Phoenix: Larry Dixon elimination report

From The Snake Pit Points Leader Larry Dixon Hits A Triple With A Runner-Up Finish In The Miller Lite-Arizona Diamondbacks Dragster At Phoenix CHANDLER, ARIZ. (Feb. 24) In his first at bat in the Miller Lite-Arizona Diamondbacks Snake RacingTop...

From The Snake Pit
Points Leader Larry Dixon Hits A Triple With A Runner-Up Finish In The Miller Lite-Arizona Diamondbacks Dragster At Phoenix

CHANDLER, ARIZ. (Feb. 24) In his first at bat in the Miller Lite-Arizona Diamondbacks Snake RacingTop Fuel Dragster, Top Fuel points leader Larry Dixon posted a runner-up finish at the 18th Annual Checker-Schuck's Kragen Nationals at Firebird International Raceway.

Cheered on throughout the day by both NHRA and Diamondbacks fans, including supportive phone calls from shortstop Tony Womack, Dixon took a 63-point lead over event winner Tony Schumacher after the two drivers battled it out in the hot Arizona sun. Dixon kicked off the weekend as the Top Fuel points leader after his 2002 POWERade Drag Racing season-launching win in Pomona two weeks ago. He entered today's elimination rounds as the No. 1 qualifier, marking the 13th career pole of his eight-year career.

"With everything we have done this week in Phoenix and Tucson with the Diamondbacks, it has been a lot of fun," said Dixon. "Meeting those guys and seeing all the Phoenix fans, how thrilled they were that we were wearing their colors, and all it was was a tribute to them. There was no angle other than to congratulate the Diamondbacks on winning the World Series. Everybody seemed to be thrilled about it. I wished we could have found another tenth of a second in the final round and brought them home another championship trophy."

The Miller Lite pilot started the day by extending the longest first round winning streak in Top Fuel to 28 straight wins with a lap of 4.565 seconds at 322.88 mph to better No. 16 qualifier John Smith's effort of 7.357 seconds at 102.07. For Dixon, the win moved his career record to 3 wins and no losses to the Fram Dragster.

The second round placed Dixon against Smith's wife and racing teammate, No. 8 qualifier Rhonda Hartman-Smith. Dixon continued to collect wins at the Smith family's expense as he ran a time of 9.708 seconds at 81.50 mph after the other Fram pilot broke after the burnout. "Obviously something like that effects your driving because from a driver's standpoint you are going to shallow stage as much as you can and if the run isn't a perfect run, you're going to shut it off," said Dixon. "As it was, it wasn't. We had to run Doug Kalitta next round and I knew that we would have to run better than a 4.62 to do it. But it went out there and rattled the tires and went into smoke, so I shut it off and left it at that because I couldn't peddle the car and get it down the track and run a 4.62. You don't want to put wear and tear on your equipment, take the chance of blowing up, spending a bunch of money, or maybe oiling down the track, so you just shut it off, coast and just know that you're not going to get lane choice."

The semifinal round matched Dixon against Mac Tools shoe Doug Kalitta, the No. 5 qualifier. Although Dixon's Miller Lite/Mac Tools Dragster shares the same logo, he was not going to relent as his pass of 4.625 seconds at 320.74 mph bested Kalitta's 5.636 at 188.17. The run was a nice way to rebound from the aborted pass in the previous round. "I think all that goes to Dick LaHaie and the guys on the Miller team," said Dixon. "We were fortunate to get by second round and it gave them an opportunity to fix the car to where we could get it to go down the race track with a clean and dry run. It wasn't quick, but as it stood, we didn't need to be. We just needed to get down the track safely, and we did and were able to get the round win."

The final round gave Dixon an opportunity to claim his 18th career victory, that would have tied him with legends Darrell Gwynn and Shirley Muldowney, as well as for 25th place on the NHRA's All-Time professional win list. As it turned out, he would have to wait for another race as his pass of 5.044 seconds at 296.89 fell just short of the Army Dragster's lap of 4.946 at 299.40 mph.

"In the finals it put a cylinder out 100 feet down the racetrack," said Dixon. "Then you are down on power and the clutch is coming in so it rattles the tires and it went into tire smoke. I got out of the throttle and eased back into it to try and get the car down the racetrack at that point because I couldn't see Schumacher. Then he came up on me at halftrack and kind of shot out there a ways, but I was gaining on him. I just ran out of racetrack. His car had a cylinder out from point A to point B and ran a 4.94. We were out there shaking, smoking the tires, peddling in and out, and ran 5.04. We just came up a little bit short. I guess it's better to have it happen final round as opposed to first round."

"We have a really, really good car," said Dixon. "To go to the finals at the first two races is pretty strong and we still haven't worked all the bugs out of it yet. As the season progresses, I would expect that the race car should be more predictable and perform better than it is right now, and it's running great right now so I am excited about that."

Dixon will travel to Orlando with Don Prudhomme for this year's Miller Brewing Company National Sales Conference before regrouping with the Miller Lite Team for the 33rd Annual Mac Tools NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville,Florida (March 14-17).

- www.snakeracing.com

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Rhonda Hartman-Smith , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Don Prudhomme , Dick LaHaie , Darrell Gwynn