Dixon, Bernstein ready to battle for NHRA Crown at Infineon Raceway. SONOMA, Calif. - Larry Dixon came up a little short last year in his quest for the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Top Fuel championship, but that may not be the case this ...
Dixon, Bernstein ready to battle for NHRA Crown at Infineon Raceway.
SONOMA, Calif. - Larry Dixon came up a little short last year in his quest for the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Top Fuel championship, but that may not be the case this season.
Dixon has dominated the Top Fuel division in 2002, with seven victories through the first 12 events of the season and is primed for his first-ever POWERade Drag Racing Series title. But to accomplish that feat, he will have to tame Infineon Raceway at the 15th annual FRAM Autolite Nationals, Aug. 2-4.
Despite his dominance, Dixon and his Miller Lite Top Fuel Dragster have only reached the finals once at Infineon Raceway, losing to Doug Kalitta in 2000. Dixon hopes to break that trend in 2002, and judging by the early results, he's a good bet for his first victory on the refurbished quarter-mile strip.
Dixon will be one of the favorites but his road to victory won't come easy against the likes of Kenny Bernstein (Bud King) and three-time Infineon Raceway champion Doug Kalitta. Bernstein is both the defending Top Fuel champion at Infineon Raceway, as well as the defending champion of the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
"I'm looking forward to coming back to the track and hopefully picking up a second straight win," Bernstein said. "Larry's had a great year but I think we'll have something for him out there."
The NHRA will be treated to a stunning new facility, complete with a 660-concrete launch pad. The new racing surface, combined with the elevation at 15 feet above seal level, should provide for lightning-fast racing, and perhaps even some new world records. The strip also features Musco Lighting for night racing, as well as a Compulink Timing System. Fans will enjoy a new grandstand that will offer great views of both the strip and the scenic Sonoma Valley.
"I'm really looking forward to coming out there in August," said Bernstein, who helped unveil the new drag strip during a ceremony earlier this year. "They have done a great job with the improvements to the drag strip and this should be one of our top stops during the year. It would be satisfying to close out my career at Infineon with another victory this year."
Added Dixon: "I'm really looking forward to going back to Infineon Raceway now that they have given us a new surface. It used to have the shortest concrete surface of any racetrack on the tour but now it should be great. I'm excited about heading out there."
It has been a war in the Funny Car class this season, and that war will continue at Infineon Raceway. John Force is an 11-time NHRA Funny Car champion but he is mired in a battle for the top spot this season with Gary Densham, Tony Pedregon and Del Worsham.
Worsham was the surprise winner last year at Infineon Raceway, defeating Jim Epler in the finals with a run of 5.044 seconds (301.60 mph). Force, a five-time winner at Infineon Raceway, was ousted in the first round. Infineon Raceway will be the final stop of the three-race West Coast Swing.
"The bottom line is you need to come out of Sonoma in the POWERade points lead or close to it to have a shot at winning the title," Force said. "Three races in a row, that's tough on equipment but it's even tougher on your people. It's kind of a survival deal."
The Pro Stock class, meanwhile, is known for incredibly close competition, with qualifying fields generally separated by a few tenths of a second, and races decided by mere inches. With naturally-aspirated engines that rely on the quality of air to generate horsepower, the near-sea-level conditions of Infineon Raceway combined with the renovated racing surface will make the strip a likely place for record-breaking runs.
A top contender is Warren Johnson, who has three victories at Infineon Raceway. He was the first Pro Stock driver to eclipse 200 mph at Infineon Raceway, and holds both the elapsed time and speed records for the track. He has not won in Sonoma since 1998, however, and looks to face stiff competition from his son, Kurt, and three-time Infineon Raceway winner Jim Yates.
A fourth pro division has been added to the schedule this year with the Pro Stock Motorcycles. Angelle Savoie is the two-time defending NHRA champion and is the winningest female in NHRA history. Crag Treble had four victories in the first six events of the season and should also be a factor, as should Antron Brown, who placed second to Savoie in the 2001 standings. This will mark the first-ever appearance by Pro Stock Motorcycles at Infineon Raceway.