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Dixon’s Tear Continues In Northwest

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, July 18 2009
Larry Dixon at Seattle (NHRA photo)

Larry Dixon at Seattle (NHRA photo)


Larry Dixon, Tony Pedregon, and Mike Edwards grabbed the provisional poles in their classes Friday, the opening day of qualifying for the 22nd annual NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways, in Kent, Wash.

With just a handful of races to go until the end of NHRA’s regular season Countdown to 10, the three qualifying leaders are looking for every point as they try to grab the top seed for the six-race playoffs that begin with the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals on Labor Day weekend.

Dixon and Edwards are both currently second in their standings while Pedregon is third.

Dixon started out the second session in the No. 1 spot but had been bumped down to fourth by the time he staged the Al-Anabi dragster in the final session’s final pair, but it took him just 3.891 seconds to reclaim his top spot from Morgan Lucas. Dixon is gunning for his fourth No. 1 spot of the season.

“We’re back down at sea level again, so we just looked at the track temperature and corrected for the air and just tried to get our car down the racetrack,” said Dixon. “The first run it spun a little down track and we were hoping that the track conditions would be cooler [for the second session] — not a lot, but still cooler — and we ended up being a little quicker [than Lucas]. I just like to be in the top three or four cars, then at least you know you’ve got a good hot rod for Sunday. We got that and we’ll see what we can do tomorrow.”

“If you can get in the top three or four cars you can get a good draw for Sunday first round, and you can be toward the back and see what some of the other cars are doing and have them put some rubber down, and you get lane choice. Those perks help you. If you qualify seventh you’re racing a guy who ran just as good as you, but if you qualify third hopefully there’s a little gap there to 14th. Other than that, you still have to beat four cars on race day if you want to win one these things.”

Lucas made a major improvement on his opening lap of 4.43, zooming the GEICO Powersports dragster to a 3.909 for the No. 2 spot as he and seven other drivers bettered Dixon’s first-session blast of 3.985. Spencer Massey, the rookie driver of Dixon’s former ride in the Don Prudhomme’s U.S. Smokeless dragster, is third with a 3.914. Cory McClenathan’s Fram Tough Guard dragster sits fourth with a 3.915.

J.R. Todd, making just his second start of the season, is the surprise No. 5 qualifier in David Baca’s Mach 1 dragster. Todd qualified in his only other appearance this year, in Chicago. Ten drivers qualified in the three-second zone at the track. Troy Buff’s 4.04 in the Bill Miller Engineering dragster sits in the 12th and final spot to transfer times to Saturday’s final two qualifying sessions.

Pedregon snatched the No. 1 spot away from first session leader Bob Tasca III in the final pairing of a very warm day’s final session, and did it with Tasca in the other lane.

Pedregon’s Dickie Venables-tuned special-edition Conquest Boats Quaker State Chevy improved almost a tenth of a second, from 4.27 to 4.18, over his opening pass to move up one spot and steal the pole. Pedregon was the low qualifier earlier this year in both Las Vegas and Chicago.

“I’m surprised that more cars [didn’t get down the track],” said Pedregon. “Usually the first run on Friday is a little temperamental; you really have to hit the setup just right, and you have to be conservative. I was surprised the second session. The indirect heat really decreases the track temperature. Any time you get close to that 100-degree mark on the racing surface you can really set the car up to run somewhere in the teens, which we took advantage of. I’m glad we didn’t gauge it off of what the other cars did, and I think Dickie stuck to his game plan and that’s the benefit to getting down the track on the first run.

“The best part of this was that we got low e.t., and we really want to redeem ourselves from Denver. [When] your car runs so well in qualifying your expectations are higher. We have an opportunity to do that. I think the conditions tomorrow will be a little bit cooler so there is a good chance that a lot of cars are going to step up, and we need to continue to press.”

Tasca, meanwhile, almost mirrored his opening pass of 4.225 with a 4.228 alongside Pedregon, and his Chris Cunningham-wrenched Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford slipped to second; Tasca’s run was the second quickest of the session. Tasca’s stablemate, Tim Wilkerson, had the final session’s next-best pass, a 4.26, that moved his Levi, Ray, & Shoup Shelby to the No. 3 spot. Pedregon’s older brother, reigning world champ Cruz, is qualified No. 4 with his Advance Auto Parts Toyota at 4.292.

Rookie Matt Hagan has the No. 5 spot at 4.312 in his Shelor.com Charger, which is the quickest of the three Don Schumacher Racing Dodges; right behind him at 4.320 is Robert Hight with the quickest of the four John Force Racing Fords. Surprisingly, the winningest drivers from both of those mega teams hold down the two final spots in the field, John Force with a 15th best 6.22 and co-points leader Ron Capps 16th at 6.95 in DSR’s NAPA Auto Parts Dodge.

Edwards is halfway to his eight No. 1 qualifying position in the season’s first 14 races after his A.R.T./Young Life Pontiac recorded the quickest run of the day, a 6.606, in the opening qualifying session. Edwards has been the polesitter at four of the six most recent events, including last weekend in Denver.“The bottom line is that we’re making awesome runs.

When you come out here and unload it out of the trailer on that hot, 130-degree track and run a .60, that’s the guys over here in the trailer. They’re making great decisions and we’re making really nice runs. That .60 will not hold up for tomorrow, so we’ve got our work cut out for us to hold onto that.”

Denver winner Allen Johnson, the No. 2 qualifier after the first session with a 6.636, took a shot at overtaking Edwards in the final session, powering his Mopar/J&J Racing Stratus to a 6.611, which was the quickest pass of the session though Edwards was right there with a 6.615 on his second run.

Defending event champ Jason Line, who has reached the final round at the two most recent races, winning in Norwalk and runner-upping to A.J. in Denver, leapfrogged Summit Pontiac teammate Greg Anderson into the third position with a 6.627 while Anderson sits fourth with a 6.633.

– Courtesy of the NHRA

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, July 18 2009
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