Gainesville: Former champ Dixon has fond memories

GAINESVILLE, FL (Mar. 12) - Good things have happened for Larry Dixon at Gainesville Raceway. Since the very first time he climbed behind the wheel here, for some reason the drag racing fates have smiled upon him. It all began in...

GAINESVILLE, FL (Mar. 12) - Good things have happened for Larry Dixon at Gainesville Raceway. Since the very first time he climbed behind the wheel here, for some reason the drag racing fates have smiled upon him.

It all began in 1994 when a soon-to-be retired Don "The Snake" Prudhomme called on Dixon to climb into the cockpit of his Skoal Bandit Dragster to aid with some much needed test runs. While Dixon wasn't afraid to rise to the call of duty, he did need help with reaching the foot pedals as wood blocks were added to help him replace the shoes (and long legs) of his hall-of-fame boss. Dixon shocked everyone as he not only made three successful test passes right out of the box, but managed to eclipse Prudhomme's previous career-best elapsed time mark, as well as the Gainesville Raceway track record, with a lap of 4.76 seconds.

"By far, that is the best memory I have of Gainesville," said Dixon. "Anytime you can have three runs go just as planned, you are happy, not to mention having all the runs go well with a rookie driver in the car. I was still crewing for Snake at the time and to go out and run at near national record (elapsed time) numbers right out of the gate was enough to carry me for the next six months. Being able to run that well from the beginning was a great feeling."

Dixon would return to Gainesville the following year, qualified sixth, reached the finals against Blaine Johnson and recorded the second Top Fuel win of his career in just three starts. Since then, he has reached the finals once more in 1998 and won his fifth pole in 1999.

Now after two years without a trip to the final round at the Florida drag strip, the seven-year veteran believes that with the way Dick LaHaie and the Miller Lite Crew has his Miller Lite Dragster is running, he has a strong chance to vie for his second Top Fuel title at the Gators.

"I feel more confident about our chances coming into this race than I have before going into either of our last two at Pomona and Phoenix," said Dixon. "While (crew chief) Dick LaHaie continues to work on our consistency, we already have a really quick car. I am excited to put our car on the track surface at Gainesville. It really lends itself to some good times."

<pre> Dixon's Career Results in Gainesville

Year Event Qual. Finish & Winning Driver 1995 Gatornationals No. 6 WINNER-over B. Johnson 1996 Gatornationals No. 6 First round- M. Dunn 1997 Gatornationals DNQ 1998 Gatornationals No. 7 Runner up - K. Bernstein 1999 Gatornationals No. 1 Semifinals- D. Herbert 2000 Gatornationals No. 6 Second rd.- K. Bernstein

Snake Bites

Don Prudhomme retired with a winning mark over most his opponents. One driver he didn't beat (0-1) was Kim Richards (formerly Kim LaHaie) who beat him in the first round during the 1992 Gatornationals. Her father, Dick LaHaie now tunes for Larry Dixon while Kim tunes for Kenny Bernstein.

2001 NHRA Winston Top Fuel Point Standings 1. Darrell Russell 205 n/a 2. Doug Kalitta 170 35 out 3. Mike Dunn 155 50 out 4. LARRY DIXON 133 72 out 5. Gary Scelzi 108 97 out 6. Tony Schumacher 107 98 out 7. Kenny Bernstein 106 99 out 8. Bobby Baldwin 102 103 out 9. Doug Herbert 91 114 out 10. David Grubnic 87 118 out

www.snakeracing.com

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Larry Dixon , Mike Dunn , Kenny Bernstein , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , David Grubnic , Don Prudhomme , Dick LaHaie