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Dixon Is Texas Star So Far

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, September 24 2010

Larry Dixon stayed hot in Texas on Friday, winning the provisional pole at the Motorplex. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Ennis, Texas –  Not even a pair of lengthy clean-ups for oildowns on a hot afternoon could keep Larry Dixon from atop the Top Fuel time sheet Friday afternoon at Texas Motorplex.

And Dixon remained the provisional pole-sitter Friday evening, regaining the No. 1 spot from Brandon Bernstein on the night’s final pass at 3.852-seconds and 308.85 mph to cap two of four rounds of professional qualifications for the 25th annual O’Reilly Super Start NHRA Fall Nationals.

Earlier, Dixon covered the 1,000-foot distance in 3.962-seconds at 306.33 mph to move ahead of Bernstein, who wound up third on the ladder at 3.906-seconds and 308.43 mph. Cory McClenathan, who began the day 85 points behind Dixon in search of his first TF title, moved from third to second during the second session with a pass at 3.881-seconds at 311.56 mph.

“This place is challenging,” said Dixon, driver of the Al-Anabi Racing Dragster. “At the top end there’ s no lights on the surface and this big glare, so you can’t see the groove. You hope you’ve got it aimed-up. There’s grip there, but the best place to be is in the groove.”

Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also emerged with provisional poles for the 20th of 23 events on the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series tour.

Oildowns caused by the Funny Car of Del Worsham and the Top Fueler of Doug Kalitta put a serious dent in the opening day schedule at Billy Meyer’s facility. Qualifications that began with Pro Stock Motorcycle at 2:15 p.m. didn’t conclude until 5:15 p.m. – the originally listed start time for the second session.

Track temperatures as high as 138 degrees posed another problem for crew chiefs trying to hook up with the all-concrete surface. Track temps at the start of the second session registered 114 degrees but dipped to 104 by time the Top Fuel teams emerged from The Plex’s signature tower tunnel.

But neither the delays nor the heat index could faze Dixon, the winner of 11 national events this season, including the first two races in NHRA’s six-race Countdown to 1 playoffs.

“We’re still a work in progress,” Dixon said of the team led by owner/tuner Alan Johnson and crew chief Jason McCulloch. “From the time the team went out last year to the beginning of the season as we go race-to-race we’re just trying to refine the car, refine the team, refine the setup…keep polishing. I’m trying to drive better, Jason and Alan are trying to make better calls and just try to keep improving. That’s all we’re going to try to keep doing.”

Bernstein set the early pace in Top Fuel with a 1,000-foot pass at 3.986-seconds and 300.60 mph in the Copart/Lucas Oil Dragster. McClenathan, driver of the FRAM Dragster, was third after posting numbers of 4.030-seconds and 286.32 mph but moved up a notch in the evening.

“Cory is right there,” Dixon noted. “But being in a car that has a shot at winning – who wouldn’t enjoy that? We’re having a good time. We’ve got to keep racing hard.”

Not there so far is Tony Schumacher. The seven-time champion was 15th out of 18 Top Fuel drivers after Friday’s rounds. His best run in The U.S. Army Dragster took 4.477 seconds and was at 160.04 mph.

Pedregon, a two-time world champion and the winner last Sunday at zMax Dragway in Concord, N.C., moved from ninth after the opening session to first via a pass at 4.129-seconds and 299.26 mph in the Snap-On Tools Toyota Camry. Jeff Arend remained second while improving to 4.163-seconds at 290.76 mph in his DHL Toyota.

Tim Wilkerson had emerged as No. 1 in Funny Car following a first-round pass of 4.325-seconds and 278.35 mph in the Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang. Points-leader John Force, the 14-time champion, fell from third to 11th after the second session while failing to improve on his pass of 4.407-seconds at 254.90 mph in the Castrol GTX High-Mileage Mustang.

In Pro Stock, Johnson moved from sixth to first in the second session on the strength of a quarter-mile pass in 6.632-seconds and 208.04 mph in his Team Mopar/J&J Racing Dodge Avenger. Jason Line stood No. 1 after the first session via a pass at 6.644-seconds and 207.88 mph in his Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac GXP. Line, a former world champion, improved to 6.637-seconds at 207.34 mph in the night air to hold second.

Line was followed by points-leader and reigning world champion Mike Edwards, who posted numbers of 6.654-seconds and 207.85 mph in the Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP.

Karen Stoffer led Pro Stock Motorcycle after both sessions, covering the quarter-mile in 6.953-seconds and 192.41 mph on her GEICO Powersports Suzuki.

Points-leader Andrew Hines, a three-time world champion, was fourth after a pass at 6.996-seconds and 193.24 mph on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson V-Rod. Hines’ teammate, former world champ Eddie Krawiec, set the Pro Stock Bike track record for speed at 195.03 mph during the first of his two runs. Krawiec is second on a ladder that includes only 14 motorcycles.

Rookie LE Tonglet _ winner of the opening two Countdown races _ is fifth after improving to 6.999-seconds at 191.08 atop his Nitro Fish Suzuki.

Results Friday after the first two of four rounds of qualifying for the 25th annual O’Reilly Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals presented by Castrol Syntec at the Texas Motorplex, the 20th of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series and third of six events in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.

Top Fuel — 1. Larry Dixon, 3.852 seconds, 308.85 mph; 2. Cory McClenathan, 3.881, 311.56; 3. Brandon Bernstein, 3.906, 308.43; 4. David Grubnic, 3.933, 308.78; 5. Doug Kalitta, 3.943, 310.84; 6. Steve Torrence, 3.946, 304.60; 7. Bob Vandergriff, 3.979, 306.33; 8. Antron Brown, 3.981, 303.91; 9. Chris Karamesines, 3.983, 303.57; 10. Morgan Lucas, 4.050, 289.51; 11. Shawn Langdon, 4.062, 291.07; 12. Terry McMillen, 4.101, 287.47. Not Qualified: 13. Mike Strasburg, 4.174, 283.67; 14. Troy Buff, 4.208, 236.92; 15. Tony Schumacher, 4.477, 160.14; 16. Mike Bowers, 4.827, 170.90; 17. Scott Palmer, 7.416, 96.33; 18. Terry Haddock, 8.789, 95.83.

Funny Car — 1. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Solara, 4.129, 299.26; 2. Jeff Arend, Solara, 4.163, 290.76; 3. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.181, 282.90; 4. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.183, 287.66; 5. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.200, 289.45; 6. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.225, 293.47; 7. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.249, 277.43; 8. Tony Pedregon, Chevy Impala SS, 4.263, 251.86; 9. Paul Lee, Impala SS, 4.301, 284.03; 10. Todd Simpson, Chevy Camaro, 4.362, 271.84; 11. John Force, Mustang, 4.407, 254.90; 12. Ashley Force Hood, Mustang, 4.713, 215.41. Not Qualified: 13. Ron Capps, 4.861, 185.43; 14. Jeff Diehl, 5.033, 163.83; 15. Dale Creasy Jr., 5.191, 247.88; 16. Melanie Troxel, 5.347, 135.40; 17. Jim Head, 6.006, 110.69; 18. Matt Hagan, 6.195, 102.55.

Pro Stock — 1. Allen Johnson, Dodge Avenger, 6.632, 208.17; 2. Jason Line, Pontiac GXP, 6.637, 207.88; 3. Mike Edwards, GXP, 6.654, 208.14; 4. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.660, 207.21; 5. V. Gaines, Avenger, 6.662, 207.62; 6. Johnny Gray, GXP, 6.663, 207.40; 7. Ron Krisher, GXP, 6.666, 207.72; 8. Greg Anderson, GXP, 6.667, 207.34; 9. Shane Gray, GXP, 6.667, 207.15; 10. Ronnie Humphrey, GXP, 6.671, 207.75; 11. Warren Johnson, GXP, 6.679, 207.43; 12. Rodger Brogdon, GXP, 6.681, 207.24. Not Qualified: 13. Jeg Coughlin, 6.691, 207.27; 14. Greg Stanfield, 6.698, 206.92; 15. Richie Stevens, 6.706, 206.92; 16. Kurt Johnson, 6.709, 206.54; 17. Bob Yonke, 6.726, 205.01; 18. Erica Enders, 6.757, 204.98; 19. Mark Hogan, 6.787, 201.82; 20. Mark Buehring, 6.790, 202.33; 21. Steve Kalkowski, 6.949, 198.85.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.953, 192.41; 2. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.955, 195.03; 3. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.959, 191.87; 4. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.996, 193.24; 5. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.999, 191.84; 6. Craig Treble, Suzuki, 7.015, 193.13; 7. Matt Smith, Buell, 7.043, 187.76; 8. David Hope, Buell, 7.048, 189.12; 9. Angie Smith, Buell, 7.059, 188.20; 10. Hector Arana, Buell, 7.074, 188.12; 11. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 7.077, 190.00; 12. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.107, 191.87. Not Qualified: 13. Junior Pippin, 7.146, 190.48; 14. Redell Harris, 7.312, 186.77.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, September 24 2010
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