Indianapolis: Larry Dixon preview

INDIANAPOLIS, IN. (Aug. 25) --Reigning 2002 NHRA POWERade champion Larry Dixon feels right at home racing at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Practically in his own backyard, the Avon Indiana resident is hoping to clinch his third career win at ...

INDIANAPOLIS, IN. (Aug. 25) --Reigning 2002 NHRA POWERade champion Larry Dixon feels right at home racing at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Practically in his own backyard, the Avon Indiana resident is hoping to clinch his third career win at Indianapolis Raceway Park this weekend at the 49th Annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals (Aug.27th- Sept. 1st)

Originally from California, Dixon and his wife Ali moved to Avon Indiana to be close the Snake Racing shop located minutes from IRP, enabling them to spend more time at home raising their two children Donvan and Alanna.

Eight years ago during his rookie season driving the Miller Lite dragster for Don "The Snake" Prudhomme, Dixon won at Indianapolis Raceway Park against Bob Vandergriff Jr. (1995). A few years later in 2001 and with some experience under his fire suit, Dixon defeated Mike Dunn in the finals at IRP.

Now in 2003 Dixon has enjoyed a solid lead in the NHRA championship point's race, an impressive 11 trips to the finals resulting in eight wins this season, adding to a career total of 33.

Dixon and the Snake Racing team hope the consistency of the Miller Lite dragster will carry them through the hot afternoon and cool evenings of the weekend ahead, ultimately landing them at the coveted IRP winners circle.

The winner's circle at IRP is practically a second home for team owner Don "The Snake" Prudhomme. Prudhomme won the U.S. Nationals an unprecedented seven times, driving a top fuel dragster in 1965, 1969 and 1970. Then driving to the IRP winner's circle in a funny car in 1973, 1974, 1977 and 1989. He also became the first driver to win the U.S. Nationals and Winternationals in the same season (1965). Adding to his astounding current career record of 49 wins as a driver and 48 as a team owner (Dixon 33, Capps 14, T. Johnson 1).

In a recent interview with the Snake, he talks about his record, what it takes to win and going out on top:

For you, is there one win at Indy that stands out over the rest?

I remember the first one in 1965' that one was big, but then it was topped by the next one in 69' against Jim Nicol in the final round. We were racing our front engine dragsters, going through the lights it was about dead even. But then his car lost the clutch and his car cut in half and I went on to win. It was on "Wide World of Sports" for the longest time. That was a big moment, that and the last time I won it in 89'. I was driving my funny car for the last year before I switched over to top fuel. We won the US Nationals and the shootout all in the same weekend; it was an exciting time.

You've said the win at IRP in 1989 was your greatest win ever. What made it so great?

It's always been tough to say, because I appreciate each and every win very much, especially when you win as much as I have, and being such a special place to win at. I think Wally Parks being there made it special. I pulled in to the end of the track with him standing there; it was an exciting time. I was getting along in my career and didn't know if I could do it again and I did. It stands out primarily because of the circumstances; doing something like that my last year in a funny car, after having four world championships and knowing that I would be retiring from funny car racing that year and to cap off the year by winning both the race and the shootout...you know, really smoking everybody off in fine style. That's the way you want to do it when you win, you want to beat them handily and we were able to do that. That truly motivated me.

Going back to Indy over the years, talk about the changes you've witnessed.

You can't even compare the track then to now. The only thing that's the same is the track is still 1,320 feet. Outside of that everything is different. Back then we were a bunch of young kids knowing we were going to be at the biggest race in drag racing and to win it was huge. I've had a lot of great times there, and have enjoyed watching the track change and improve over the years. They've built new towers, suites, three times the amount of grandstands, top eliminator clubs and have major sponsors involved now. It's like apples and oranges compared to what we had before.

Same old reminiscent feeling you have when going back?

Yes, without a doubt. It's completely different from going to any other track. Traveling there, knowing what it takes to win, up until the minute you pull in the gate. Knowing the pace you have to keep, the distractions and other things that play into it- you have to stay focused on the race. There's a lot of hoopla going on because it's the US Nationals. It's a long week and you really have to pace yourself. For the funny cars they have the Shootout, which is on a race day in itself, then it's onto Monday with Funny car and Top Fuel elimination. I'll tell you it's different than any other race.

You know what it takes to win at Indy. What'll it take for Dixon to win this weekend?

The track changes a great deal. There are two evening session, something you really have to be on top of. Both Dick LaHaie and Larry have a lot of experience there. Larry has won there twice; he's almost a veteran at that track. He knows what it's all about. Neither Dick or Larry need any coaching when it comes to that event, we tested there last week and I think we have a good setup for the high temperatures that usually occur and also for the evening sessions. I think they're looking pretty good going into that event.

But the thing about Indy: there is always some unknowns, always things that seem to happen. Someone always pulls a magic run or something that no one has ever seen before. It seems like it always happens in Indy and it wouldn't surprise me if we were one of the teams that will do it.

I think you just reach a little deeper into the bag when you go to Indy, at least I always did. You just reach down and pull it out, something I used to do along with Garlits, Shirley and a few others. I think it brings out the best in everyone. I know Dick, Larry and our whole team are ready for it and ready to go.

Leading the NHRA championship point's race at 1,540 Dixon and the crew are ready to go. The Snake Racing team knows that a win this weekend at the 49th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals will have them one step closer to securing a second championship title.

-www.snakeracing.com

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Dick LaHaie , Bob Vandergriff