Joliet: Larry Dixon still rolling strong into Route 66

The Dixon Dispatch @The Weekly News Release of Larry Dixon & the Miller Lite Dragster Larry Dixon's Return to Joliet Could See First Win at Route 66 Raceway Thanks to Hard Work of Miller Lite Team JOLIET, IL (May 29) - Larry Dixon and Don...

The Dixon Dispatch @The Weekly News Release of Larry Dixon & the Miller Lite Dragster

Larry Dixon's Return to Joliet Could See First Win at Route 66 Raceway Thanks to Hard Work of Miller Lite Team

JOLIET, IL (May 29) - Larry Dixon and Don Prudhomme's Miller Lite Top Fuel Team returns to Joliet this weekend (June 1-3) for the Lucas Oil Products NHRA Nationals, the first of two races at Route 66 Raceway this season.

Last season saw Dixon enter the Joliet event ranked third in the points after winning two races (Houston, Richmond) by reaching three final rounds out of the four previous races on the 2000 Winston NHRA schedule. Similar to last season, Dixon comes to Illinois in 2001 ranked second in the Winston point standings and fresh off his third final round appearance of the year, a runner-up finish last weekend in Topeka. There is however a glaring difference between this year's Miller Lite Team and last year's squad, and that is reflected in how Dixon has been performing during qualifying.

"We have been qualifying really well this season and I think that has been our strongest point over where we were last year," said Dixon. "Last season we were pretty much hit and miss when it came to qualifying in the top half of the Top Fuel ladder. Other than a couple of times this season (2-Las Vegas & Topeka), we have qualified in the top three."

"When the car is running good and you qualify well, you start to get a lot of perks thrown at you. Things like picking your running order on race day or having lane choice, those things all help out a lot and that's what was missing from last year."

That impressive performance during qualifying is a direct reflection of the hard work of crew chief Dick LaHaie and his eight-member Miller Lite Crew. In the 36 races since LaHaie joined Snake Racing in late 1999, Dixon has reached 10 final rounds, including four wins, and has re-emerged as a strong contender for the Winston Top Fuel Championship.

"I think all the guys are working just as hard as last year, it's just that everybody's working together much better now," said Dixon. "We pretty much have the same core group, they are just more orchestrated in what they are doing and things are running smoother. There is more cohesion now than ever on the team, but as far as work ethic, they are just as strong."

In order for Dixon to continue as a front-runner for this year's Championship, he must do well at Route 66 Raceway - a track where he has reached the final round (2000) but never won. "It's important to do well this weekend and I think we will do that," said Dixon. "We reached the finals here last year and the car is running fairly well right now. We have some VIPs from Miller Brewing Company coming down to watch us this weekend and it would be nice to do well in front of them."

Dixon believes that his chances are better than ever to get his first career win at Joliet. "It is a really good track and, hot weather or not, it still stays good," he said. "When we get to the hot and humid tracks like Columbus and St. Louis, the weather will play more of a role. I don't get the feeling going into this week's race that the heat is going to be much of a factor."

One track that has traditionally had Dixon stymied was Heartland Park Topeka, until last weekend. Before last Sunday's runner-up finish, Dixon had never advanced past the second round of eliminations in his nine previous attempts. Dixon feels that getting good momentum early this season, as well as a good engine-clutch combination, was vital to going rounds last weekend.

"Our being able to go rounds in Topeka was made possible by how well we had been performing before we got there," Dixon said. "It proves that in order to do well at any racetrack, you need to have a strong set-up before you start racing. In the years past, we never had a very good baseline tune-up going into the Topeka race, so we always ran into trouble there. Now that Dick LaHaie is turning the wrenches, we have found that. Toward the end of last year we didn't have a very good tune-up and it hurt us as we were challenging for the championship. I just think it's more important to have success with a current tune-up, rather than worry about how you will perform at a specific track." <pre> 2001 NHRA Winston Top Fuel Point Standings 1. Kenny Bernstein 739 n/a 2. LARRY DIXON 720 19 out 3. Mike Dunn 708 31 out 4. Doug Kalitta 642 97 out 5. Darrell Russell 561 178 out 6. Gary Scelzi 537 202 out 7. Tony Schumacher 480 259 out 8. Doug Herbert 407 332 out 9. David Grubnic 371 368 out 10. Rhonda Hartman 347 392 out

Larry Dixon's Career Results in Joliet

Year Event Qual. Finish & Winning Driver 1998 Fram Route 66 Ntls. No. 4 First round-P. Romine 1999 Fram Route 66 Ntls. No. 4 Second round-M. Dunn 2000 PrestoneRte66 Ntls. No. 9 Runner up-G. Scelzi </pre> Larry Dixon to Meet Joliet Area Race Fans

NHRA Top Fuel driver Larry Dixon will be making some appearances this week throughout the Chicagoland area where he will be meeting and signing autographs for local drag racing fans. Below is a tentative schedule for Dixon:

Date & Time Location Wed, 5/30 Noon NHRA Pre-race Media Luncheon, House of Blues, Chicago 700-900p Mr. B's, 23956 Hwy 53 South, Elwood, IL (815) 727-7070 Thur, 5/31 700-900p Shortley's Corner, 926 Gardner St, Joliet, IL (815) 722-4450 Fri, 6/1 500-800p Qualifying sessions #1 & #2 Sat, 6/2 115-415p Qualifying sessions #3 & #4 Sun, 6/3 1100a Eliminations begin <pre> NHRA on Television This Weekend

Date & Time Network Coverage June 2, 8-10p ET ESPN 2 Qualifying June 3, 5-7p ET ESPN 2 Eliminations

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Larry Dixon , Mike Dunn , Kenny Bernstein , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , David Grubnic , Don Prudhomme , Dick LaHaie