NORWALK, Ohio – Accustomed to competing for world championships, progress means something a little different for Top Fuel standout Larry Dixon in 2013.
As part of the new, Australian-based Rapisarda Top Fuel team, the three-time world champion is experiencing all of the growing pains associated with a rookie team that has jumped into one of the most competitive classes in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
But Dixon continues to see progress and there may be a chance for more this weekend as he returns to Ohio, a state that has produced five of his 62 career wins. Two of those have come at Summit Motorsports Park, the site of the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, July 4-7, and the 13th of 24 races in the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season. Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Mike Neff (Funny Car), Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were the 2012 winners at the race at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park, which will be televised on ESPN2 HD.
Dixon will be an underdog in another loaded Top Fuel field, but his major objective is seeing more improvement out of the 8,000-horsepower Rapisarda dragster that has posted three round wins in 2013.
“We’re doing the best we can and everyone on the team is working extremely hard,” Dixon said. “We are trying to find the right knobs to turn to run with the contenders. The team is working very hard to get the power to the ground with the new equipment and I think we can get better this weekend.”
Dixon ran a solid 3.832 at 317.87 mph to qualify No. 12 last weekend in Chicago, and has been as quick as 3.814 in the team’s learning year. The learning curve is also a constant one, as the team recently switched to bigger cylinder heads for the dragster.
That has led to more adjustments for a group led by crew chief Richard Hogan and crew members Santo Jr. and Tito Rapisarda, who are the sons of team owner Santo Rapisarda.
“Things are going well and (Santo Jr. and Tito) are getting more experience,” Dixon said. “You’re always trying to improve your race package, and with the new cylinder heads and equipment, we just need more runs right now.
“The bigger cylinder heads change the power level of the engine and we’re trying to sort out the clutch as well. Hopefully we can get the car back in the top half of the field in Norwalk.”
The good news is that Dixon has meshed well with the Rapisarda team, setting the Australian national record in March.
He’s also adept at succeeding in the warmer conditions the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals will bring. Learning from the likes of crew chief masterminds Dick LaHaie and Allen Johnson over the course of his standout career, Dixon will try to again apply those lessons at Summit Motorsports Park, where he won in 2010 and 2009.