Sonoma: Larry Dixon eliminations summary

Larry Dixon makes a western swing sweep and career first win at Sonoma's Infineon Raceway SONOMA, CA. (Aug. 3) - Defending POWERade NHRA Champion Larry Dixon drove his Miller Lite dragster to a comfortable point lead and a first ever career ...

Larry Dixon makes a western swing sweep and career first win at Sonoma's Infineon Raceway

SONOMA, CA. (Aug. 3) - Defending POWERade NHRA Champion Larry Dixon drove his Miller Lite dragster to a comfortable point lead and a first ever career victory at the Fram Autolite Nationals at Infineon Raceway. Dixon defeated David Baca in the finals with a lap of 4.640 E.T. at 319.67 mph.

For the first round of Sunday eliminations Dixon and the Don Prudhomme owned dragster paired against No.15 qualifier John Smith. Smith smoked the tires posting a time of 6.139 E.T (156.28 mph) instantly moving Dixon and his 4.606-second run (322.11 mph) into the second round.

In round two Dixon paired against Tony Schumacher. Dixon in the Miller Lite/Mac Tools dragster drove a 4.593 E.T. (323.27 mph), beating Schumacher's time of 4.877 E.T. at 287.78 mph. Dixon would take on Rhonda Hartman-Smith in the semi finals for the first time in his career.

The Miller Lite/Lucas Oil dragster defeated Hartman with a lap of 321.88 mph and time of 4.599 E.T. Hartman's car blew a belt halfway down the track and instantly sent the Miller Lite dragster into the finals.

Dixon's appearance in the finals marked his 11th this year and 58th of his career. It was also another career first match up between Dixon and David Baca in the final round.

Dixon clenched the win posting a lap of 4.640 E.T. with a speed of 319.67 mph over Baca's time of 4.805 E.T. at 298.47 mph. "He beat a lot of good cars today," said Dixon, "he deserved to be in the final. He should definitely be looked at with rookie of the year honors. He's up there in the points and has gone to final rounds, my vote would defiantly be for him."

The win fulfilled two additional career firsts for Dixon and rightfully the most important of the weekend. A career first win at Infineon Raceway and a sweep of the Western Swing. Dixon joins the ranks of Joe Amato (1991), John Force (1994), and Cory McClenathan (1997) as the only drivers to ever make a sweep of the Western Swing races (Denver, Seattle, Sonoma).

"I'm impressed with my guys and Dick LaHaie," said Dixon. "He calls all the shots and has the car prepared exactly how he wants it. I'm in awe, I've never won three races (in a row) and to do it on this deal- is huge." Perhaps Dixon won't realize how huge until he's home and places the newest Wally statue alongside the seven others received this year.

"I go home and look at all the trophies, put them on the shelf and that's when you realize what's going on," said Dixon. My dad raced his whole life and only received one win. It makes me really proud of what we're doing. It's not a one-man show, it's everyone, I'm just really proud to be a part of it."

Crew chief Dick LaHaie and the Miller Lite crew experimented with different engine applications over the weekend, but none were as successful as the first qualifying run on Friday when Dixon posted a 4.584-second run at a of speed of 322.50 mph. "We came back and were trying some different ways to run the clutch and the motor, trying to run as well as Kalitta did at night," said Dixon, "obviously they didn't work. Fortunately when we stumbled, it really didn't make a difference."

The Miller Lite/ Mac Tools dragster is recognized for it's proven consistency, but as Dixon points out, it helps to have LaHaie's 45 years of experience. "There's no testing or preparing, you put out your best educated guess, which is where Dick LaHaie's experience comes in. He's been to this track, knows how much grip it has at a certain temperature and knows what he can and can't get away with, nothing beats having experience."

"I feel like the cat that got the canary," Dixon replied when asked what it's like having one of the best Top Fuel tuners in his corner. "It's like having Phil Jackson by your side. Because he (LaHaie) can take people and show them how to win. I can drive the car down the track, I can cut a light once in awhile, but he taught me how to win, win continually and to win a championship. He's showed me and everyone else on the team, he puts everyone in their position to get it done. You just can't put a price on that kind of knowledge and he's been able to share it with us and I owe him everything, him and Snake."

Dixon started the weekend on a high note and ended it somewhere near cloud nine. Consecutive victories in Denver and Seattle would make any driver happy, throw in a visit to the Oakland Raiders Training Camp and you have an ecstatic Larry Dixon. Dixon, a lifelong Raiders fan, had the opportunity to meet with players and coaches at Raiders Training Camp and over the weekend several team members ventured over to Dixon's turf: Infineon Raceway.

"We had a few of the guys come out this weekend, some of the video team, camera team, media team and players, for me it's really awesome because those guys are my hero's," said Dixon. "Pride and poise, commitment to excellence the whole deal, it's what I try and live by."

One week ago, while still trying to absorb the win in Seattle, Dick LaHaie was hardly thinking about a win in Sonoma or the possibility of a Western Swing sweep. "Larry has never won there as a driver and neither have I, only as a crew chief, so it's another challenge. They're all challenges, but it would be more than anyone could ever imagine for us to win all three of these."

The Miller Lite team holds the NHRA point's lead at 1,462 and hopes to extend their lead at the 22nd Annual Rugged Liner NHRA Nationals, August 14-17th, at Brainerd International Raceway.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , John Force , Rhonda Hartman-Smith , Tony Schumacher , David Baca , Cory McClenathan , Don Prudhomme , Dick LaHaie