SONOMA, CA (Aug. 6) - Entering the weekend having never won a single round of elimination racing in five years of competition at Sears Point Raceway, Larry Dixon and the Don Prudhomme-owned Miller Lite Dragster posted a personal track record...
SONOMA, CA (Aug. 6) - Entering the weekend having never won a single round of elimination racing in five years of competition at Sears Point Raceway, Larry Dixon and the Don Prudhomme-owned Miller Lite Dragster posted a personal track record runner-up finish at the 13th Annual Fram Autolite Nationals to move into second place in the NHRA Winston Top Fuel points race.
The weekend produced several track record performances for the 33-year-old Dixon who began the day as the No. 5 seed with a qualifying elapsed time of 4.68 seconds - both of which were new track marks for the sixth year driver. Dixon began the day with a lap of 5.372 seconds at 268.33 mph to defeat No. 12 seed Bobby Baldwin who ran a time of 11.147 seconds at 91.04 mph. The win was a significant one for the Southern California native who always enjoyed coming to the Northern California track despite never having won a round on Sunday.
"I came into this race and I wasn't spooked by it. I didn't even realize that I hadn't won a round here until this year when everyone started making a big deal about it," said Dixon.
Crew Chief Dick LaHaie, who tuned top fuel pilot Scott Kalitta to a win here in 1994, turned the knobs on the Miller Lite/Raybestos Dragster to pick up three-tenths of a second in the second round to give Dixon his second career round win at Sonoma. Dixon's time of 5.031 seconds at 278.92 mph would improve his career mark to 2 wins and 1 loss over Tim Gibson who produced a lap of 12.483 seconds at 83.83 mph.
With the win, Dixon advanced to the semifinal round for the 10th time out of 14 races this season where he would meet No. 16 seed Jim Cavalieri who upset No. 1 seed Gary Scelzi and No. 9 seed Tony Schumacher en route to the semis. Cavalieri's efforts opened the door for Dixon to make up serious ground in the top fuel point standings. The giant killer would see his Cinderella story come to an end against Dixon however, as the Miller Lite driver posted a winning time of 4.784 seconds at 308.85 mph to better Cavalieri's time of 4.888 seconds at 272.23 mph.
Dixon's fifth final round appearance of the season would see him take on Doug Kalitta for the fourth time this season and the fifth time in his career. Unfortunately, Kalitta's time of 5.247 seconds at 274.33 mph would prevent Dixon from his third top fuel crown of the year as he posted a time of 5.234 seconds at 265.33 mph in a race ultimately decided at the starting line.
"By rights we should have lost first round," said Dixon. "We were lucky all day and all my luck ran out in the final round. We could have gone out in the first round and been out early like Scelzi and Schumacher, but we were able to go to the final round so Scelzi isn't so far out there any more. As far as today goes, I feel probably as good as Rusty Wallace felt finishing second at the Brickyard. Points and that stuff is all great, but when it's all said and done, it was an opportunity that we didn't take advantage of. Who knows what one round of points can do for you at the end of the year."
For his efforts, Dixon (1,088) moved past Tony Schumacher (1,076) into second place in the top fuel points standings. Gary Scelzi continues to lead the category with 1,185 points while Dixon sits just 97 points behind - less than five rounds out of the lead.
The Miller Lite Team takes a week off before traveling to Brainerd, Minn., (Aug. 18-20) for the 19th Annual Colonel's Truck Accessories Nationals where they will attempt to repeat as top fuel champions just two weeks before the prestigious U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis (Aug. 30-Sept. 4).