DIXON DRIVES MILLER LITE RAIL TO RUNNER-UP FINISH AT READING MOHNTON, Pa. (Sept. 18, 2005) -- Two-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon advanced to his seventh final round of the 2005 season Sunday at Maple Grove Raceway where the veteran...
DIXON DRIVES MILLER LITE RAIL TO RUNNER-UP FINISH AT READING
MOHNTON, Pa. (Sept. 18, 2005) -- Two-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon advanced to his seventh final round of the 2005 season Sunday at Maple Grove Raceway where the veteran racer posted a runner-up finish at the 21st annual NHRA event at the Reading, Pa. track. Dixon also moved into second place in the POWERade Top Fuel standings.
After qualifying his Miller Lite dragster in the No. 2 position for the third time this season, Top Fuel racing's winningest active driver defeated No. 15 qualifier T.J. Zizzo before knocking off seasoned racers Doug Kalitta and Doug Herbert in the second round and semifinals respectively. Dixon then fell to defending series champion Tony Schumacher in the final round.
The 38-time winner opened final eliminations at The Grove by besting the up-and-coming Illinois-based driver. Dixon used the best reaction time of the round (.055 of-a-second) and a pass of 4.521 seconds at 330.23 to score the wire-to-wire victory over Zizzo. Dixon's 330.23-mph speed was the top speed of the event.
"First round, we had a lot of cloud cover and not a lot of humidity and everyone was going down the race track, so you knew the track would hold all the numbers, so I wasn't really worried about the track, but just what kind of number could put on the board," Dixon said. "It was a real good run, our quickest of the weekend. It kind of lets you know how different the air was today."
Facing off against Kalitta, the second ranked driver coming into the event, Dixon used a slight starting line reaction and a Dick LaHaie-tune to power the Miller Lite/Ameriquest rail to a performance of 4.552 at 323.97 to hold off Kalitta, who drove his Mac Tools dragster to a 4.560-second pass. Dixon now has a 3-4 season-mark versus Kalitta in seven 2005 matches.
"It's a good team and they've won more races than we have," Dixon said. "You got to make a good run to be able to beat them and sometimes that isn't even enough. Wow, it was really tight. I think both of our lights were off that round. Both of us watched Cory (McClenathan) red light in front of us and that probably calmed our juices down a little bit. Thankfully, it wasn't a factor and we got lane choice for the semis."
For the second straight race, Dixon and Herbert matched up in the semifinal round. Dixon used the best reaction time of the round (.066 of-a-second) to race the Miller Lite dragster to his 70th career final round appearance after clocking a run of 4.540 at 326.08 mph. Herbert posted a run of 4.598 at 308.07. The Miller Lite rail also was the fastest car of the round.
"I wanted to get my lights good again and Dick (LaHaie) just wanted to go from point A to point B and not do anything to give the round away," Dixon said. "The car picked up a little bit and we got the round win."
The veteran Top Fuel competitors, who have combined to win four NHRA Top Fuel titles, met in the money round for the second consecutive event after Dixon claimed the title at the prestigious Mac Tools U.S. Nationals two weeks ago. The duo posted nearly identical reaction times as Dixon cruised the Miller Lite/Lucas Oil rail to a run of 4.575 at 322.11, but Schumacher drove his dragster to the second quickest time of eliminations, 4.498 at 323.74, to earn the race win.
"Turning the engine over after the warm-up, it broke a valve spring," Dixon said. "The crew had to take the cylinder head off and change the spring. Our team is quick enough between rounds that we were able to take the head off, put it back on and not be punched for time. If you're going to have a valve spring break, it's good to happen in the pit area so you can do something about it.
"Dick (LaHaie) set the car up to run a 4.51 or 4.52 but the clutch didn't cooperate for whatever reason. (Tony) Schumacher and those guys ran good. They were the only car to run in the 4.40s all weekend and they ran that in the final. It's disappointing to go to the final round and lose ground in the points just like at Brainerd (Minn.). Since we brought this car out at Brainerd, we've gone to either the semis or the finals, so we've definitely improved.
"We're in second place in the standings and that's the highest we've been all year. My goal is to go out of Joliet (Ill.), 40 (points) behind and that's still possible. We've just got to make some hay at the next two races and see how we do."
Dixon trails points-leader Schumacher by 100 points with four events remaining on the schedule. The next NHRA POWERade Drag Racing event is the 20th annual O'Reilly Fall Nationals, Sept. 22-25, at Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas near Dallas. Dixon won the Dallas race in 2001.