Pomona: Winternationals final summary

Dixon, Pedregon and Johnson earn season opening wins. POMONA, Calif. - Larry Dixon started the 2003 season the same way he started his championship season of 2002 - in winner's circle. Dixon took the Top Fuel victory over Cory McClenathan Sunday...

Dixon, Pedregon and Johnson earn season opening wins.

POMONA, Calif. - Larry Dixon started the 2003 season the same way he started his championship season of 2002 - in winner's circle. Dixon took the Top Fuel victory over Cory McClenathan Sunday at the K&N Filters Winternationals at Pomona Raceway.

Tony Pedregon and Warren Johnson also won their respective categories at the $2 million race, the first of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Dixon turned in a 4.541-second run at 322.04 seconds in the Miller Lite dragster to beat McClenathan's 4.547 at 309.42 in the NY Yankees/Berryman dragster.

Dixon made event history by becoming the first Top Fuel driver to repeat as a winner at the Winternationals. He won the Budweiser Shootout on Saturday, earning a $100,000 for the bonus race. He will receive an additional $50,000 on top of his race win earnings for winning both events during the same weekend.

"This is huge," Dixon said. "I thought about the voodoo at this track. More than 40 years of racing and no repeat winners at the Winternationals? This is a perfect way to start the season. I appreciate so much just how good this car is running. When you get a car like that, you love it."

Dixon has 26 wins in 48 career final round appearances. He is fourth on the all-time Top Fuel list, just behind McClenathan's 27 career victories.

"About a year and a half ago (team owner Don) Prudhomme told me to take advantage of the opportunities when they present themselves and try to run with them," Dixon said. "Right now we're on such a great run and the chemistry of the team and amongst the guys is just right. We're all just trying to go along for the ride."

Pedregon earned his 20th career victory in 41 final round appearances by beating Johnny Gray in the Funny Car final. Pedregon went 4.765 at 324.44 in his Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang to take the win over Gray's 4.912 at 313.66 in his Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird.

"We learned a lot from last year and we came into this year with higher expectations," Pedregon said. "You look at the way the car performed and that really tells the story. We struggled early and came into the last day of qualifying outside the field of 16. Then we go out and run a 4.7-second pass like it was nothing. That just goes to show you what kind of horsepower these cars make.

"I felt like we had a better than good chance to win every round today. That's a good feeling to have."

Pedregon just came up short in the bid for his first Funny Car championship in 2002, losing to his boss and teammate - John Force - in the final race of the season. With the win, Pedregon became the Funny Car points leader for only the second time in his 11-year career.

For the first time since 1994, Force sits outside the top 10 of the point standings.

"I guess I could've earned a little more points over John (Force) if he hadn't qualified but it's not just him we're racing this year. I know with the way last season ended that people want to talk about that but you know they'll be there all year. So will (Gary) Scelzi, Whit (Bazemore), the CSK (Del Worsham, Johnny Gray) guys, lot of teams out there can win races. We were just the lucky ones to do it today."

Warren Johnson came one step closer to another career milestone with his 89th career victory in Pro Stock. Johnson went 6.788 at 204.01 in his GM Performance Parts Pontiac Grand Am to beat Allen Johnson's 6.802 at 204.73 in Mopar Parts Dodge Neon. Warren Johnson also set the national speed record with a run of 204.91 in the first round of eliminations.

"There is no such thing as a bad win or a good loss," Warren Johnson said. "Certainly this is good for the team to get a win early in the season. It shows that all the work we did during the winter can pay immediate dividends."

While Johnson may be looking to add to his six Pro Stock championships, earning win No. 90 is not a priority. Only Force (106) has more national event victories.

"Records will always be broken," he said. "If someone has the longevity in a career that I have had, they will be able to produce the kind of records we have. All that matters is that I have enjoyed the results."

The next NHRA POWERade national event is the Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals at Firebird International Raceway in Phoenix, Feb. 20-23.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , John Force , Cory McClenathan , Allen Johnson , Johnny Gray