Miller Lite team and Elvis rock Memphis with win in the NHRA O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals. Pads NHRA POWERade Top Fuel Points lead to 104 MEMPHIS (Sept. 22) -- Larry Dixon and the Miller Lite team remained unbeaten in their 'King of Rock and...
Miller Lite team and Elvis rock Memphis with win in the NHRA O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals.
Pads NHRA POWERade Top Fuel Points lead to 104 MEMPHIS (Sept. 22) -- Larry Dixon and the Miller Lite team remained unbeaten in their 'King of Rock and Roll' Elvis Presley racing colors, as they scored their eighth win of the 2002 NHRA POWERade season in the O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals at Memphis Motorsports Park. Dixon's dominant victory also served to pad his Top Fuel championship points lead to 104 points with four races remaining on the NHRA schedule.
Dixon led the way in opening eliminations with the low elapsed time of the round, whizzing by the finish line time clocks with a magnificent time of 4.622-seconds at a speed of 317.42 mph, defeating Chris Karamesines who ran a time of 4.844 seconds, 301.74 mph.
Advancing to the quarterfinals, Dixon faced Bruce Litton, leaving him at the starting line by reacting first and then motored away, recording a time of 4.645 seconds, 313.00 to Litton's tire-smoking time of 13.257 seconds, 63.61 mph giving him lane choice for his crucial semi-final match up with his closest points pursuer, Kenny Bernstein.
In a paramount race with distinct points consequences, Dixon raced rival Kenny Bernstein with the Miller Lite driver taking the convincing win, covering the quarter-mile distance in 4.637 seconds, 315.19 mph while his adversary lost traction almost immediately, slowing to a 11.579-second, 73.04 mph effort.
"It can't get any more dramatic than that," smiled Dixon. "That team is so tough. We went up there and (Dick) LaHaie said he was going to try to run around 4.63 and sure enough it did. Fortunately, we got it done with the Miller Lite car in the final round for the third year in a row.
Dixon 's 13th final round of the season would feature a rematch of the recent Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, as he would face Tony Schumacher in the Top Fuel final.
Dixon and his Dick LaHaie tuned dragster didn't waste any time with Dixon again leaving first and powering his way to the quickest elapsed time of race day recording a time of 4.600 seconds, 318.69 mph to Schumacher's tire spinning time of 4.798 seconds, 286.44 mph. This ended the Miller Lite driver's seven-race drought going back to his last win in Columbus in June.
"We raced Tony (Schumacher) a couple of times earlier this year in the finals at Phoenix and Indy. You've got to race your own race and most importantly get down the racetrack. We spun the tires against him both times and he ended up winning. We couldn't do that today. Obviously, LaHaie doesn't take their team lightly cause we ran low E.T. of eliminations against him in the final round. We didn't back into it, we earned it".
The entire Don Prudhomme Racing team was well aware of the championship implications today's win held.
"We're running out of races," Dixon commented. "If you lose you ain't got very many races to make it up. You've got to be on your game. To race Bernstein in the semis and win was a big deal. It was a 40-point swing for our car, the Miller Lite team and me.
"We made four good runs today. We need to keep doing what we're doing. We need to get ready for Joliet, (Ill.- Route 66 Raceway) and try to win that race. Everybody out there is going to try to do the same thing. You've got to keep your mind on what's right in front of you." Ironically the two Top Fuel finalists shared another Memphis memory from the 2000 season, when each experienced horrendous accidents while competing. As Dixon explains, today's results provided some remuneration for both he and his opponent.
"I felt like this racetrack owed both of us - Tony and myself. I thought both cars had the potential to win this race in 2000 and we were both ended up in the hospital after getting helicopter rides out of here. To have us both in the final round, one of us was going to come out a winner and I thought that was kind of poetic justice for how it's gone. I'm glad it went our way, because it was our third final in a row at Memphis and this is the first time we've won here. It's the first time LaHaie has won here. Even when he worked on Snake's car, he'd never won here. I was happy to do it, especially running the Elvis car and to be able to do it in Memphis is very special."
This inaugural victory at Memphis Motorsports Park also held a special meaning for the man responsible for tuning the Miller Lite/Snake Racing dragster.
"I'm just thrilled," said Miller Lite crew chief, Dick LaHaie. "It's been a while since we've won. Everything worked like it was supposed to today. We think we've got our car back that we had at the beginning of the year. It was tunable and we could adjust it and it would respond. For instance, in the finals we decided the track was tightening up, and that we ought to step it up a little bit. I'm very pleased. Larry's driving is out of control. He's in his own zone. We have four races to go and I just hope we can just keep this thing going."
As a four-time NHRA Winston champion himself, Miller Lite team owner Don Prudhomme recognized the importance of today's events, and was quick to acknowledge the efforts of all the competitors.
"You got to give credit to all the racers," said Prudhomme. "They're all really, really strong. There for a while it was just Bernstein and us, but now all the cars have really picked up. It's a tremendous go for the POWERade championship.
"Carrying Elvis on our car coming to Memphis, we wanted everything we could get and we got it and I appreciate it."
After the conclusion of the O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals, Dixon now has accumulated a total of 1,685 points and has extended his lead to now 104 after the completion of 19 of 23 NHRA National events.
The next NHRA National event is the Craftsman 75th Anniversary Nationals at the Route 66 Raceway in nearby Joliet, Ill. to be held on Sept. 26-29 where the Miller Lite team and Miller Brewing Company will be celebrating being the No. 1 selling beer in Chicagoland for the past 10 years.