Englishtown: Round eleven preview

LARRY DIXON LOOKS TO MAINTAIN FATHER'S DAY DOMINANCE WITH TOP FUEL VICTORY AT K&N FILTERS SUPERNATIONALS ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- For most, the standard gift on Father's Day is a tie. For NHRA Top Fuel driver Larry Dixon, the gift he's become ...


ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- For most, the standard gift on Father's Day is a tie. For NHRA Top Fuel driver Larry Dixon, the gift he's become accustomed to on Father's Day has been a Wally.

Five years running now -- every year since his first child, Donovan, was born -- Dixon has celebrated Father's Day with an NHRA POWERade Series victory. The streak began with three consecutive wins at Columbus and even a revision in the schedule failed to slow him down as he picked up right where he left off when the Father's Day event was moved to Englishtown with wins there in each of the past two years.

"Every year I've been a dad, I've won on Father's Day," said Dixon, who is currently in fifth place in the NHRA POWERade Series Top Fuel standings.

"I don't know what it is, divine intervention or something, I don't know," Dixon said, trying to explain his Father's Day fortunes. "If it was something we were doing, I promise you we'd do it at every race."

Dixon hopes to extend the Father's Day streak to six with a third straight win at the 36th annual K&N Filters SuperNationals presented by Strauss Auto, June 15-18 at historic Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. The $1.8 million race, which will be televised on ESPN2 HD, is the 11th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

"(Old Bridge Township Raceway Park) is awesome. I really enjoy racing there," said the 39-year old Dixon, an NHRA historian of sorts who takes great pride in conquering the tracks he grew up watching the legends like team owner Don Prudhomme race on. "It's a track that's been part of the (NHRA POWERade Series) for so long ... for me, those are the tracks I always dreamed of going to, much less racing. And winning at those tracks, it's like winning a (PGA Tour) Major. I consider Englishtown (along with Pomona, Indianapolis, Gainesville and Columbus) certainly to be one of the (NHRA) Majors."

So far in 2006, Dixon is winless but the two-time POWERade Series world champion (2002-'03) has a new crew chief in Dick LaHaie protege Donnie Bender and the two are still in a feeling out period. Bender had been LaHaie's assistant crew chief for many years so there's been a fairly smooth transition; still, there is a learning curve with respect to building a trust and an understanding with one another.

Dixon has had his moments in 2006. He's made it out of the first round at all but three of the first 10 events and he's been to the semifinals at three events.

He's currently 299 points south of season-long Top Fuel points leader Melanie Troxel, who has won two races and been to seven final rounds. He's also looking up in the standings at the two hottest drivers in the class, Doug Kalitta and Brandon Bernstein, who've combined to win the last five events with Kalitta claiming four of the five.

Dixon, who set the Old Bridge Township track record for speed (332.26 mph) en route to his 2005 title, also has a three-year old daughter Alanna and he is married to Allison.

Other defending event winners include Del Worsham in Funny Car, Jason Line in Pro Stock, and Antron Brown in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

In Funny Car, POWERade Series points leader Ron Capps has been the driver to beat, posting a season-leading four victories in his Brut Dodge Charger with three of the four coming at the expense of NHRA icon John Force, who recently earned his first victory of the season and 120th of his career. Force is currently 48 points back of Capps in second place.

Force hopes to make up more ground at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, however he has not won there since 1999 -- the longest dry spell for Force at any of the tracks on this year's schedule. Old Bridge is one of just two tracks (with Route 66 Raceway at Chicago) where Force isn't the all-time wins leader in Funny Car (at Old Bridge, it's Don Prudhomme with six; Force has four).

Defending Series champion Gary Scelzi is back in eighth place and is looking for his first victory of the season. Other drivers to watch in Funny Car are defending event champion Worsham and Tony Pedregon, a two-time winner this season in his Q Racing Chevy Monte Carlo.

In Pro Stock, the Summit Racing Pontiac GTO tandem of three-time defending POWERade Series champion Greg Anderson and defending event champion Line come in limping a bit with only one victory each on the season, though they remain 1-3 in the POWERade Series standings. Sixth-place Erica Enders recently became the first female in Pro Stock to qualify No. 1 in NHRA history and she is a threat to earn her first victory at any event.

Pro Stock Motorcycle has featured the return of the Suzukis as U.S. Army teammates Antron Brown and Angelle Sampey have four of five events with Sampey claiming three to take the early lead in the POWERade Series standings as she tracks down her fourth world championship. Still, Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson teammates Andrew Hines and GT Tonglet are not to be forgotten. Chicago winner Ryan Schnitz also is a threat on his Trim-Tex Buell.

SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. on Friday, June 16. Qualifying continues at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 17 and final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 18.

TICKETS: Tickets are available for the K&N Filters SuperNationals. Call Old Bridge Township Raceway Park at (732) 446-7800 for ticket information, or check online at racewaypark.com or ticketmaster.com.

ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise two hours of qualifying of the K&N Filters NHRA SuperNationals at 5 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, June 17. ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise three hours of final eliminations coverage beginning at 4 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, June 18.

ON THE WEB: Quick access to NHRA media relations department press releases, electronic images and other information is available on the Internet at media.nhra.com.


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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Larry Dixon , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Don Prudhomme , Dick LaHaie , Melanie Troxel , Brandon Bernstein , Ryan Schnitz , GT Tonglet , Angelle Sampey