MILLINGTON, TENN (Sept. 21) In his first trip back to Memphis Motorsports Park since suffering a terrible accident here in last year's final round, Larry Dixon - the current NHRA Winston Top Fuel points leader used a lap of 4.581 seconds at...
MILLINGTON, TENN (Sept. 21) In his first trip back to Memphis Motorsports Park since suffering a terrible accident here in last year's final round, Larry Dixon - the current NHRA Winston Top Fuel points leader used a lap of 4.581 seconds at 309.70 mph to place Don Prudhomme Racing's Miller Lite Dragster as the low qualifier in Top Fuel Friday at the 14th Annual AutoZone Nationals.
After an 18-day hiatus since Dixon's last trip down the quarter mile produced his second career win at Indy's U.S. Nationals (Sept. 3), the Miller Lite Team was eager to get back to racing. Crew Chief Dick LaHaie, who has yet to win at Memphis either as a tuner or a shoe, dialed his pilot to a pass of 4.637 seconds at 314.17 mph, putting Dixon in the No. 4 spot after the opening round.
The evening qualifying session would give Dixon his first opportunity at the left lane of Memphis Motorsports Park, which is considered by some to be the better lane after the track surface was ground since the NHRA's last national event here. Dixon sailed down the 1,320-foot course to a time of 4.581 seconds at 309.70 mph to take over the low-qualifier position. Getting the first day of qualifying at M.M.P. under his belt also helped many move past thoughts of last year's final round where Dixon's chassis folded in half and launched into Gary Scelzi's lane, giving Team Winston the victory and sending the Miller Lite pilot to the hospital with a broken left leg.
"After the way our last run went here, I was plenty happy that I am around to talk about it," said Dixon. "I think from the media and press side of things, everyone has been talking about it more than I've been thinking about it. I had butterflies the first time I got back in the car (Houston, October 2000), but not coming back to this racetrack. I have had a lot of good times and good memories here, so I am not going to let one run spoil it."
"It was nice to get down the racetrack both sessions and to run 4.50s and low 60s. I was surprised that (4.581) stayed low. I think the track was good enough that we could have seen some low 50s. As the weekend goes, the humidity might go away but now we are going to be running in the sunshine, so maybe you have better air but you don't have as tight a racetrack. The racetrack was tight tonight. I mean it was unbelievable. I stopped out there after the burnout and I really had to let the clutch out to bring it back. The track really had some teeth in it."
"I never walk the racetrack because there is nothing I can do about it. (Dick) LaHaie and Donnie Bender, our co-chief, they decide what goes on, so I let them look at the track. I am like a horse, you put me in a lane and I race, so I don't try to get caught up in anything that I really don't have any control over. My job is to try and cut lights and to get it down the racetrack in one piece."
Two more qualifying runs remain on Saturday (1:00 and 4:00 PM), while Monday's final rounds begin at 11:00AM. Television coverage of qualifying will air on ESPN 2 on Saturday (2:00-5:00 pm ET). Early elimination rounds will air on ESPN 2 (2:00-3:00 PM ET) with coverage continuing later that evening (8:30-11:00 PM ET).