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Dixon Battles A Top Fuel Monster

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, April 14 2010

Larry Dixon, Alan Johnson and Wally celebrated after last weekend's Top Fuel victory in Houston. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Bring up the fact that he is outgunned 3-to-1 by his biggest rival every time he shows up for an NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing event and Larry Dixon just issues his best it-is-what-it-is shrug.

“How do I feel? I feel the same way everybody else feels that has to race them,” a resigned-sounded Dixon said during a recent telephone call.

Well, not exactly the same way. Dixon and his Al-Anabi Racing Toyota have been much better than everybody else in dealing with the three-headed Top Fuel monster which Don Schumacher Racing has become this year.

Like last weekend when Dixon won the O’Reilly Auto Parts Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway Park where he left DSR’s super trio of Tony Schumacher, Cory McClenathan and Antron Brown fighting for leftover scraps.

But the former two-time Top Fuel champion is a big enough realist to know that he will be at some kind of a disadvantage every time he shows up for a national drag racing event this season and every season in which his one-car Top Fuel team takes on DSR.

“That’s three very good cars under one roof,” Dixon said. “They have a lot of great drivers and a lot of great crew chiefs. It’s a strong package and they seem to feed off one another. All their cars are running very similar.”

When they turn the engines over on Friday at the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Summitracing.com Nationals, DSR drivers McClenathan, Brown and Schumacher will be first, fourth and fifth in points respectively. They will all be within 90 points of the Top Fuel lead.

That, Dixon said, is not a matter of coincidence.

“The advantage, I think would be, for one, is that they can share all the data among not only the three dragsters but also their three Funny Cars,” Dixon said. “There’s a lot of crew chiefs with different personalities, who have different ways of skinning the cat. If one comes up with the hot setup, they’re all underneath one roof and they can all share it. You would assume that it would make them all better.”

It would be a mistake to confuse Dixon’s healthy respect for DSR with fear, however.

He knows that things which appear to be advantageous on paper and in race shops need to be transformed into success on race tracks. He knows that first hand.

A year ago, Dixon was, yes, outgunned by DSR, even before the super formidable Brown was added in October.

But he and his Al-Anabi Toyota still finished the season just two points behind champion Schumacher in the final standings.

“When I won my championships (2002 and 2003), I was a single-car team,” Dixon said, “though we had one or two Funny Cars under the roof. Alan Johnson (Dixon’s team manager at Al-Anabi Racing prior to the 2009 season and also guided Tony Schumacher to  NHRA championships in the past) won championships with Blaine (Johnson) and Gary Szceli and even Tony when he was there as a single dragster operation.

“So, at the end the day, if you are in the best car with the best team, you can beat the best. You should be able to beat not just one of them, but, you know, they got six of them. It doesn’t bother me. I think we have a lot of talent under our tent.”

It is not just DSR that is fielding multi-car operations these days. Over on the Funny Car side, for example, John Force Racing has three teams up, running and winning.
But when Dixon was asked if multi-car teams were the future, he said, maybe.

“I think if the budgets will allow it, you’ll see more multi-car teams if they have funding for it,” Dixon said. “That’s what it really comes down to.”

In the meantime, Dixon and Al-Anabi will cruise along with one Top Fuel car. And few who know Dixon and Johnson will be surprised that come the end of the season, DSR will only be second, third and fourth in points.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, April 14 2010
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