ENGLISHTOWN, NJ (Sept. 9) - Reaching the semifinal round for the 11th time out of 17 races this season, Larry Dixon and the Don Prudhomme-owned Miller Lite Dragster gained over one round of points on leader Tony Schumacher with a semifinal finish...
ENGLISHTOWN, NJ (Sept. 9) - Reaching the semifinal round for the 11th time out of 17 races this season, Larry Dixon and the Don Prudhomme-owned Miller Lite Dragster gained over one round of points on leader Tony Schumacher with a semifinal finish at the re-scheduled Matco Tools Spring Supernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.
With the semifinal finish, Dixon (1,262) gained 23 points on Schumacher (1,364), remains in third place in the Winston Top Fuel points race, and is now just 102 points out of the lead. Gary Scelzi still sits in second place (1,333). Doug Kalitta won the event, his third Top Fuel win of the year.
The Miller Lite Team entered the race as the No. 1 seed with a qualifying time of 4.644 seconds, set when the event was originally scheduled on May 21, but was postponed due to rain and cold temperatures. With only 15 Top Fuel cars qualified, Dixon would enjoy a bye in the first round, resulting in his 18th consecutive opening round victory - the longest such streak in the Top Fuel category. Crew Chief Dick LaHaie took advantage of the "free" first round to test the conditions of the right lane and saw the No. 91 car's setup run too strong for the lane and lose traction.
"Obviously our streak has kept us in the title fight," said Dixon. "There have been other teams that have gone out in the first round, one, two, or more times this season. With just that same kind of success last year, we would have led the points race."
Dixon's second round would see him take on No. 8 seed Steve Smith for the first time in his six-year career. The Miller Lite pilot would leave the line earlier than his foe (.494/.510) and reach the finish line quicker as well, as his lap of 4.689 seconds at 315.05 mph defeated Smith's pass of 5.032 seconds at 271.62 mph. The Miller Lite/Raybestos Dragster would take on a familiar adversary in the semifinal round as Dixon met MGM Grand driver Doug Kalitta for the sixth time this season. With both drivers posting identical reaction times (.487), it would be Kalitta's time of 4.673 seconds at 312.21 mph prevailing over Dixon's 4.729 seconds at 311.13 mph.
"Doing this 'gaining one round at a time thing' gets a little frustrating," said Dixon. "To see a guy like Tony Schumacher go out early, we try to take advantage of it, and we don't. We gain only one round against Gary Scelzi this week, and we gained only one round against Scelzi the week beforeâ€¦ it's tough. We are hanging on though. We are not out of this race yet. We are only five rounds out of first with 24 rounds left this season. I guess if we gain one round a race for the rest of the season, we will be in great shape come Pomona."
The Miller Lite Team heads to Reading, PA later this week for the running of the 16th Annual Keystone Nationals (Sept. 14-17).