Larry Dixon raced to his 12th Top Fuel victory of the season Sunday at the Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway. Cruz Pedregon, Dave Connolly and Andrew Hines also were winners at the fourth of six playoff races in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.
Dixon was on and off the throttle on his Al-Anabi Racing dragster to beat top championship rival Cory McClenathan in a wild final round. As both dragsters lost traction at points down the track, Dixon managed to cross the finish line first with a 4.90 sec run at 295.34mph performance, to hold off McClenathan's charging FRAM dragster, which finished in 5.103 at 199.70.
Dixon's dragster lost traction first, then McClenathan pulled away, only to have the blower belt break on his machine just before the finish line. That's when Dixon decided to get back on the gas and his determination ultimately paid off in the photo finish.
“Our car just hooked up,” Dixon said. “I had such a run on him, and I blew by him so fast. When I saw the win light come on, I was laughing and couldn't believe it all at the same time because that's a race you shouldn't win, and I just won.”
With the win, which also included early round victories over Terry McMillen, Doug Foley and David Grubnic, Dixon increased his series lead to 89 points over McClenathan with two races remaining in the season.
“It was a huge [day in the points],” Dixon said. “I mean, you're racing the No. 2 guy, and you could tighten it right up or spread it out. With two to go and over a four-round lead with eight rounds left, I'd rather be 90 up than 90 down.”
Pedregon (LEFT) continued to impress as a Countdown spoiler in Funny Car as he rumbled to his second victory in the post-season. Although not championship-eligible, Pedregon seems to be hitting his stride in his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry. He held-off new series points leader and national record holder Matt Hagan in the final round. Pedregon covered the distance in 4.130 at 312.35 while Hagan trailed with a 4.242 at 301.13 in his DieHard Dodge Charger.
“I'll be honest with you, if you had said a 4.13 was going to win that, I would have said no way,” said Pedregon, who beat Ashley Force Hood, Tony Pedregon and Del Worsham to advance to the final. “We tried getting after it. We were kind of going for broke. We thought unless we could run a mid-4.0 this guy was going to send us packing. He must have had problems, but it was just a good win for us. Hagan's going to be tough. I told Matt and his dad, ‘You guys are on the green. You just need to putt it in.'”
Hagan now leads 14-time world champion John Force, who lost in the first round, by 64 points. The Virginia cattle rancher came up just short of a perfect weekend.
"I knew the conditions were getting pretty good out there and I thought we had it in the bag," Hagan said. "But that's drag racing for you. We have a good racecar. We went down the racetrack every single lap today except for the final, and that's just how it goes. We swapped the points lead with Force, and that's huge. We have nothing to hang our heads about. As bad as it hurts inside we're going to stay humble, tie on a big grin and move right into Vegas.”
Connolly ended a two-year winless drought in Pro Stock by beating new series points leader Greg Anderson in the final round with a quicker reaction time. Connolly posted a 6.580 at 210.05 in his IDG Makita Power Tools Racing Chevy Cobalt to hold off the quicker, but losing performance of 6.579 at 209.75 by Anderson in his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP.
Connolly beat Ron Krisher, Larry Morgan and rookie Shane Gray en route to his 22nd career victory.
“It was just an incredible weekend all together,” Connolly said. “Just to be out here is a lot of fun. I've definitely learned over the last couple of years that you don't take anything for granted and just enjoy the weekends you do have out here because there's a lot who are less fortunate than what I have.”
With the runner-up finish and third consecutive final, Anderson moved 36 points in front of defending series champ Mike Edwards. Anderson is working on his fourth world championship title in the 200mph category.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hines finally beat rival LE Tonglet in a playoff final round. After falling to the rookie rider in the last three races, Hines used a hole shot start to take his fifth win of the season and 23rd of his career. Hines used a quicker reaction time and rode his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to a 6.916 at 188.36 to defeat Tonglet's quicker, but losing NitroFish Gear Suzuki, which finished in 6.913 at 190.40.
“When I saw that win light, that was one of the prettiest win lights I've seen in a long time,” Hines said. “I'm trying to rely on some of the other competitors out there to take LE out early, but we keep matching up in the final round. It's been tough with that little blue bike beating us the last few races. We were wondering what it was going to take to get it done.”
Hines outran early round opponents Neil Jacobs, Angie Smith and teammate Eddie Krawiec to advance to his seventh consecutive final round. With the win, Hines increased his series lead to 72 points over Tonglet.
“We have a nice cushion,” Hines said. “It could come down to just a few measly points there at the end.”
The NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship continues Oct. 28-31 with the NHRA Las Vegas Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.