From The Snake Pit Larry Dixon VISTA, Calif. (Jan. 17, 2005) -- As two-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon prepares to embark on his 11th season behind the wheel of Don Prudhomme's Miller Lite Top Fuel dragster, he has amassed some of...
From The Snake Pit Larry Dixon
VISTA, Calif. (Jan. 17, 2005) -- As two-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon prepares to embark on his 11th season behind the wheel of Don Prudhomme's Miller Lite Top Fuel dragster, he has amassed some of the most impressive credentials in the 53-year history of the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) in just a decade. The Indianapolis resident eyes a third NHRA POWERade Top Fuel crown in four years when the 2005 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series kicks-off Feb. 10-13 with the 45th running of the CARQUEST Auto Parts Winternationals, a race Dixon has won three times. In this Q&A, the 35-time NHRA winner discusses the importance of have a dedicated sponsor, owner and crew chief, what it was like to equal his racing idol Don Garlits with 35 career victories and his enthusiasm for the upcoming 2005 NHRA campaign.
Q: Last year, you equaled Don Garlits with 35 career victories. He was your racing idol, what did that win at Memphis (Tenn.) mean to you?
DIXON: Short-term, it let everyone on our race team know that even with all the rule changes during the summer, we were starting to sort some things out and that we had a pretty good running race car. Long-term, to equal somebody as legendary as Don Garlits, I'm honored and humbled to be that guy.
Q: How frustrating was the 2004 season after coming off two consecutive years of winning the NHRA championship and what disturbed you most about last season?
DIXON: I guess the outside public deemed it frustrating. I viewed it more as whether or not you're on your game as to bringing a good package to race with to have a chance to win. It's frustrating if you can't do anything about it. We spent the season working to redevelop a package to go out and compete with the top cars and I think we've done that. If we went through the season with no direction or vision, that would be frustrating.
Q: What's the most important factor for the Miller Lite dragster's return to championship form in 2005?
DIXON: If we have a car that can qualify in the top four or five of the Top Fuel order, then the rest of it will take care of itself.
Q: Are you confident now that you have completed half a season with the 85-percent nitromethane rule and what are your feelings on the rules package heading into the '05 campaign?
DIXON: There is a major rule change coming at Gainesville (Fla.) in March with the ignition. With the given rules package that we'll have for the first two races, I have a good feeling that we'll be able to compete with the top cars. After the first two races, we've just got to wait and see how much that changes things, but I'm confident entering the season.
Q: Besides a new paint scheme, what else is different on the Miller Lite dragster for 2005?
DIXON: We're just refining things. We've got a different engine block for '05. We're going from a cast to a forged block. It will be a TFX block instead of a KB motor. That should allow us to press a little harder on the tune-up. We're also working to get some weight out of the car to help the performance.
Q: How important is it to have a veteran crew chief and crew behind you?
DIXON: It's crucial. It means everything. Having a veteran crew and crew chief is just as important as having someone with experience behind the wheel. Our guys have been through all situations, so they're ready to handle anything. We've gone through every aspect from winning championships, to not qualifying, to setting records to crashing cars. You name it, they've been through it and I believe they're the best.
Q: The 2005 season will be your 11th with Miller Brewing Co. How proud are you to have sustained that relationship for more than a decade?
DIXON: In my career, I've only worked for two different sponsors and I'm still associated with both of them (Miller Brewing Co. and Skoal Racing). I'm very loyal from that standpoint. To work with a company that believes in our team and NHRA drag racing, makes me very proud that we're all on the same page. I hope I race my entire career for Miller. They're a great company and I'm proud to be a representative of theirs.
Q: You're entering your 18th season as an employee of Don Prudhomme Racing. What is your relationship like with Snake and what does he bring to the table as a team owner?
DIXON: He brings everything to the table. It goes back to having experience. There isn't anything that he hasn't been through and done in the sport. He looks at the bigger picture. He's been in drag racing since they wore t-shirts and leather jackets. He's grown to see the sport evolve to where it's a business. It started with just him and Lynn (Prudhomme) and now he's got 40 employees. His motivation and dedication to bring and be the best is what has always driven me. When you pull to the starting line, he wants to have the best package out there. He wants the best of everything. He has very high standards and that's why I stayed working for him as long as I have.
When I worked on his pit crew, I never had aspirations to drive his car. I stayed on the crew because of how dedicated and driven of a person he is. To be able to learn from a guy like that has been very helpful to my career. I couldn't go anywhere else and get any more than he gives our team.
Q: You won Prudhomme's 50th race when you earned your first career win at Phoenix in 1995, what would it feel like to get him win No. 100 and do you feel pressure to accomplish the win early in 2005?
DIXON: I didn't realize I was driving the car when he won his 50th. When I came to work here, he had like 35 or 36 wins. Being around for all the wins whether from Snake driving or me or Tommy (Johnson Jr.), I think it means more that he's got a winning team than giving him No. 99 or 101. It doesn't matter to me as long as our team is doing our part to rack up those numbers for him.
Q: Do you feel any less pressure entering the 2005 season as an underdog?
DIXON: I feel the same pressure to do well for my team, owner and sponsors.
Q: You ran your best E.T. of the 2004 season at the Auto Club Finals last November (4.516-seconds), what are your feelings on the Miller Lite dragster's performance towards the end of last season?
DIXON: Once we had some stability with the rules package, it allowed (Dick) LaHaie and the team to work within the given rule/tire package and as the season progressed, we got better. And the things that we're doing over the winter, gives me a lot of enthusiasm heading into 2005.
Q: You'll begin testing at Firebird International Raceway near Phoenix later this month (Jan. 28-30), what is the team's plan of attack during testing?
DIXON: To start off where we left off in '04.