start is the best of Dixon's eight-year career and finds him leading the Top Fuel class with a total of 604 points and enjoys a 126-point edge over second place Kenny Bernstein.

Dixon came into Sunday's elimination rounds as the No. 1 qualifier with his lap of 4.583 seconds (323.19 mph), which marked the 16th "pole" behind the wheel. After an hour rain delay, Dixon kicked off his championship effort with a first round lap of 4.794 seconds (310.91 mph) to defeat No. 16 Roger Dean (5.519/260.41). The second round saw Dixon dispose of No. 9 Melanie Troxel as his pass of 4.709 seconds (313.37 mph) bettered her (8.938/105.75) in their first career meeting. Semifinal action placed Dixon up against No. 4 Cory McClenathan for the 25th time in NHRA history. Dixon took a 13-12 lead in head-to-head competition as his run of 4.582 seconds at 323.19 mph proved to be low elapsed time of the meet and sent "Cory Mac" (4.725/315.62) home.

The final round was also delayed due to rain, but once the skies cleared Dixon had the opportunity to take advantage of his 38th career final, helping rebound from the Miller Lite Team's first opening round setback in 30 consecutive races two weeks ago in Baytown, Texas. Dixon squared off against No. 6 qualifier Darrell Russell in the third career final round meeting between the two pilots. AS he did all day, Dixon sailed down the right lane to a winning pass of 4.644 seconds at 317.87 mph to beat Russell's effort (4.977/268.01).

The win for Snake Racing marked the 81st win overall for team owner Don "The Snake" Prudhomme, which includes 49 as a driver and 32 as a team owner since retiring after the 1994 season. Currently, Prudhomme is celebrating his 40th Anniversary season.

"This was a strong weekend all the way around for us," said Dixon. "All weekend I really thought about last year. We had a really good car last year. I thought we had the car to beat, and I went red (fouled out) and kind of gave it away. I didn't want to do that again this year. The guys worked too hard and our car was just flying. I just had to get in that car and not do anything dumb and let it do the talking, and it did. Dick LaHaie and everybody on the crew did a great job calling some shots. I think early in the day we were off a little bit, kind of chasing the weather around. It's pretty hard when it's sunny, overcast, then rain, and that really has an effect on the cars and how they run. They really started working on it second round and then we threw that 4.58 up on the board in the semis and I was floored. I guess LaHaie was taking Wes Cerny and Cory Mac and those guys pretty serious. It was just a neat day. This is fun!"

Dixon took a moment to express how happy he is with such a spectacular start and likened the day's success at Bristol Dragway to the luck that Miller Lite Racing teammate Rusty Wallace has had at Bristol Motor Speedway, which sits just across the parking lot. "I am so glad we won here," said Dixon. "You know Rusty Wallace, it seems like he almost owns that track right over there and some of the races he has one I have been in his winner's circle shots and it felt like we might have had a little bit of a home court advantage because of him. I got to talk to him (Saturday) night and he told me, 'Put it on 'em.' All the way around, I am thrilled to death.

The Miller Lite pilot reflected on being able to put the disappointment of Houston behind him. "Just winning first round I think was a big, uphill battle," laughed Dixon. "We had two weeks off in-between so there was a lot of time to prepare the car and alter the equipment because we changed a lot of things. We had different input shafts, bearings, and a lot of things different in the clutch, stronger pieces. The guy that makes those parts told me that there were a thousand of those input shafts and he has only broken five. We have broken two and (John) Force has broken three, so the record on them is pretty good, but not good enough when it happens first round. I don't think anybody got tipped over about losing. We said, 'OK, we know why it broke, it happened at an ugly time, but let's get back on the horse and ride it. That's what happened and we were fortunate enough to qualify on the pole and ran good all day."

Dixon wanted to express to everyone how difficult it is to have had the kind of success his Miller Lite squad has had after the first six events. "I don't know if all of you realize how hard it is to make that many runs during the course of the season (24 qualifying laps, 21 total elimination runs with a 19 and 2 record) - and that's qualifying and race day - and not have anything dumb happen. No throttle brackets breaking, no blower belts coming off. Other than that input shaft, the car had been flawless and credit really goes to the crew for staying ahead of that stuff. It makes LaHaie's job easier tuning it and it makes my job easy because I know they are giving me the best horse I can ride and I just got to go out there and try and cut a light and look for that win light down at the finish line. I have been working on these cars since 1988, and to be able to have a car that good is phenomenal. I am very impressed with our team."

Dixon and team take no time off as they head to Commerce, Georgia for next week's 22nd Annual NHRA Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals presented by Pontiac (May 2-5).

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Series NHRA
Drivers Rusty Wallace , Larry Dixon , Cory McClenathan , Dick LaHaie , Melanie Troxel , Cory Mac