Pomona: Top Fuel to have intense competiton in 2004

Top Fuel Competition Intense For NHRA POWERade Championship in 2004 POMONA, Calif. - Larry Dixon is the two-time defending NHRA POWERade Top Fuel champion. He has been in the No. 1 spot following all but one race during the last two championship...

Top Fuel Competition Intense For NHRA POWERade Championship in 2004

POMONA, Calif. - Larry Dixon is the two-time defending NHRA POWERade Top Fuel champion. He has been in the No. 1 spot following all but one race during the last two championship seasons. The Miller Lite dragster driver has earned 17 wins in 27 final rounds.

If he can defend his title and earn a third Top Fuel championship, he will join Joe Amato (1990-'92) as the only Top Fuel drivers in NHRA history to win three consecutive season championships. Of course, if the rest of the Top Fuel class has their way, Dixon won't join Amato in the record books.

The only thing the Top Fuel drivers do agree on is judging the level of competition heading into the 2004 season. It's high, and it could be very tricky to win multiple races this season.

Top Fuel will start its championship battle at the 44th annual K&N Filters Winternationals, Feb. 19-22, at Pomona Raceway. The $2 million race is the first of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

"The championship always goes to the team that wins the most rounds and is the most prepared," Dixon said. "I think everybody on our team works hard toward keeping that goal. Time will tell if we're prepared or not. I don't think there is anything owed to us. You've got to go out and work hard for every round win."

There were five different winners in Top Fuel during the 2003 season. Dixon earned eight victories, while Doug Kalitta, Tony Schumacher and Kenny Bernstein collected four wins each and Brandon Bernstein had three wins. The three wins helped the younger Bernstein earn the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future award even though he missed the final 15 races of the season. He suffered season-ending back injuries during a crash at Englishtown, N.J., after he picked up three victories to start the season.

Brandon said there are numerous cars that are capable of winning races in 2004.

"All of the teams such as Dixon, Tony Schumacher and Kalitta have excellent cars," Bernstein said. "But you also have to throw in Darrell Russell and David Baca. The Kalittas and the Schumacher teams came on real strong with their power and performance at the end of the season. It could be a dogfight this season. It's not going to be one of those beer wars between two cars. It is going to be very interesting to see how it all plays out. There are going to be a lot of cars out there that can run in the 4.40s all day long if the conditions are right."

Schumacher not only won four races, but he set the national record for elapsed time, going 4.441 seconds at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa.

"I think it is going to be the most exciting year Top Fuel has seen in a long time," Schumacher said. "That's hard to say too because 1999, even though that we were the team that won (the championship), it was such a tough year. When we went to Indy there were 10 cars that could have left Indy with the points lead. That is tight and that is the kind of competition people look forward to.

"This year is going to be different. There are going to be a handful of teams that can win. In 1999 you would go out and win the race but there wasn't as many side-by-side wins as there will be this year. Last year Kalitta and I proved that you can run side-by-side in the 4.40s. This is going to be one of the most incredible seasons and inches will determine victories."

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Doug Kalitta , David Baca , Brandon Bernstein