GAINESVILLE, FL (Mar. 16) - Returning to the site where he earned his NHRA Top Fuel license seven years ago, Larry Dixon piloted the Don Prudhomme-owned Miller Lite Dragster to a lap of 4.588 seconds at 316.38 mph to qualify second after the first...
GAINESVILLE, FL (Mar. 16) - Returning to the site where he earned his NHRA Top Fuel license seven years ago, Larry Dixon piloted the Don Prudhomme-owned Miller Lite Dragster to a lap of 4.588 seconds at 316.38 mph to qualify second after the first day of action at the 32nd Annual Mac Tools Gatornationals held at Gainesville Raceway.
Dixon, who has not qualified lower than the No. 3 spot after the first two races of the season, began the first day of qualifying with a pass down the left lane of the quarter-mile drag strip with a pass that clocked in at 4.799 seconds at 293.86 mph. Dixon's elapsed time and speed most certainly would have been better if it had not been for a dropped cylinder midway through the run. While the result was not exactly what they were looking for, the 4.79-second pass did prove to be the quickest to come out of the left lane among the 18-car Top Fuel field in the opening qualifying session.
Crew Chief Dick LaHaie got his first crack at applying his tune up on the right lane during the second qualifying session later in the afternoon. Temperatures in the mid-70s with near 70 percent humidity dropped to provide more favorable track conditions for Dixon in the late session. The result would be the No.2 qualifying pass of 4.58 seconds and would see Dixon'sreturn to making qualifying laps in the 4.5-second range, reminiscent of his four consecutive 4.5-second efforts during qualifying in Phoenix.
"The first run today, the car was only running on seven cylinders," said LaHaie. "We would have run that same number (4.58) on our first run if we hadn't lost a cylinder. I can't tell you whether the lane choice had anything to do with it because we put the cylinder out in the left lane. We planned on running somewhere between a 4.57 and .60 flat. All we did for the second run was adjust it to make that last cylinder run. I would like to run every lap down the racetrack in the 4.50s. We can't always do that because we have to make adjustments for what the track is doing."
Dixon, the 1995 Gatornationals Top Fuel Champ, currently sits fourth in the Winston Points race. LaHaie was a two-time Top Fuel finalist and the 1985 Top Fuel Champ. Prudhomme won a total of five Funny Car titles (1974-76, 80, 87) and reached one Top Fuel final (1991).
Qualifying resumes Saturday with the final two qualifying rounds scheduled for 12:15 and 3:00 PM ET. ESPN will broadcast this weekend's qualifying rounds on Saturday (3-5 PM ET) while the eliminationrounds will air Sunday (5-7 PM ET).