Las Vegas II: Final summary, titles decided

Dixon, Coughlin and Savoie clinch titles and win event; Force defeats T. Pedregon in the final at The Strip. LAS VEGAS - Larry Dixon, Jeg Coughlin and Angelle Savoie all clinched NHRA POWERade championships and won their respective ...

Dixon, Coughlin and Savoie clinch titles and win event; Force defeats T. Pedregon in the final at The Strip.

LAS VEGAS - Larry Dixon, Jeg Coughlin and Angelle Savoie all clinched NHRA POWERade championships and won their respective categories Sunday at the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

John Force also won in Funny Car at the $2 million race, the 23rd of 24 races in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Dixon clinched his first series crown with a second round win over Rhonda Hartman-Smith after Kenny Bernstein was upset in the first round. Shirley Muldowney made a career-best pass (4.585 seconds) and upset Bernstein in the opening round of eliminations giving Dixon the opportunity to build an insurmountable lead with only one event remaining on the schedule. Dixon was one of three champions to put an exclamation on their series title by winning the event. The 1995 NHRA Rookie of the Year earned his record-tying ninth win of the season (Gary Scelzi 2000) when his Miller Lite dragster raced down the quarter-mile in 4.613 seconds at 320.28 mph ahead of Tony Schumacher's U.S. Army dragster which recorded a slower pass of 4.674 at 314.75. It was Dixon's 25th career win tying him with Scelzi for fifth all-time in Top Fuel victories.

"Down at the finish line when I saw the win light flash on in my lane, it was more of a relief than it was excitement," said Dixon. "It's been a fight all season with Kenny. We started off so strong then we started to struggle and Kenny has kept us honest all year. I'm just thrilled to have this thing wrapped up here so we can just go to Pomona and race. I told Shirley when she beat Kenny earlier this year that I would mow the lawn at her place. Now I have to go paint her house or something.

"I told Kenny last year when he beat us in the semifinals to clinch the championship that I was glad he was racing another season," said Dixon. "That way I could have a heads up battle with him and try and race him for it. Luckily there was a rematch, and I won the rematch. It truly is an honor to be the first champ since POWERade came on. They are going to take us to the next level. I'm just glad I can give this to (Don) Snake (Prudhomme), who has planes and big old houses. Now I can give him the No. 1 on the car here in his 40th year of racing."

Dixon started the 2002 season off by winning seven of the first 11 races of the year and became just the third Top Fuel driver ever to lead the standings for the entire season (Gary Ormsby, 1989; Kelly Brown, 1978). It is the first championship for team-owner Prudhomme since he won the last of his four titles as a driver in 1978.

"On behalf of the POWERade brand and everyone in the Coca-Cola system, I congratulate Larry on his hard earned championship," said Sandy Douglas, president and chief operating officer, North America Division, The Coca-Cola Company.

Force scored his category-leading seventh win of the season and the 105th of his career when he blasted his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang down the track in 4.820 at 305.22 to defeat teammate Tony Pedregon's Castrol Syntec Mustang and its numbers of 4.869 at 301.94. It was a highly anticipated matchup between the No. 1 and No. 2 drivers in the POWERade standings. The win puts Force 31 points ahead of Pedregon with the championship to be determined at the season finale, the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at Pomona Raceway, Nov.7-10.

"We have always tried to help each one of my three teams climb in the standings if we met head-to-head in the past," said Force. "But once the championship was locked up, we just wanted to keep it away from GM. It's hard because I was rooting for Tony to take out Worsham (in the second round), and there I am against Densham and if he takes me out, Densham moves up in the points. But, I'm still trying to win 10 straight championships and Tony says he's just trying to win one straight. We just gave (the fans) some good old drag racing.

"It's hard for me because we have been teammates for such a long time and (Tony) is such a good kid and he can really drive a race car. I know it was big for me to win here in Vegas. You never know when the winning is going to stop."

Coughlin locked up his second Pro Stock title en route to his 31st career win as his Chevy Cavalier left the line first and made it to the end of the track in 6.969 at 198.55, just ahead of Warren Johnson's Performance Parts Pontiac Grand Am which posted a quicker run of 6.929 at 199.23.

"This 2002 Pro Stock season has been unbelievable," said Coughlin. "With the Coca-Cola Company and POWERade coming on board, it's just been an honor to represent the NHRA and Team Jeg's in Pro Stock and win the first championship. This feels unbelievably great since the competition has been phenomenal.

"This POWERade series this year has been full of remarkable feats. The qualifying records, low elapsed time records, top speed records, and for us to win eight races so far this season is just remarkable and we're very proud of it. I have the greatest family in motorsports and it also takes a big team effort behind the scenes to succeed."

"The competition this year in the Pro Stock category was incredible, and Jeg's championship defines what perseverance, dedication, and teamwork are all about," said Douglas. "On behalf of the POWERade brand and everyone in the Coca-Cola system, I congratulate Jeg on a great season and a well deserved POWERade championship."

Savoie won her third consecutive title when Craig Treble was mathematically eliminated when he left the starting line early against Savoie in the semifinals. She tied Muldowney for the most series titles earned by a female competitor in NHRA history. Her victory over Treble set up her final round meeting with Matt Hines. Savoie left the starting line first and scored the 28th victory of her career when she shut the clocks off at 7.247 at 183.99 and outran Hines' quicker numbers of 7.218 at 190.65 for her sixth win this year atop her Mohegan Sun Suzuki.

"This has probably been the roughest year of my career," said Savoie. "There were a couple of times during the season when I wasn't sure if I was going to make it mentally with everything going on in my life. The first championship was definitely the best, but this one I have worked the hardest for, more than the first two put together. Now that I've tied Shirley, I feel legitimate because that's big. What she has done for women in our sport is amazing. It is really an honor to be equal to her.

"To beat Matt on a holeshot is an awesome feeling too. That was our fastest run of the weekend in the final and Matt was still faster. I don't know what they did, but they had an awesome tune-up to get a 21 out there. I hope that (.401) reaction time wasn't a fluke, but the longer he took to stage, the more focused I became."

"On behalf of the POWERade brand and everyone in the Coca-Cola system, I congratulate Angelle on her incredible performance this season," said Douglas. "Her third straight Pro Stock Bike series championship truly epitomizes the 'Very Real Power' of POWERade and the NHRA."

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Shirley Muldowney , Matt Hines , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , John Force , Rhonda Hartman-Smith , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Craig Treble