Dixon Sentimental Despite Rough Start
POMONA, Calif. — The National Hot Rod Ass’n’s Kragen O’Reilly Winternationals turned out to be a mixed bag for three-time Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon. He qualified No. 1 with the national elapsed-time record at Auto Club Raceway but lost in the opening round to No. 16 qualifier Terry McMillen.
Just the same, the highs and lows, the trip home for the sentimental Van Nuys, Calif., native, and the history swirling around it all — including the wacky weather that included rain, sleet, and hail — made it just another memorable season-opener for the Al-Anabi Dragster driver.
“It’s interesting how history kind of has a way of repeating itself,” Dixon said, thinking about the notion of having a teammate in the same class with Worsham’s re-introduction to dragsters. “When I got my Top Fuel license at Gainesville in 1994, Del signed it for me. Here we are in 2011, and I’m signing Del’s Top Fuel license after our test at West Palm Beach. I thought it was very cool that I was able to do that. I guess it’s just kind of a neat trivia question, but it’s still cool.”
Speaking of cool — and the temperatures dipped into the 40s to add to the soggy misery Friday — Dixon said he remembers the year that the Winternationals lived up its name.
“Well, it’s not snowing yet,” Dixon said, “but I’ve seen it snow here before. Actually, there was a famous National Dragster picture of snow on the starting line. The whole track was covered in snow. It was 1978. I was 11.”
As for the NHRA’s 60th anniversary celebration, Dixon said, “I’m glad NHRA decided to celebrate their 60th anniversary, because there are so many great stories in our history. I would like to think that there were a lot of people who are considered NHRA legends in our sport that have influenced me, and I’ve tried to learn as much as I could from all of them.”
His legends list, he said, would include “for starters, my Dad (Larry Dixon, Sr.), (Don) Garlits, Shirley (Muldowney), obviously Snake, but the one guy that probably influenced me the most was Roland Leong. When I was crewing, he was the guy who gave me guidance and advice about turning my crewing career into a driving career. If he hadn’t kicked me in the rear end, I may not have moved forward.”