Larry Dixon is making up for lost time – in VERY fast way, that is – as in the neighborhood of 320-plus mph and less than four seconds.
Dixon went from being on top of the drag racing world, with 62 national event race wins and three NHRA Top Fuel championships, to incredulously becoming a man without a full-time ride after the 2011 season.
It appeared that his career was all but over until veteran Top Fuel driver and team owner Bob Vandergriff gave Dixon a part-time Top Fuel ride last season.
Dixon’s performance was enough to convince Vandergriff to do something he had contemplated for a while – to step out from behind the wheel and focus solely on team ownership – making Dixon his hand-picked replacement on a full-time basis for the 2015 season.
To say the least, Dixon, 48, has not disappointed.
“I definitely think we’re going in the right direction,” Dixon said in an NHRA media release. “After Gainesville (walked away from a spectacular crash — see video above), we were 12th (in points) and now we’re in sixth and the car is running well.
“I ran a career-best E.T. and speed (this past Sunday at Topeka) and I think we have a top five car. I would like to think that we’re in a great spot to compete for a championship.”
While Dixon’s Bob Vandergriff Racing teammate Dave Connolly, a former standout in the Pro Stock ranks, has struggled at times in his first season in Top Fuel (13th in the standings), Dixon is definitely impressing in his 10,000-horsepower C&J Energy Services dragster.
While he hasn’t won a race in the first eight on the 24-event national schedule, Dixon has twice motored his way into the finals this season, including this past Sunday at Topeka, as well as a few weeks earlier at Houston (photo). He also has a semi-final finish in a third race.
“There is a lot of newness and you have to try to get in that groove to run every week,” Dixon said of a crew that includes several first-time members, including crew chief Mike Guger. “The (Gainesville) accident set us back.
“The car was running well before that happened. But a lot of credit goes to Bob for making sure we have everything it takes to bounce back. He bought the new car and got it ready, and Bob gives us everything we need, as far as parts and people, to compete week in and week out so a lot of credit goes to him.
“I think everyone on the team has something to offer. We were able to bounce back from (the crash) and we’ve gone in the right path since then.”
The next race on the schedule is next weekend’s Toyota Summernationals, June 4-7, at one of the sport’s most legendary facilities, Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J.
Dixon is ready to continue making up for all the lost time before his career was revived by Vandergriff.
“Ever since I was a kid I wanted to race Top Fuel cars,” Dixon said. “I had the opportunity for a long time and I wasn’t sure if I would get another opportunity again.
“The opportunity with Bob and his team came up and I’m trying to take full advantage.”
As the SuperMotocross season heads outdoors, the NBC Power Rankings change significantly with results from the Motocross opener at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. The Power Rankings assign a numeric value to each individual moto (90 points maximum) as well as the overall standings (100 points) and averages that number over the past 45 days. Included in the Power Rankings are results from the final five Supercross rounds, which fit into that 45-day timeframe.
It didn’t take long for Jett Lawrence to rocket to the top of the SuperMotocross rankings – only about 74 minutes in fact. Lawrence dominated his first moto and beat his teammate Chase Sexton, the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross champion, to the line by 10 seconds. He had to fight a little harder for the second moto win as Sexton stalked him throughout the race and ended up less than a second behind.
Beginning this week, we have added the SuperMotocross points’ ranking beside the rider’s name and in one fell swoop, Lawrence went from being unranked in the 450 class to 26th. To qualify for the inaugural SuperMotocross’ guaranteed 20 positions that automatically make the gate for the three-race championship series, Lawrence needs to be inside the top 20 in combined Supercross and Motocross points. The bubble is currently held by Justin Starling and Lawrence needs to make up 44 points to overtake him.
Sexton’s second-place finish in the overall standings at Fox Raceway marked his ninth consecutive top-five finish. After the race, Sexton compared the battle he had with Lawrence to the one he experienced with Eli Tomac in last year’s Pro Motocross championship. These two riders had a significant advantage over the field in Pala, but there is still a lot of racing to be completed.
After missing 13 rounds to a concussion, Dylan Ferrandis told NBC Sports that he was not going to do anything risky in the season opener at Fox Raceway. If he dialed back his effort at all, one would be hard-pressed to notice. He finished third in both motos and was third in the overall standings. Ferrandis began the weekend just outside the top 20 in combined SuperMotocross points and climbed to 19th. In the next few weeks, he will get a little more breathing room over the cutline and then challenge for wins.
Adam Cianciarulo’s three-race streak of top-five finishes ended with a sixth-place overall at Fox Raceway, but that was enough to advance him one position in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings and land him eighth in the combined points standings. His individual motos were moderate, but Cianciarulo is still battling the effects of injury and a nagging loss of strength in his wrist.
Aaron Plessinger returned from injury in the Supercross season finale to finish second at Salt Lake City. He added another top-five to his season total and now has six of those in the 13 rounds he’s made. With Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac not currently racing in Motocross, Plessinger has an opportunity to rise to the third seeding in short order.
A bad start to Moto 1 at Fox Raceway was not enough to deter Hunter Lawrence. Neither was the fact that he was riding with sore ribs after experiencing a practice crash earlier in the week. He was a distant 10th to start the first race and for most of the 30 minutes, it seemed he would finish off the podium. Lawrence did not win the 250 East Supercross championship by giving in to hopelessness or pain, however.
Lawrence picked off one rider and then another until he found the battle for the top five in front of him at the halfway point. Once the field started to lap riders, Lawrence used the opportunity to continue forward through the grid. He passed third-place Jo Shimoda with two laps remaining and challenged Maximus Vohland for second on the final trip around Fox Raceway, but had to settle for the final spot on the podium. Lawrence dominated Moto 2 and claimed the overall victory in Pala.
Justin Cooper made his first start of the season at Fox Raceway and earned enough NBC Power Average points to climb to second. Partly this was due to consistently strong runs in both motos and a 5-4 that gave him the fifth position overall, but he is also not weighed down with moderate Supercross results. It will take a week or two to see where his strength lands him on the grid.
RJ Hampshire may feel he has something to prove after finishing second to Jett Lawrence in the 250 SX West division. He certainly rode like that was the case in Moto 1 and easily outpaced the field on his way to victory lane. In Moto 2, he crashed twice on Lap 1 and dropped back to 39th. It took half of the race to get inside the top 20 and salvage points. By the end of the race, he was 11th and while that was enough to get him on the overall podium, it cost him points in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings.
Haiden Deegan surprised the field in Houston in his 250 Supercross debut by finishing fifth. At the time, he said his strong result was because there were no expectations. He echoed that statement after the Motocross season opener. His second-place finish in the overall standings was enough to project him five positions up the SuperMotocross Rankings. In 11 rounds in the combined series, Deegan has earned seven top-fives and a worst finish of eighth.
Jo Shimoda did not make his first Supercross race of 2023 until late in the season. He finished fourth on the hybrid track of Atlanta, which had some similar elements to Fox Raceway. His fourth-place finish in Moto 1 of the Motocross opener made it seem likely he would score an overall podium, but a sixth in the second race cost him points in the NBC Power Rankings in a field that promises to be extremely tight.
Driver (SMX rank)
Hunter Lawrence (1)
Justin Cooper (42)
RJ Hampshire (3)
Haiden Deegan (4)
Jo Shimoda (16)
Guillem Farres (46)
Levi Kitchen (6)
Max Anstie (5)
Max Vohland (8)
Enzo Lopes (10)
Mitchell Oldenburg (13)
Carson Mumford (19)
Jordon Smith (7)
Ryder DiFrancesco (48)
Chris Blose (12)
Chance Hymas (27)
Tom Vialle (9)
Jett Reynolds (55)
Michael Mosiman (28)
Garrett Marchbanks (64)
* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner in Supercross and overall winner in Motocross. It awards 90 points for each Moto, Heat and Triple Crown win. The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.