Pomona, CA (Feb. 5) - Several different story lines surround defending NHRA POWERade champ Larry Dixon and the Miller Lite squad this weekend as team owner Don Prudhomme will see his Miller Lite Dragster carry the "No. 1" for the first time at...
Pomona, CA (Feb. 5) - Several different story lines surround defending NHRA POWERade champ Larry Dixon and the Miller Lite squad this weekend as team owner Don Prudhomme will see his Miller Lite Dragster carry the "No. 1" for the first time at this weekend's K&N Filters Winternationals at Pomona Raceway (Feb. 7-9).
As if the excitement of beginning work toward a successful NHRA title defense wasn't stirring enough, Dixon also has the opportunity to make history - while taking home a huge paycheck at the same time - as the defending champ of last year's Shootout and Winternationals. But above all else what is most important to Dixon is to get off with a great start to the 2003 NHRA campaign.
"I look back at last year's Winternationals and we smoked the tires first round and should have lost, but we were lucky enough that I got down the track better than the other guy and we ended up winning," recalls Dixon.
"Who knew at the time that we would go on to reach 10 out of the first 11 finals after that. That might not have happened right from the get-go. We could have lost that first round and who knows what that does for your momentum. All I know is that we wound up winning that race and the season worked out pretty well. Obviously, we would like to start out that way again this weekend."
Dixon and crew chief Dick LaHaie have the chance to gain some of that valuable momentum if they are able to start the season right by firing off the line with a great race weekend. But for Dixon, that is easier said than done.
"Obviously there's a lot of hype surrounding the event and our team, but I am not getting too caught up in the moment," said Dixon. "I am really just concentrating on this race. It's a big event and there is a lot of money on the table this weekend. We get two qualifying runs, one Thursday and one Friday, and then we go race in the Shootout on Saturday with $100,000 on the line, so we want to do well. In the meantime, we want to get qualified well to be in good position to try and win on Sunday. You can win $200,000 if you have a great weekend here and that's pretty good."
Should the Miller Lite Team repeat as Shootout champs, Dixon would become only the third driver to do so (Gary Scelzi, 1999-2000 & Joe Amato, 1987-90). He currently ranks No. 4 all-time with eight Shootout appearances, having qualified for the specialty event each year he has been behind the wheel, in addition to having won the event twice in his career (1995 & 2001). For Dixon, experience is the name of the game.
"The advantage of racing for a long time is the experience that you gain out of it and not worrying about things like the pressure you might feel each time you race," said Dixon. "Our first round opponent is Doug Herbert who has a good running car right now, so we need to have our act together and if we do, we'll be okay."
If Dixon is true to his word, then he won't be bothered about the fact that he also has the chance to become the first driver in 42 years to win back-to-back Winternationals titles, which certainly would be a nice way to start his quest for consecutive POWERade championships.
"I don't really think too much about that," said Dixon, who begins his 15th Anniversary season with Prudhomme. "I think I am the kind of guy that has raced long enough now where I am of the mindset that; we have an event to go to, trophies to be handed out, money to be handed out, and I want them to hand it to us. Flat out, that's it. I am sure that everybody else has the same attitude. We have a really good package with Dick LaHaie. This is our fourth season together and it's exciting having real good chemistry that keeps getting better every year, which makes me even more excited for this season to get started."