MILLINGTON, TENN (Sept. 22) For the second day in a row Larry Dixon drove Don Prudhomme's Miller Lite Dragster to low elapsed time during qualifying and earned his 10th career pole position Saturday at the 14th Annual AutoZone Nationals at...
MILLINGTON, TENN (Sept. 22) For the second day in a row Larry Dixon drove Don Prudhomme's Miller Lite Dragster to low elapsed time during qualifying and earned his 10th career pole position Saturday at the 14th Annual AutoZone Nationals at Memphis Motorsports Park.
Dixon and crew began the final day of qualifying as the No. 1 qualifier based on their lap of 4.581 seconds at 309.70 mph recorded on Friday night. Conditions for the final day of qualifying were much hotter and more humid than Friday and as a result, were more typical of the race day conditions expected at M.M.P. on Sunday.
For Dixon, his No. 1 qualifying effort was his second of the season (Brainerd, Memphis) and surprisingly just the 10th of his career. An additional pole position earned by Dixon at the 1995 Winston Invitational does not figure into official statistics as it was not an NHRA national event.
"To get the pole this weekend, I think we were really lucky. The racetrack was good enough to run low to mid 50s and neither Scelzi or Bernstein did. We weren't trying to run it, but they usually go for it, so I was surprised they didn't and feel lucky we ended up on the pole."
The opening session saw Dixon in the less favorable right lane, which proved difficult to get down as he shut off early to a time of 11.697 seconds at 69.15 mph. The second and final qualifying round gave Dixon and crew chief Dick LaHaie their second shot at the left lane where they again posted the quickest run of the day with an elapsed time of 4.665 seconds at 310.34 mph.
"The first session we went out there and the track looked pretty good," said Dixon. "I am not saying we stood on it, not any more than we were last night, but the track wouldn't take it," he said referring to his aborted run. "We calmed it down a little bit and got back to our regular set up and it went on down the race track tonight, so that was nice to get that in before tomorrow."
Dixon's final qualifying pass of the day was made more intriguing as he was paired against Kenny Bernstein, who trails the Miller Lite driver by 47 points heading into tomorrow's elimination rounds. Dixon was not paying too much attention to his opponent, however.
"I think he is (paying attention) more than I am," laughed Dixon. "We got out of the cars after that last run and he said, 'Boy, I had you beat for a while,' and I told him, 'Man, it's just qualifying.' I don't get too excited during qualifying. We are just trying to get our car down the racetrack and if possible, improve our position or time. It's kinda neat to see him get excited about it, that way you know it means something."
Dixon also commented on the importance of running low e.t. during both days of qualifying, as well as how vital lane choice will be on Sunday.
"It think it's pretty important because the type of weather we were in today is probably what it's going to be like during the semifinals, so that kind of stuff helps you," said Dixon. "To win tomorrow you are going to have to run in the low 4.60s, I believe," he said. "I understand it should be a few degrees cooler, but not much. So if this is as bad as conditions are going to be throughout the whole weekend, and we were able to run pretty good, then I feel fortunate. Lane choice is huge because the bumps that we had in the right lane last year are still there, so I think it's going to be important tomorrow to have lane choice and to try and stay in the left lane. The right lane feels the same as last year."
Dixon, who has two runner-ups here at Memphis, will begin his quest toward a first M.M.P. title in the first round when he squares off against No. 16 qualifier Don Sosenka. Dixon owns a record of 1-0 after one career meeting earlier this season. The Miller Lite Team currently owns the longest opening round winning streak in Top Fuel (20) and looks to extend that to 21.
Dixon has now qualified among the top four cars at 16 of 19 races this season and has parlayed that into at least a semifinal finish at 14 of the 18 races completed in 2001.