READING, PA (Sept. 17) -Larry Dixon and the Don Prudhomme-owned Miller Lite Dragster fell victim to extremely poor track conditions resulting from several oil downs and explosions in the opening round as they posted a first round finish at the...
READING, PA (Sept. 17) -Larry Dixon and the Don Prudhomme-owned Miller Lite Dragster fell victim to extremely poor track conditions resulting from several oil downs and explosions in the opening round as they posted a first round finish at the 16th Annual Keystone Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.
Qualified as the No. 10 seed, Dixon surrendered lane choice to first round opponent, No. 7 seed Kenny Bernstein, in a meeting slated last among the eight total pairs competing in Top Fuel's opening round. Lane choice proved to make all the difference as oil downs by drivers Bob Vandergriff Jr., Bobby Lagana and Luigi Novelli further deteriorated the right side of the track - the same side that Dixon was forced to race on.
"If you ask me why we lost, it was because of lane choice," said Dixon. "Our losing in the first round today was compounded by the fact that we qualified in the back of the field. Without lane choice, we were forced to run in the bad lane. At the beginning of the day, the right lane didn't start out to be bad, but some guys blew up and oiled it down. The NHRA tries to do a good job to clean it up, but they are under time constraints and there is only so much they can do."
As far as the actual run went, the Miller Lite/Raybestos car (4.811 seconds at 284.33 mph) led Bernstein's car (4.693 seconds at 305.15 mph) in all incremental numbers up to the point where the poor track conditions took over. "We had a good car up until we got to where all the problems were earlier and it just blew the tires loose. It just goes to show how important qualifying well is. If something like that happens and you have lane choice, you can just switch lanes, but in this case that didn't happen. As soon as I got out of the car I had a quarter inch of grease sweep on me and inside my helmet - that's how dirty the right lane was."
In spite of his first opening round loss of the season, Dixon has been maintaining a semifinal round finish all year and remains third in the Winston Top Fuel points race with 1,295 points with just five events left on the 2000 NHRA schedule.
"There isn't any added pressure now than at any other point of the season," said Dixon. "I think that (crew chief) Dick LaHaie has more pressure than myself, but it's not like he is going to try any harder at the next race then he did this weekend. Our whole team tries their hearts out, but it just didn't pan out."
"As far as the title race goes, we have been in this position so many times before coming out of the race here in Reading," said Dixon. "It is really no different than in 1995, 96, 99, or this year. For four years we have left this race at basically the same spot in the points standings. How well we have done throughout this season is what has put us in the position we are in right now. From here on we just have to go out and start taking advantage of the position we are in."
The Miller Lite Team takes a week off before returning to action at the 12th Annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals at Topeka, KS (Sept. 28 - Oct. 1).
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