Joliet: Dixon just off the pole

JOLIET, IL (June 1) - Rain delayed the start of the Fourth Annual Lucas Oil Products NHRA Nationals, but Larry Dixon and Don Prudhomme's Miller Lite Top Fuel Dragster Team weathered the storm Friday to qualify in the No. 2 position with a pass of...

JOLIET, IL (June 1) - Rain delayed the start of the Fourth Annual Lucas Oil Products NHRA Nationals, but Larry Dixon and Don Prudhomme's Miller Lite Top Fuel Dragster Team weathered the storm Friday to qualify in the No. 2 position with a pass of 4.560 seconds at 320.43 mph.

Currently ranked second in the Winston Top Fuel points race, Dixon and the Miller Lite Team entered the first round of qualifying as one half of the last pair of 18 dragsters to run in the opening session.  Paired up with points leader Kenny Bernstein, Dixon's first attempt at Route 66 Raceway was a strong one as his run of 4.560 seconds at 320.43 mph straight 'out of the box' edged Bernstein's pass (4.609 at 319.75 mph) by .008 of a second.  Dixon's lap left him No. 2 after the first session of qualifying, narrowly missing the No. 1 spot held by Mike Dunn (4.559) by .001 of a second.

With night falling and the rains providing for cooler track temperatures, Friday evening's session was thought to be the ideal time to make a run for the top of the qualifying ladder.  Crew Chief Dick LaHaie tuned the Miller Lite Dragster to really go after the four-year-old quarter mile just west of Chicago.  Both driver and car responded nicely as their lap of 4.593 seconds at 319.22 mph was third quick of the round and secured the No. 2 spot going into Saturday's final two rounds of qualifying.

Dixon was paired against Dunn for the last run of the night as his New York Yankees car's qualifying pass of 4.569 seconds at 329.02 mph established the new NHRA national speed record at 330.55 mph and kept the pole.

Dixon's runner up finish here in 2000 was the closest he has come to winning an NHRA Top Fuel title in the three-year history of the relatively new Route 66 Raceway.  He has reached three final rounds this season, including a win at Gainesville, FL, and currently sits just 19 points behind Bernstein in the Winston points race.

Two qualifying sessions remain on Saturday and are scheduled for 1:15 and 4:15 PM CT.  Qualifying rounds will be televised on ESPN2 on Saturday from 8:00-10:00 PM ET while the finals will air Sunday from 5:00-7:00:00 PM ET.

-Snake Racing

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Mike Dunn , Kenny Bernstein , Dick LaHaie