Dixon drives to semifinal finish
Atlanta, Sunday: Two-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon raced his Miller Lite dragster to a semifinal performance and moved to fifth place in the NHRA Top Fuel standings Sunday at Atlanta Dragway.
After qualifying in the No. 6 position for the 23rd time in his career, Dixon knocked off No. 11 qualifier David Grubnic in the opening round of eliminations and bested Rod Fuller in the quarterfinals before falling in a close semifinal match-up to rival Doug Kalitta.
The veteran Top Fuel driver used a stout .068 (of-a-second) reaction time to score the wire-to-wire victory over Grubnic. Dixon used a Don Bender tune-up to clock a performance of 4.532 seconds at 329.34 mph in the Miller Lite/Lucas Oil dragster to edge Grubnic's 4.545 elapsed time. It was Dixon's quickest run of the weekend.
"It was nice to win a tight race," Dixon said. "We had a decent light, made a nice run and it was good to get the win against a strong team."
In a wild second-round race, Dixon and the Miller Lite team were handed the win when Fuller's dragster crossed the center line and was disqualified. Dixon had to use his veteran driving skills to calm the Miller Lite dragster after it lifted the front end early in the run. After getting all four wheels on the ground, Dixon powered to a run of 4.762 seconds to earn the trip to the semifinals.
"We knew we were up against a strong car, they ran a 4.50 in the first round," Dixon said. "We set the car up to run a 4.50 or 4.51 because we knew they could run that. When I hit the throttle, the front end came up and it set back down, but when the clutch locked up, the front end started climbing. So, you have to get off the throttle. You don't know what's going on in the other lane. You're concentrating on your race car. Our motor put two cylinders out the rest of the run, but we got the win light."
In his second semifinal appearance of the season, Dixon faced off against Kalitta for the second time this season. The seasoned drivers used nearly identical reaction times as Dixon blistered the quarter mile in 4.556 at 328.78 in the Miller-backed rail, but it wasn't enough to defeat Kalitta's 4.483, 328.70 pass.
"We left the clutch and motor alone because it was on a low 4.50 run in the second round before the front end lifted," Dixon said. "We adjusted the front end and went up there to race. We had an issue with the ignition and it slowed to a 4.55 and we got outrun."
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