Dixon hopes to conquer a tough Denver track
Denver, prerace: Denver’s reputation as the Mile-High city doesn’t just affect stick-and-ball athletes that visit Colorado’s capital city. Not only must the visiting teams battle the local opponent on the field of play, but also the challenging elements that they face when not conditioned for the lack of oxygen at 5,280-feet above sea level. Bandimere Speedway, located just West of Denver, lists its altitude at 5,860-feet, which creates some very trying conditions for the best that NHRA drag racing has to offer each July.
Among those that have mastered the mountain is two-time NHRA Top Fuel champion (2002-03) Larry Dixon, who has powered his Miller Lite dragster to multiple victories (2001 and ‘03) at the scenic Colorado drag strip that overlooks Interstate C-470.
“It’s difficult to race at Denver because of the drastic altitude difference from the tracks that we normally race at,” Dixon said. “You only run there once a year and what you did the year before doesn’t apply. Every year that you go there, what you had for a combination doesn’t apply because you have different parts on the race car. Like this year, we’ll have a different tire and engine combination from a year ago. In that respect, when you run well and win, that makes it very satisfying.”
Top Fuel racing’s winningest active driver (37 career victories) aims for a third career Mile-High Nationals victory when the NHRA POWERade Series resumes, following a two-week hiatus, July 15-17, at the Morrison, Colo. facility as the veteran racer and his Miller Lite teammates hope a successful second-half campaign lifts them to a third series championship in four seasons and the $400,000 champion bonus.
Veteran crew chief Dick LaHaie, who has scored four victories at Bandimere Speedway as a tuner (1994-95, 2001 and ‘03), is well aware of the challenges that these nitromethane masterminds face as they kick off the arduous Western Swing that will take the NHRA pros to Denver, Seattle and Sonoma, Calif. in consecutive weeks.
“The lack of downforce and traction is the biggest challenge for a crew chief,” Dick LaHaie. “The air is thin and the rear wings don’t work as well. You can’t put enough wing in the car to make it work like it’s at sea level. You can make the power and the engine run pretty good, but the lack of traction is the biggest issue that we face at Denver.”
Fortunately for Dixon, he isn’t running up and down the grass at Invesco Field or the hardwood inside Pepsi Center, and instead piloting his 8,000 horsepower Miller Lite/Ameriquest rail down the Bandimere Speedway drag strip.
“It isn’t like I’m running the quarter mile,” Dixon said. “If I was pushing the car down the track, I bet it would make a difference with the lack of air. Fortunately, I get to drive.”
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