Dixons Wins Top Fuel Final In Spring Nationals
Larry Dixon edged fellow Toyota driver Anton Brown as the two finished off a dominating weekend to win the NHRA Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway Park Sunday. With the victory, Dixon became just the third driver in NHRA history to win 50 Top Fuel events.
Dixon and Brown combined to lead each of the weekend’s four qualifying sessions, culminating in the duo running the fastest side-by-side run in history in Saturday’s final run, each running in the 3.77s with Dixon’s Al-Anabi Racing/Toyota dragster coming out on top.
In the eliminations, Dixon knocked off Del Cox, David Grubnic and Cory McClenathan, while Brown defeated Spencer Massey and then vanquished fellow Toyota-sponsored drivers Shawn Langdon in the quarter-finals and Morgan Lucas in the semi’s to set up the final.
While the race didn’t register record numbers for speed like Saturday’s run, it surely didn’t lack for excitement. Both cars had troubles in the final and it appeared Brown had his first win of the season before Dixon closed and passed Brown’s Matco Tools/Toyota dragster at the finish line with his engine on fire to win 4.541 to 4.638.
After a day that began with rain and ended late Saturday, the perfect spring conditions returned to Houston Raceway Park for eliminations in race five of the 23-race 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Series. The sunny skies warmed the track significantly throughout the day, pushing track temps over 100 degrees for most of the time, and that prevented racers from putting up the big numbers as they did the previous two days. That doesn’t mean the action was dull, however. In fact, it was far from it. From the opening round of Top Fuel through the final rounds, the day was filled with intense action, wild races, and upsets aplenty.
Fittingly, the Top Fuel final came down to Dixon and Antron Brown, the Nos. 1 and 2 qualifiers who were at or near the top of the sheets throughout eliminations. Though their runs weren’t side-by-side 3.77s like on Saturday, the final round lived up to the hype and was just as interesting after both struggled downtrack and had to pedal their cars. Dixon’s Al-Anabi Racing dragster lost traction first and, for a while, it appeared he may be out of it. However, Brown’s Matco Tools rail encountered troubles a short while after Dixon’s tire smoke began, opening the door back up. Dixon got back on the throttle, and, despite having his engine burst into a ball of flames, he stayed in it all the way to the finish line, where he just passed Brown to win the battle, 4.541 to 4.638. It is the 50th overall win for Dixon, second this year, and third at Houston Raceway Park.
“Man, No. 50. I didn’t even think about it until they started talking about it [at the top end], but, yeah, that’s more than I ever thought I’d do in my lifetime, and I’m not done living yet. It’s real good. Win-wise, I’m dedicating it to my son Darien because he’s in the hospital. He has a bacterial infection. I didn’t even get here until Friday morning because he was in surgery on Thursday night. He’s only 3 years old, and I didn’t even want to leave. He wanted us to win the race for him, and we were able to do it, so this is as good as you can ask for a weekend.”
After nabbing the No. 1 spot Saturday with a 3.772, Dixon’s dragster stayed strong throughout eliminations with a pair of 3.85s and a 3.89 as he worked to his 94th career final. His 3.853 and 3.854 were the best runs of the first two rounds and easily moved him past Del Cox Jr. and Dave Grubnic, respectively. He then ousted Cory McClenathan to earn a spot in his third final of the year.
Though his run to the final wasn’t flawless, Brown had a pretty strong day as he maneuvered through his side of the ladder to advance to his 51st career final. He began with a 3.858 that was second-quickest of the opening round to defeat Spencer Massey. Brown caught somewhat of a lucky break in round two when his dragster experienced troubles on the burnout and continued to struggle as he worked down the 1,000-foot course. Fortunately for him, Shawn Langdon had more troubles in the other lane, and Brown’s 3.96 was more than enough to get by. In the semi’s, Brown returned to form, posting a 3.873 that defeated Morgan Lucas and earned him lane choice for the final.
No matter the outcome, the Funny Car result was going to provide the feel-good moment of the day with Hagan searching for his first win facing Jeff Arend, who was looking to add another win for Kalitta Motorsports at Houston Raceway Park; Scott Kalitta won his only nitro Funny Car race here, in 1989. In the end, Hagan won, out-pedaling Arend, 4.390 to 4.714.
“You don’t understand how frustrating it was coming into the final round, and you’re just ready for that first win to be over, well not over, but you’re ready to have it. It’s one of those things where you can taste it, you can feel it. You know, it’s just there, and you’re ready to just grab it. Thank goodness we did that today because that’s the first little hurdle you have to jump over before you go hunting a championship. I think with John Medlen and Tommy DeLago working so well together and the crew doing such a great job, I think it’s going to happen for us. I’m extremely excited to have the crew we have on our race car because we don’t have any bad problems up there. They’re doing such a good job, and I couldn’t ask for a better crew.”
Hagan’s DieHard Charger has shown promise in qualifying this year, but race day has been a challenge for the team, but that changed in Houston. Though he didn’t have a perfect day, Hagan had moments of brilliance during it. He opened with a 4.217 to defeat Melanie Troxel, then ran low e.t. of the second round, 4.183, to oust Cruz Pedregon. Hagan advanced to his third career final when he defeated Tony Pedregon, 4.632 to 5.838, in the semi’s.
All the pieces came together for Arend in Houston. He earned his best qualifying start of the year, sixth, and collected three round-wins after zero in the first four events. He kicked things off with a 4.140 that was one of the top runs of the opening stanza to beat Jim Head, then got a little lucky when his next two opponents, Robert Hight and Del Worsham, experienced more troubles than him, allowing Arend to advance to his fourth final.
After defeating points leader Mike Edwards in the semifinals, Coughlin and his JEGS.com Cobalt team entered the Pro Stock money round as the favorite, and he quickly proved he was up to the challenge. Coughlin got the jump at the starting line, .024 to .045, and that was the key. Allen Johnson ran a little better, 6.596 to 6.599, but it wasn’t enough to move him around Coughlin, who turned on the win light for the 62nd time in his career and the 49th time in Pro Stock.
“We’ve showed some brilliance lately, but unfortunately until this weekend, we’ve bowed out early, so we worked together with [team owner] Victor Cagnazzi, [chassis builder] Todd Bevis, and my father on upgrading the program. Our car has been temperamental for the last 12 races, but I think we’ve finally fixed the problems. Our speeds have really picked up a lot lately, and that shows the gains we’ve made in horsepower. Running the big back-half numbers like that is something that we haven’t done too often.”
As he did in Charlotte, where he was No. 1 qualifier, Coughlin got off to a good start in qualifying, ranking fourth in the final order, but unlike Charlotte, where he lost first round, he was able to carry it on to race day. His 6.582 in the opening round against Bob Yonke was the second-quickest pass of the round, and he one-upped that the following two rounds, posting the best times of those frames, 6.589 and 6.601, in respective wins against Greg Anderson and Edwards. The win against Edwards both snapped Edwards’ perfect run to finals for the year and earned Coughlin a spot in his 96th overall final and 78th in Pro Stock.
Johnson enjoyed his best outing of the year, capped by the appearance in his 18th career final. Johnson, whose last win and final round was Denver last year, defeated Johnny Gray in the first round, then got past Ronnie Humphrey in a wild 12.13 to 13.53 coasting match. Johnson advanced to his second Houston final when he bettered Ron Krisher in the semi’s.
With two riders who have had their struggles on the starting line in the past facing off in the Pro Stock Motorcycle final, it was no surprise the race was decided at the Tree. This time, Hector Arana went red and did so by a bunch (-.107), handing the victory to Hines, who posted a 6.998. It is the 19th win of Hines’ career and first at Houston Raceway Park.
“Hector is a great racer, and he always wishes everybody good luck and never has anything bad to say about anybody. But he knows that our motorcycle will always be running right up there at with the top of the pack and maybe it rattles him a bit to see our V-Rod in the other lane.”
Hines’ victory march began with a 6.940 win over Junior Pippin. He then posted low e.t. of the second round, 6.938, to end Karen Stoffer’s hopes. In the semi’s, Hines faced his Screamin’ Eagle/Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson teammate, Eddie Krawiec, and the pair put on quite a show that went in Hines’ favor, 6.905 to 6.913.
Arana qualified atop the sheets, and for much of Sunday, he appeared to be well on his way to sweeping the weekend. He was the quickest rider of the first round with a 6.871 that handily moved him around Steve Johnson. After a second-quickest-of-the-round 6.941 against Jim Underdahl in round two, Arana moved back to the front of the pack with a 6.888 in the semi’s that defeated Matt Smith and gave Arana lane choice for the final.
It wasn’t any easy win, by any means for Rowe, who qualified third for the event. Rowe drove past Pro Mod drivers Chip King, Mike Castellana, Joe Baker, and Troxel in the final round to earn the win.
Troxel made it to her first final round appearance in the category after qualifying in the 16th and final spot in the field Saturday afternoon.
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