Joliet: Dixon still in second place

JOLIET, IL(June 3) - After recording personal best speeds, track record elapsed times and a semifinal finish Sunday at the Fourth Annual Lucas Oil Products NHRA Nationals, Larry Dixon and the Miller Lite Dragster kept a consistent season rolling...

JOLIET, IL(June 3) - After recording personal best speeds, track record elapsed times and a semifinal finish Sunday at the Fourth Annual Lucas Oil Products NHRA Nationals, Larry Dixon and the Miller Lite Dragster kept a consistent season rolling right along as they continue to remain in second place in the Winston Top Fuel point standings.

Dixon's fifth career race at Route 66 Raceway marked the eighth time after 10 races this season that the Miller Lite Team has not only qualified among the top three Top Fuel cars, but has also advanced to at least a semifinal round finish.  He set a new career-best speed mark during qualifying after tripping the beams at 326.00 mph, while his elapsed time on that run (4.504 seconds) held as the track record after one session.  His race day included wins over Bobby Baldwin and Rhonda Hartman-Smith, before posting a semifinal finish to Gary Scelzi in what was the quickest side-by-side race in drag racing history.  Dixon now has 797 points and is 80 points behind Kenny Bernstein (877) who won the race. 

The Miller Lite Team met an old friend in Bobby Baldwin during Sunday's first round of eliminations as the Dixon-Baldwin pairing marked the fifth time this season they have squared off in the opening stanza.  No. 2 seed Dixon, who had won the first four previous meetings, used a lap of 4.527 seconds at 322.24 mph to win his fifth straight race over Baldwin who smoked the tires en route to a time of 9.467 seconds at 90.24 mph.  Dixon is now 5-0 for the year and is 7-0 lifetime over Baldwin.

"I keep thinking that the law of averages is going to kick in and that one of these times we might stumble," said Dixon.  "If you race somebody 99 times, sooner or later there will be once that it is his turn to win.  But we had a good package today and we wound up running low e.t. of the round.  Once we ran a 4.52, I figured that those numbers would get us deep into the day and that we should be able to go some rounds."

Dixon's 4.527-second time was the quickest of the first round and gave him lane choice over No. 10 seed Hartman-Smith in the second round of action.  It was not much of a race however as Hartman-Smith succumbed to tire smoke much the same way Baldwin did as her pass of 5.039 seconds at 208.17 mph could not contend with Dixon's 4.50-second bracket car, which produced a lap of 4.566 seconds at 322.19 mph.  Dixon's season record improved to 2-0 over Hartman-Smith and is now 5-1 over the Fram Dragster pilot for his career.

"We watched Scelzi run a 4.52 and Dick LaHaie told me to be sure and shallow stage because lane choice would be very important for the next round and the left lane was the lane to be in," said Dixon.  "So I went up there thinking about that.  On the run I drove through the clutch early, and got the win light, but we lost lane choice."

The semifinal round was a race for the record books as Dixon entered his fourth meeting of the season with Team Winston's Scelzi.  Dixon jumped out to an early lead thanks to his best reaction time of the day (.468), which also was the best light in all four rounds of Top Fuel action.  It was virtually neck and neck for the two 6,500 horsepower rockets all the way to the finish line as Scelzi's lap of 4.503 seconds at 318.02 just nipped Dixon's run of 4.533 seconds at 322.11 mph.  The .005-second margin of victory equated to a narrow two-foot difference at the top end.

"Lane choice absolutely made the difference in the semifinals," said Dixon. "Our car would have ran better if we had been in the other lane.  Lane choice was critical today.  The left lane was so good that you could take your hands off the steering wheel and the car would almost go down the track perfectly.  The right lane, you have to fight it if you get out of the groove. There are some small bumps in the lane and as it was we lost by .005.  If we had run just a little bit tighter, things might have turned out different.  We had a good package today and I think we probably could have beaten just about anyone today.  He (Scelzi) took a shot at us and beat us fair and square."

Dixon concludes the weekend with a career mark of 183 wins and 121 losses in 308 career elimination rounds(.594%).  He owns a record of 22 wins and 9 losses in 31 season laps (.733%). He has won once this season (Gainesville, Fla.) after reaching three final rounds and has a slate of 11 wins and 16 losses in 27 career finals(.407%).

The Miller Lite Team gets a slight respite from the hectic past few weeks on the road.  They will travel back to the new Snake Racing Indy shop before enjoying an off weekend. Then they will prepare to head to Columbus, Ohio for the 37th Annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals (June 14-17).

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Gary Scelzi , Dick LaHaie