Defending NHRA Top Fuel Champs Larry Dixon and Dick Lahaie get Miller Lite Dragster team ready for title defense. VISTA, CA (January 28) - The off-season is rapidly coming to a close for Don Prudhomme's reigning 2002 NHRA POWERade Top Fuel ...
Defending NHRA Top Fuel Champs Larry Dixon and Dick Lahaie get Miller Lite Dragster team ready for title defense.
VISTA, CA (January 28) - The off-season is rapidly coming to a close for Don Prudhomme's reigning 2002 NHRA POWERade Top Fuel Champion Miller Lite Dragster team and after a very successful test session last week, driver Larry Dixon and the Miller Lite crew are busy making final preparations for the season-launching 2003 K&N Filters Winternationals at Pomona Raceway (Feb. 7-9)
Coming off arguably the most dominant Top Fuel season in recent NHRA history, four-time NHRA champion Dick LaHaie is poised to lead Dixon and crew to a possible world championship title defense. LaHaie, who won the NHRA's Top Fuel crown as a driver in 1987, has also won three additional world championships as a crew chief. Before helping Dixon secure his first NHRA title last season, LaHaie was also primarily responsible for Top Fuel pilot Scott Kalitta's consecutive crowns in 1994 and 1995.
While it is still way too early in the game to start making any predictions about race wins or repeating last season's championship performance, five solid days of testing at Phoenix's Firebird International Raceway did give LaHaie reason to think that his team has not lost anything since becoming the NHRA's first POWERade Top Fuel king.
"I am very pleased with the way testing went for us this year," said LaHaie as he supervised his Miller Lite Team at Snake Racing's Vista, California race shop. "Our main concern this year during testing was to try and get our clutch combination right. We weren't trying to fire any unnatural shots; we just wanted to learn how to make the car run better under race-like conditions. We realize that we only get two qualifying runs at Pomona before the Shootout on Saturday (Feb. 8), so we treated our last day of testing just like it was race day. We tried to get into the race day mentality and we did that by making our first pass on Tuesday (Jan. 21) at 11:30 am, around the same time as the first round of eliminations. We came back with runs at 1:30 pm and again at 3:45 pm when the track was at its hottest. We were able to run some pretty good numbers with those three laps (4.60, 4.59 and 4.55 seconds), so overall I am very pleased."
Dixon, who looks to begin his ninth year as a professional driver, agreed with his tuner. "Testing was pretty decent," said Dixon, who climbed back into his championship seat for the first time in two months. "It was just like I never left. It was nice to get back out to the racetrack and get things going. As far as the car goes, we wanted to learn what knobs we can and can't turn before we get into real racing. It wasn't like we were trying be make any Star Wars-like, unbelievable times, we are just sorting some things out and trying different components to get ready for the season."
In addition to the testing session, Dixon was also very busy during the off-season with several appearances and sponsor commitments. He started his layoff with a special trip to Milwaukee, along with Prudhomme and LaHaie, where they presented Miller Brewing Company with the 2002 NHRA POWERade Top Fuel Championship Trophy. They spent time with Miller employees, signed autographs and gave away T-shirts, in addition to having the Miller Lite Dragster show car on site. Dixon also made appearances at the annual SEMA and PRI shows, as well as several Super Bowl activities for Miller Lite. <pre> Below are details on each of Dixon's 13 runs during the 2003 National Time Trials at Firebird International Raceway (Jan. 17-21);
1. 4.94 seconds/215.58 mph - a scheduled, half-track run 2. 4.64 seconds/265.74 mph - a run to 1,000-foot mark 3. 4.70 seconds/264.29 mph - a run to 900 feet 4. .849 seconds - test run to evaluate 60-foot launch time 5. 4.55 seconds/322.73 mph - incremental data run, shut off 4.2 seconds 6. .909 seconds - test run to evaluate 60-foot launch time 7. .843 seconds - test run to evaluate 60-foot launch time 8. .841 seconds - test run to evaluate 60-foot launch time 9. .827 seconds - test run to evaluate 60-foot launch time 10. 4.58 seconds/325.30 mph - incremental data run, shut off 4.2 seconds 11. 4.60 seconds/323.43 mph - incremental data run, shut off 4.2 seconds 12. 4.59 seconds/318.24 mph - incremental data run, shut off 4.0 seconds 13. 4.55 seconds/323.66 mph - incremental data run, shut off 4.2 seconds