GAINESVILLE, FL (Mar. 14) - It would be hard for Larry Dixon not to have a good feeling about this weekend's 31st Annual Matco Tools Gatornationals, considering the many successes he has had in South Florida during his career, both as a crew...
GAINESVILLE, FL (Mar. 14) - It would be hard for Larry Dixon not to have a good feeling about this weekend's 31st Annual Matco Tools Gatornationals, considering the many successes he has had in South Florida during his career, both as a crew member and in the cockpit.
"For me, Gainesville has always been a comfort zone," said Dixon. "At that track, everything I have ever done racing wise has started at Gainesville Raceway. Beginning with Frank Hawley's driving school, the first time I got behind a dragster in 1990. Then in 1994, I got my license in Snake's Skoal Bandit Dragster. In '95 in my first year competing as a pro, I won the race. I don't know what it is about Gainesville, but there is a comfort zone there for me and it is nice. It is kind of like Rusty Wallace and his success at Bristol. When you have success at a certain track, you look forward to racing there."
There is even more reason for Dixon to feel excited about his chances behind the wheel of the Don Prudhomme-owned Miller Lite Dragster this year. Dixon enters the third race of this young season much in the same position he did last year, when he entered the "Gators" ranked fourth in points after reaching the final round in Pomona.
Last year's Gainesville event would mark the first of three consecutive pole winning efforts for Dixon, beginning with his No. 1 qualifying lap of 4.532 seconds at Gainesville Raceway. That momentum would carry over to pole-winning national E.T. record 4.486 run in Houston two weeks later, followed by a top qualifying lap of 4.545 seconds in Dallas.
What makes the 2000 season different is a much more consistent car that has seen Dixon post two consecutive semifinal finishes to rank third in points, with new crew chief Dick LaHaie playing a key role in the team's performance.
"There is no question that I am looking forward to this race with Dick on our team," admits Dixon. "Our team has seemed to have success in Gainesville the same way LaHaie has had success there as a driver and a crew chief, whether he was tuning Scott Kalitta or Doug Herbert (defending champion).
"As our season progresses, we are getting a better handle on the 90 percent nitro rule. Our engine is running faster and nicer and I feel that race by race, we are getting better."
Snake Bites During his 29-year driving career, The Snake posted a total of five wins at Gainesville Raceway from 1974-76 , 1980, and his final win in 1987. He got his sixth trip to winner's circle as a team owner with Larry Dixon's win in 1995.
<pre> 2000 NHRA Winston Top Fuel Point Standings 1. Tony Schumacher 210 n/a 2. Gary Scelzi 195 15 out 3. LARRY DIXON 152 58 out 4. Joe Amato 135 75 out 5. Kenny Bernstein 107 103 out 6. Bob Vandergriff Jr. 92 118 out 7. Doug Herbert 87 123 out
Melanie Troxel 87 123 out 9. Cory McClenathan 85 125 out 10. D. Kalitta & Bruce Litton 64 146 out
</pre> Larry Dixon to Meet with South Florida Drag Race Fans NHRA Top Fuel driver Larry Dixon will be making several appearances this week throughout the Gainesville area where he will be meeting local drag racing fans. Below is a tentative schedule for Dixon leading up to the 31st Annual Gatornationals:
<pre> Date & Time Location Wed, 3/15 6-8 p.m. Appearances at Bennigans, Chillies, Ruby Tuesdays O'Malley's Thur, 3/16 6-8 p.m. Appearances at Calico Jacks, Salty Dog, The Swamp Texas Roadhouse Fri, 3/17 Noon & 4 Qualifying sessions #1 & #2 Sat, 3/18 Noon & 4 Qualifying sessions #3 & #4 Sun, 3/19 11:00 am Eliminations begin
Dixon Career Results in Gainesville Year Event Qual. Finish & Winning Driver 1995 Gatornationals No. 6 WINNER-B. Johnson 1996 Gatornationals No. 6 First round-M. Dunn 1997 Gatornationals DID NOT QUALIFY 1998 Gatornationals No. 7 Runner up - Bernstein 1999 Gatornationals No. 1 Semifinals - Herbert
</pre> - www.snakeracing.com -