DIXON ON CUSP OF NHRA TOP FUEL RETURN
Larry Dixon, a three-time Top Fuel champion, hasn’t competed in the sport’s top division in NHRA competition since 2017.
That could soon change.
Dixon recently regained his NHRA Top Fuel license and is hopeful of returning to the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series sooner rather than later. A suspension by NHRA has been lifted, though his April 2019 lawsuit against the sanctioning body that’s tied to that suspension is still working its way through the courts.
“There was a team that was inquiring about my availability and then an actual sponsor,” Dixon said, “and they were both basically wondering about my status with the NHRA and stuff. I said that I could get my license back any time, I just hadn't because there hadn't been any interest. I had both of them say, 'Why don't you see if you can actually get your license?' So I filled out the app and turned in all the forms and got licensed.
“It's basically a crossover (license) because I've kept my IHRA license through everything, so it was just a matter of filling out an application and turning in time slips from the past year. I didn't have to make any runs or do anything like that.”
Dixon won NHRA crowns in 2002-03 and 2010, and he was the runner-up to Tony Schumacher for the ’09 title by a scant two points. Combined, they are the most successful drivers in Top Fuel history, with Schumacher topping the list at 84 victories and Dixon second at 62.
The last time Dixon visited Victory Lane in NHRA Top Fuel action was Oct. 16, 2011, at Phoenix. But even as he approaches his 54th birthday in October, he’s never lost the desire to compete at the top level, he’s just been derailed.
A disagreement with NHRA over a decal on his Top Fuel car led to Dixon’s indefinite suspension. He has since campaigned the Larry Dixon Racing dragster in match races and in IHRA competition, primarily at Grand Bend, Ontario, Martin, Mich., and Cordova, Ill. He also built, without being discouraged by NHRA leading up to the dragster’s construction by Murf McKinney, a two-seat Top Fueler. The NitroX2, which delivers its riders a thrill they will never forget, is available at $9,995 per pass with Dixon at the wheel.
Part of the deal to have the suspension lifted included the addition of a decal on the two-seater’s side panels:
Motorsports Extremists Warning:
This car is not approved by or affiliated with the NHRA in any way.
As for the lawsuit, Dixon said he has “to take the same position as NHRA, so I can't comment too much on it. Just trying to get some of my rights back, is all.”
Dixon’s uncertain at this point when he will make his NHRA competition return. COVID-19’s effect on the economy worldwide is affecting NHRA’s schedule, race teams and, in multiple instances, sponsorship.
“When the time is right, it'll happen,” he said “There's so much going on in our lives, other people's lives, in our country, it'd just be neat to go out there.
“I don't know that I've ever raced with half these guys. It's a different crowd of people out there now. But ever since I was a little kid and was going to races with my dad, I've loved drag racing. Drag racing will be a part of my life for my whole life, whether it's a one-seater or two.”
In the meantime, the two-seater is getting steady work. Dixon recently made three runs at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park in Martin, Mich., with customers strapped into the dragster directly behind him, and he’s scheduled to make four passes at Memphis Motorsports Park on Sept. 26. Insurance guidelines limit him to eighth-mile bursts, but the customer still gets a hair-raising ride of about 3.3 seconds in the 250-mph range.
“It's still a Top Fuel car,” he said, “and people are still mesmerized by 10,000 horsepower. And the fact that we've got a back seat in our Top Fuel car makes it even more interesting to watch.”
All that racing is being forced to take a back seat in Larry Dixon’s life.
Dixon’s wife, Allison, was diagnosed with breast cancer in July, underwent surgery three weeks later, and is now receiving chemotherapy. Larry is a cancer survivor, having undergone chemo for throat cancer in 2014 after the NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif., through early 2015 until preseason testing in West Palm Beach, Fla. (Dixon then broke two vertebrae in his back a couple of months later in a crash at Gainesville, Fla.)
“It helps a little bit,” he said of how his cancer experience helps him deal with his wife’s condition. “This is a little bit more invasive on her part than mine was. I feel like although mine seemed major at the time, right now it seems like a little bit more than an office visit to get your teeth cleaned.
“It's just … gosh, yeah, it's a lot. It's tough on anybody. You talk to anyone, whether cancer has affected them personally or someone in their immediate family, everyone has a story on it. We're no different. … Again, looking back in time, mine doesn't seem like a big deal compared to what we're going through right now. It's part of our life; yet another chapter in my book.”
In addition to the up-side of modern medical treatment, Allison Dixon also has a high degree of determination on her side. A stellar athlete in high school, she attended Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Mich., on a soccer scholarship.
“She’s definitely competitive. We're going in to win, no different than racing,” Larry said. “We've got three kids (ages 14, 18 and 20) that we're fighting to live to watch them grow up. It doesn't take much motivation past your kids.”