Englishtown: Dixon three championship points out of first place

From The Snake Pit Larry Dixon Closes In On Top Fuel Points Lead As Miller Lite Dragster Posts Semifinal Finsh At Englishtown ENGLISHTOWN, NJ (May 20) -- Larry Dixon came within three points of taking over the NHRA Winston Top Fuel points lead...

From The Snake Pit

Larry Dixon Closes In On Top Fuel Points Lead As Miller Lite Dragster Posts Semifinal Finsh At Englishtown

ENGLISHTOWN, NJ (May 20) -- Larry Dixon came within three points of taking over the NHRA Winston Top Fuel points lead as he piloted Don Prudhomme's Miller Lite Dragster to his third consecutive semifinal finish this season Sunday at the 32nd Annual Matco Tools SuperNationals

Dixon entered this weekend's event at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park ranked second in the points race, just 25 points behind leader Mike Dunn. By reaching at least the semifinal round for the sixth time out of the first eight races of the season, Dixon (627) has narrowed Dunn's (630) lead to just three points.

The 1995 Top Fuel Champion at Englishtown, Dixon kicked off the day's racing as the No. 3 seed and was paired against No. 14 seed David Grubnic in the first round. Unexpectedly cool temperatures compared to Saturday's conditions during qualifying made the opening run a challenging one for Miller Lite Crew Chief Dick LaHaie, but the three-time Winston Champion rose to the occasion by tuning Dixon to the low elapsed time of the first round. Dixon sailed down the left lane to a session-best time of 4.611 seconds at 321.96 over Grubnic's lap of 4.847 seconds at 268.65 mph, improving to a 3-0 season record to the Australian driver.

"I think that today the weather really played into the team's hands," said Dixon. "With the cloud cover, the racetrack was real tight and there was no reason that we couldn't see record performances today, which we did end up seeing in Funny Car with Del Worsham (4.779 seconds). The dragsters weren't running 4.40s, but the conditions were certainly capable of it. It was just a matter of putting in your cool weather tune up, which LaHaie did. We didn't take Dave Grubnic lightly because that's a 4.50-second car, but they were just having trouble this weekend. Our race car needed to be on and so did I and first round worked out to our benefit."

Dixon's second round, the 300th elimination round of his seven-year career, was one of the biggest as he met up with No. 6-seeded Dunn in a match up that would have a big impact on the point standings. Dixon entered the round with a 0-3 record against Dunn for the season, including a runner-up finish in the final round at Houston. It was Dixon's turn to illuminate the win light this day however as he again ran low e.t. of the session to advance to the semifinals. Dixon's lap of 4.555 seconds at 323.97 mph bettered the New York Yankees' pilot's effort of 4.844 seconds at 285.59 mph after slightly hazing the tires near halftrack.

"We were racing Mike Dunn and he is the points leader and is certainly capable of running low 4.50s, so there again I needed to be on my game and we needed to step up to ensure that we could at least give them a race, and we did and they didn't," said Dixon.

"For the early part of the season he has had our number for various reasons. So to be able to step up and beat him the way we did, set low e.t. of the meet (at the time) and run almost 324 mph, it was nice. It was a very gratifying win. If we didn't win that round, we would have been even further back in the points. As it was, we put him in park and we gained a round on him."

The semifinal round saw Dixon with the opportunity to take over the points lead from Dunn with a win over No. 7 seed Doug Kalitta. The third meeting of the year between the two drivers again went to Kalitta though as the Miller Lite Dragster suffered a parts malfunction near the 100-foot mark while the Mac Tools Dragster won with a time of 4.624 seconds at 302.96 mph. Dixon's run of 8.293 seconds at 98.04 mph ended his day, but not before taking a sizeable chunk out of Dunn's lead for the Winston Championship.

"We basically left the car alone and went up there with the same package," said Dixon. "We thought that kind of number (4.55) would win and as it was, it would have, but we had more trouble that Kalitta did and he got the win."

Kenny Bernstein won the race's Top Fuel crown while Tony Pedregon prevailed in Funny Car. The Miller Lite Team departs New Jersey on Monday for Topeka, KS for next weekend's 13th Annual Advance AutoParts Nationals (May 25-27) at Heartland Park.

-MLT-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Mike Dunn , Kenny Bernstein , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Doug Kalitta , David Grubnic , Don Prudhomme , Dick LaHaie