PHOENIX (Feb. 18) - Unexpected sunshine made for difficult track conditions at Firebird International Raceway as Larry Dixon and the Don Prudhomme-owned Miller Lite Dragster posted a second round finish and now sit fourth in the 2001 Winston Top...
PHOENIX (Feb. 18) - Unexpected sunshine made for difficult track conditions at Firebird International Raceway as Larry Dixon and the Don Prudhomme-owned Miller Lite Dragster posted a second round finish and now sit fourth in the 2001 Winston Top Fuel points race.
The Miller Lite Team entered today's elimination round as the No. 2 seed and looked like the car to beat after four consecutive 4.5-second laps during qualifying earlier in the weekend. Dixon's first round opponent would be No. 15 seed Bobby Baldwin in the third career meeting between the two pilots. Dixon's opening round win was a wild one as he needed to pedal the Miller Lite Dragster three times down the right lane en route to a winning pass of 5.407 seconds at 286.07 mph to defeat Baldwin (6.516 seconds at 130.54 mph) for the third straight time.
"Well, the car went out there and it just came loose," said Dixon. "As a driver, you are trying to do everything you can to get the car down the race track as quick as possible. We were fortunate that we were racing Baldwin and he was having trouble of his own, so I was able to drive back around him and get the win. The only good thing out of that was getting the win, so you get another shot at trying to fix your car and get it hooked up. We were under different conditions today. We had cloud cover and cool weather all weekend and there wasn't a cloud in the sky today, so that really changed the racetrack. So winning the first round gave us a shot at trying to adjust for the track and the weather."
The second round of Top Fuel action would reunite Dixon with veteran Doug Kalitta for the first time since his semifinal round win in Memphis last season (Oct. 8, 2000) and for the tenth time in his career. Dixon's head-to-head mark would even to 5 - 5 as No. 10 seed Kalitta used lane choice and a pass of 4.67 seconds at 310.44 mph to move past Dixon's lap of 4.70 seconds at 312.13 mph. For Dixon, it was a disappointing setback as the change in the weather proved to be his biggest obstacle of the race.
"What the weather showed was just how close our car was to being on the edge," said Dixon. "We had a race track that was ten degrees warmer and that was all it took to break the tires loose as opposed to hooking up and running a 4.53. Obviously we were right on the edge of spinning the tires yesterday and while it certainly didn't look like that yesterday, today was a different story. We made adjustments to the car and thought we were backing it down from a 4.53 tune up to a 4.60-second tune up and I think we overcompensated for it. We thought we would run a 4.60 flat and we ran a 4.70 flat and that sent us packing. The opportunity was there for us to win. Kalitta ran a 4.67, so we could have beat him but we just didn't do it."
The second round finish moves Dixon into fourth place with a total of 133 points, just 72 behind leader Darrell Russell (205). Doug Kalitta won the Top Fuel category while John Force won in Funny Car. Snake Racing Funny Car teammates Ron Capps reached the semifinals while Tommy Johnson Jr. fell in the second round. The Miller Lite Team has nearly a month to prepare for the third race of the season, the 32nd Annual Mac Tools Gatornationals in Gainesville, FL (March 15-18), where Dixon will look to repeat his 1995 Championship performance.