Defending Champ Larry Dixon Begins Title Defense As Low Qualifier After First Day Of The Mac Tools Gatornationals GAINESVILLE, FL. (Mar. 15) - Larry Dixon entered this weekend's 33rd Annual Mac Tools Gatornationals as the defending Top Fuel...
Defending Champ Larry Dixon Begins Title Defense As Low Qualifier After First Day Of The Mac Tools Gatornationals
GAINESVILLE, FL. (Mar. 15) - Larry Dixon entered this weekend's 33rd Annual Mac Tools Gatornationals as the defending Top Fuel champ and also with a 63-point lead in the 2002 NHRA POWERade championship race. He couldn't have kicked off his title defense any better as the Miller Lite/Snake Racing Dragster produced the quickest pass of the day at 4.604 seconds (321.96 mph) to sit as the provisional low qualifier after Friday's action.
Track temperatures reaching 125 degrees had almost every crew chief stymied for the first session, including Dixon's head wrench, Dick LaHaie. After a great launch, Dixon's Miller Lite/Skoal machine lost traction and he was forced to shut off to a lap of 8.839 seconds (88.87 mph) to claim the No. 12 spot after the opening round. Calling on his years of experience at Gainesville Raceway, LaHaie found the answers he was looking for and tuned Dixon to the 4.604- second lap in the afternoon which was almost a full tenth of a second quicker than the next closest car (Kenny Bernstein, 4.694).
"The racetrack is pretty green and there isn't a lot of rubber on it," said Dixon. "That has made it pretty difficult for everyone to get down. We backed the car down for the first run, but it still went out there and smoked the tires. So, we softened it up even more, got grip, and threw down a 4.60, which I thought was a pretty good run. I thought it was kind of funny that when (Bernstein's crew chief) Tim Richards said in his interview that Bernstein's lap (4.694) would probably be a tenth off from whoever ends up low. I thought to myself that if someone runs a 4.59, that's saying something. Then we wound up running a 4.60, so I was pretty happy that it was us who did it."
According to Dixon, the two-time Gators Champ does not believe that his quick marks so far will remain strong enough to keep the top qualifying spot and secure his second pole of the season. "I'd like to think that as the track gets more rubber on it and the temperatures continue to cool down, that you'll see better times out of the track," said Dixon. "I don't think that 4.60 will stand. I think that there will be cars running in the 4.50s and hopefully we can be one of them."
Two qualifying sessions remain on Saturday (Noon & 3:00 PM ET) while Sunday's elimination round is scheduled for an 11 AM ET start.