GAINESVILLE,FL (Apr. 20) -- Mother Nature was the biggest player when the 32nd Annual Mac Tools Gatornationals first kicked off with qualifying sessions on March 16. After lengthy rains forced the postponement of the race until this weekend, it is...
GAINESVILLE,FL (Apr. 20) -- Mother Nature was the biggest player when the 32nd Annual Mac Tools Gatornationals first kicked off with qualifying sessions on March 16. After lengthy rains forced the postponement of the race until this weekend, it is again the elements that played the biggest role during test and tune sessions at Gainesville Raceway on Friday.
While the rains in March did keep the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series from completing its third scheduled event of the season, Larry Dixon and the Don Prudhomme-owned Miller Lite Dragster found a way to lay down a lap of 4.588 seconds at 316.38 mph to qualify in the No. 2 position when elimination rounds take place on Saturday. Friday's two test and tune sessions did not help Dixon and the Miller Lite Team improve their data much as mid-80 degree heat saw only a few Nitro cars make it successfully down the track.
"This isn't the same racetrack we were at a month ago," said Dixon. "The conditions are a lot hotter now than what we are used to here in Gainesville. It's a lot like how Richmond used to be when we raced there. Last month the track held cars that were running in the low 4.50s. This weekend we have very hot conditions and the rubber is not adhering to the racetrack and that is making it a little harder for all of the crew chiefs to get down the track."
While the No. 2 seeding usually provides for a little bit more confidence heading into eliminations, Dixon and Crew Chief Dick LaHaie will not enjoy that luxury for tomorrow's opening round against No. 15 seed Bobby Baldwin. "The only advantage we have as the No. 2 seed is that qualifying is finished and we are already seeded well. Everything we learned here last month is different now and doesn't apply. One case in point is seen in the small number of cars that made it down the track on both runs today. I think Darrell Russell (Top Fuel) and Bruce Sarver (Funny Car) were the only cars to make it down twice."
And if the pressure of any first round at any national event wasn't stifling enough, now Dixon has the heat and humid conditions to worry about for his opening round. "It's actually not all that scary for me because all the teams have to race under the same conditions. I'll tell you one thing though I am sure I will sleep a lot better than Dick LaHaie tonight, but I am also sure he will find a way to figure it out."