Sonoma: Dixon, Force looking to sweep west coast swing

SONOMA, Calif.- The West Coast Swing is simply three NHRA races on consecutive weekends that are held west of the Mississippi River. The 'Swing' starts in Denver, goes up to Seattle and concludes with a trip into California's Sonoma ...

SONOMA, Calif.- The West Coast Swing is simply three NHRA races on consecutive weekends that are held west of the Mississippi River. The 'Swing' starts in Denver, goes up to Seattle and concludes with a trip into California's Sonoma Valley.

Winning all three races, however, is anything but simple. As the 16th annual FRAM-Autolite NHRA Nationals approaches this weekend, there are two NHRA drivers who can join a short list in NHRA history.

Top Fuel's Larry Dixon and Funny Car's John Force are not only the defending POWERade champions in their respective categories, but they are also the owners of the famed Wally trophy from Denver and Seattle. This weekend they can join Cory McClenathan (1997, Top Fuel), Force (1994, Funny Car) and Joe Amato (1991, Top Fuel) as the only drivers to complete the three-race sweep.

The 16th annual FRAM Autolite NHRA Nationals kicks off Friday at Infineon Raceway. Doug Herbert, Force, Larry Morgan and Craig Treble are the defending winners of the $1.8 million event. It is the 15th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

While Force has claimed six wins in nine final rounds at Sonoma, Dixon has yet to post a victory in wine country. Dixon's best finish was a runner-up in 2000.

"If it happened, that would be great only because I know how difficult it is," Dixon said. "Knowing how difficult it is to do, I think it is great just to be the position to make the attempt."

Dixon also admits that while he is defending his career-best season of winning nine races in 14 final round appearances, he knows winning one race is tough.

"To win three races in a season is huge," Dixon said. "I know what tracks I haven't won at yet and I know that I've never won three races in a row. But I also know it is nice to be in the position to try to change that."

Sweeping the West Coast Swing might come as a bigger surprise if Force can do it this season. Force's first win of 2003 was in Denver. The 12-time champion didn't even break into the top 5 of the Funny Car standings until the Denver victory.

"Well, when we did it before (1994), bottom line, the competition wasn't this good," Force said. "Now, just to win one race is tough, to win two is tougher and to win three in a row, well, you shouldn't be able to do that. But we'll go after it and see what happens. I've got my car back and I've fixed my driving but you still need a little luck."

* SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying will run at 3 and 6 p.m. on August 1 and will continue at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on August 2. Final eliminations begin at noon on August 3.

* TICKETS: Tickets are available for the 16th annual FRAM-Autolite NHRA Nationals. Call (800) 870-RACE (7223), Ticketmaster, or visit ticketmaster.com for ticket information.

* TELEVISION: ESPN2 will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 8 p.m. (ET) on August 2. ESPN will televise one hour of early eliminations at 5 p.m. (ET) on August 3 and ESPN2 will televise three hours of eliminations at 7 p.m. (ET) on August 3. NHRA 2Day will air at 11 a.m. (ET) on A

* ON THE WEB: NHRA news, photos and driver information available at www.nhra.com.

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Larry Dixon , John Force , Joe Amato , Larry Morgan , Craig Treble , Cory McClenathan