Larry Dixon believes LaHaie''s finesse is necessary to find success at Phoenix

PHOENIX, AZ (Feb. 21) - After posting three first-round finishes in the last three outings at Firebird Raceway, you would think that Larry Dixon would not be too eager to return to the driver's seat for this weekend's Checkers-Schuck's-Kragen ...

PHOENIX, AZ (Feb. 21) - After posting three first-round finishes in the last three outings at Firebird Raceway, you would think that Larry Dixon would not be too eager to return to the driver's seat for this weekend's Checkers-Schuck's-Kragen Nationals (Feb. 24-27).

But when Dixon climbs behind the wheel Friday in Don Prudhomme's Miller Lite top fuel dragster, there will be one glaring difference. Crew Chief Dick LaHaie will be the one calling the shots.

"Firebird is a finesse type of racetrack," said Dixon. "The weather is almost always fairly nice there in Phoenix, so it doesn't play into it. Firebird really is a crew chief's racetrack. It is really a test of the crew chief's skill to get the car down the track consistently there. One year you will see the field run in the 4.60s and then the next year you'll see Tony Schumacher run 330 mph. You can't go out there and throw numbers at this track the way that you can in Houston or in Gainesville. If you go in there expecting it to hold those times, well, it's just not going to do it."

In spite of recent his last few finishes, Dixon has enjoyed success at Firebird with the first-ever NHRA national event win of his career coming at the Atsco Nationals in 1995 when he defeated Shelly Anderson en route to claiming Rookie of the Year honors. He also reached the final four in top fuel in 1996.

"While our recent history has not been that good, I really like coming to Phoenix and enjoy going to the track," said Dixon. "We test there in the winter time. As far as how we are going to do this weekend, I base it on how we did at the previous race, not how we did at a particular racetrack the year before. Our last race in Pomona, we didn't have a top 2 car. We had a top 5 car which reached the semifinals, which was nice. I think that with the past few weeks we have had off, Dick LaHaie has worked on the engine and clutch to fix some areas that gave us trouble in Pomona. I really think we should do well at Firebird and hope that we have a top 2 car going into Phoenix."

Having won just his third race as head wrench for Dixon last season (Houston), and posting one of the most consistent cars at the 2000 Winternationals (Feb. 6), former Winston top fuel champ LaHaie just might return Dixon to the winner's circle.

Dixon Career Results in Phoenix Year Event Qual. Finish & Winning Driver 1995 Atsco Ntls. No. 5 WINNER-S. Anderson 1996 Atsco Ntls. No. 10 semi-finals-K.Bernstein 1997 Atsco Ntls. No. 12 First round-S. Kalitta 1998 Atsco Ntls. No. 9 First round - M. Dunn 1999 CSK Ntls. No. 3 First round - A. Cowin

In his first race at Phoenix 15 years ago, Don Prudhomme was the No. 1 qualifier at the 1985 Fallnationals. He reached the semi-finals with wins over Sherm Gunn and Tom Hoover before losing to John Collins in the semis.

2000 NHRA Winston Top Fuel Standings 1. Gary Scelzi 117 n/a 2. Tony Schumacher 95 22 out 3. Joe Amato 78 37 out 4. LARRY DIXON 76 39 out 5. Doug Kalitta 54 63 out Kenny Bernstein 54 63 out 7. Doug Herbert 53 64 out 8. Cory McClenathan 52 65 out 9. Melanie Troxel 33 84 out 10. S. Kalitta, B. Litton & R. Reehl 32 85 out

Dixon to Meet with Arizona Race Fans

NHRA Top Fuel driver Larry Dixon will be making several appearances this week throughout the Phoenix area where he will be meeting local drag racing fans.

Below is a tentative schedule for Dixon leading up to the CSK Nationals at Firebird Raceway:

Date & Time Location Thur, 2/24 6-8 p.m. Celebrity Driver bartending & charity auction Hooter's at Ariz. Center, 455 N. 3rd Street, 602-257-0000, phone Fri, 2/25 Noon & 4 Qualifying sessions #1 & #2 Sat, 2/26 Noon & 4 Qualifying sessions #3 & #4 Sun, 2/27 11:00 am Eliminations begin

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Cory McClenathan , Don Prudhomme , Dick LaHaie , Melanie Troxel , Shelly Anderson