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Fri, 19 Sep 2003, 10:49 AM

Dixon has Plenty to Talk about when it comes to Memphis
Courtesy of NHRA Communications
Photo by:Auto Imagery, Inc.


Larry Dixon
There was a time when the words Larry, Dixon and Memphis conjured up one image - crashing. In 2000 Dixon's Miller Lite dragster pulled ahead of Gary Scelzi in the Top Fuel final and looked like Dixon was headed for victory.

Then the car crossed the centerline, swooped into the air and the body of the dragster snapped in half, sending car parts all over the track. Dixon was banged and bruised, but walked away with so few injuries, he raced the next weekend.

That was pretty much the dominant story when it came to Dixon and Memphis.

Now, there is more to talk about. When Dixon and the Don Prudhomme-owned Miller Lite team pull into Memphis this weekend, they will be defending their event title with their sights aimed at securing back-to-back NHRA POWERade Top Fuel championships.

The current NHRA POWERade points leader will return to the Volunteer State for the 16th annual O'Reilly NHRA Mid-South Nationals, Sept. 18-21, at Memphis Motorsports Park. The $1.9 million race is the 19th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

"I would say that although last year was our first time in the winner's circle, we've done pretty well there in the past," Dixon, a four-time Memphis finalist said. "We done other things now and there is more to talk about besides the big crash. Memphis is Elvis' home and I dig the food and Beale Street and all of the blues music. It's home to Elvis, what more can you say?"

Dixon has been in the Top Fuel final in the last three Mid-South Nationals. This year he is aiming for similar results, as the team marches toward winning another POWERade championship. After the first 17 events of the season, Dixon has eight victories in 11 final round appearances. He has a 269-point lead over Doug Kalitta in the standings.

"I really think that everybody on our team doesn't get distracted too easily," Dixon said. "They are focused on what they need to do and they do their best at it every time they go up to the starting line. That's what I try to do, what (crew chief Dick) LaHaie tires to do and it is just something we have worked on.

"I think the 2001 season, where we had as many round wins as we did but still came up short on winning the title, let us know how important every single round is. Whether we're racing the No. 1 car in the points or the No. 100 car, at the end of the year every round win counts the same."

Last year the Miller Lite car was in the winner's circle a record-tying (with Gary Scelzi) nine times. The '03 season could produce a record-breaking performance.

"I'm thrilled with the way the season has been going so far," Dixon said. "We had a great season last year but we wanted to work on the consistency of the race car and its ability to go down the track all the time. I think we have done that. Even in the times we have lost, we still put up great runs. We know you are not going to win every race. But if you are in the hunt, making full, good runs, more often than not you will win your share of races."

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