NHRA: 3-time Top Fuel champ Larry Dixon making most of career resurgence

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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.

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Larry Dixon has reached two final rounds this season, including Houston. (Photo courtesy NHRA)

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.”

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Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.