Sonoma: Larry Dixon preview

NHRA defending champ Larry Dixon goes from Raiders side lines to Sonoma staging lanes SONOMA, CA. (July 29) - Miller Lite/Snake Racing Top Fuel driver Larry Dixon is living out a dream. Winning an NHRA championship, leading the Top Fuel class...

NHRA defending champ Larry Dixon goes from Raiders side lines to Sonoma staging lanes

SONOMA, CA. (July 29) - Miller Lite/Snake Racing Top Fuel driver Larry Dixon is living out a dream. Winning an NHRA championship, leading the Top Fuel class in points, winning seven of 14 races and in three days will meet quarter-back Rich Gannon, wide receiver Tim Brown and the entire Oakland Raiders team.

Although the 36 year-old Southern California native grew up in Los Angeles and has since moved to Indianapolis, his loyalty will forever be with the Oakland Raiders. He will visit his favorite NFL team on Thursday at their training camp in Napa. Spending the morning touring the practice facilities and meeting with coaches and players like Rich Gannon and Tim Brown.

Larry Dixon is en-route from Seattle to Sonoma where he and the Miller Lite team have their eyes set on the 16th Annual Fram-Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway, Aug 1-3rd.

"This is our version of the triathlon. In our motor home we'll put almost 10-thousand miles on it in three and a half weeks; and I don't have to work on the car anymore," said Dixon as he packed up his motor home. "The guys drive the same amount of miles in the rigs, then have to work on the dragster too; there are countless elevation changes and things to do to adapt the car to the different conditions. It isn't easy."

The Oakland Raiders have three Super Bowl Championships and with consecutive wins at Bandimere Speedway in Denver and Pacific Raceways in Seattle, Dixon is looking to follow suit with a third win at Infineon Raceway; one of only three tracks Dixon has yet to win at.

"I know what races I haven't won at, there isn't very many left. There's St. Louis, Reading and Sears Point. But I've been in the winner's circle at all of them. Not me driving, but with Capps or with Snake's crew," said Dixon. "I just try and go to every race, race hard and if it's my turn great, and if not then we'll try again next year."

"I like the momentum that we have. I've been saying all year, we hadn't won as many races earlier, but I think our car is more consistent; we're capable of winning."

Dixon adding, "The track is a vast improvement from what was previously there and we don't have to race on the same surface as the Winston cup cars; that's a bonus. I enjoy going there; I'm not too worried about it. Just have to go out there, hit the throttle and see what happens."

Dixon's best finish in Sonoma includes a final round appearance in 2000 and his best start was in 2001 when he recorded a time of 4.592 seconds (314.83 mph).

Like Dixon, crew chief Dick LaHaie has never won in Sonoma as a driver, only as a crew chief. "I go into every race with the thought in mind that we should win," said LaHaie. "I know that sooner or later we're not going to win; I mean I don't slit my wrists when we lose. We get our lip hung out because we're so used to winning. That when we don't win we want to know, why? What did we do wrong? It's just that there are some great teams out there. We've been doing this for four years now; it's a little scary at times, wondering how long this will go on."

The Miller Lite team started a trend in Denver that they would to see continue. At both Denver and Seattle the Miller Lite/Mac Tools dragster qualified No.1, their third pole this year and Dixon's 22nd of his career. With each No.1 qualifier this year (Topeka, Denver, Seattle) Dixon has also won the race. With or without the No.1 qualifier, Dixon and the Miller Lite team are hoping for a western swing sweep.

With a win in both Denver and Seattle, what was on Dixon's mind while traveling to Seattle that kept the winning momentum alive?

"The thing I though about from Denver to Seattle was spending 25-bucks at Cheyenne Frontier Days to win my son a four-dollar Sponge Bob stuffed animal. He liked it so it was worth it. And the bonus money I get covered it, so I'm not complaining."

2003 NHRA Top Fuel Point Standings

1.  LARRY DIXON         1345        - - -

2. Doug Kalitta 1094 251 out
3. Darrell Russell 826 519 out
4. Cory McClenathan 746 599 out
5. Tony Schumacher 721 624 out
6. John Smith 654 691 out
7. Doug Herbert 650 695 out
8. David Baca 638 707 out
9. Brandon Bernstein 629 716 out
10.R. Hartman-Smith 546 799 out

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Larry Dixon , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , David Baca , Cory McClenathan , Dick LaHaie , Brandon Bernstein