Larry Dixon’s Dilemma

Larry Dixon SEMA 2017
Larry Dixon poses with the dragster in question at the SEMA 2017 show. Photo: Larry Dixon Facebook

The curious tale of NHRA’s sanctions to its three-time Top Fuel world champion Larry Dixon might have its roots in the initial appearance, at Gainesville in March of this year, of Dixon’s eponymous team.

Dixon has been diligently working to put his own team together for several years and secured sufficient sponsorship to enter the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals. On arrival, his team was told to remove any reference to that sponsor, the World Series of Drag Racing, a property owned by NHRA’s competitor IHRA, before he was permitted to qualify for the third event of 24 on the 2017 calendar.

That he did, but it was evident he burnt a hole in his relationship with NHRA’s tech department. Dixon qualified 13th for that race but was unable to race Brittany Force in the first round of eliminations as he suffered mechanical maladies during his burnout. That was the last we saw of Dixon’s dragster for the year; he raced Bartone Brothers’ Lucas Oil sportsman Top Alcohol Funny Car from mid-season, winning in May in Norwalk.

When Dixon’s innovative two-seater dragster appeared in the Traxxas booth at the SEMA show held in Las Vegas, just two days removed from the 17th Toyota NHRA Nationals, penultimate race of the year, the chassis held a two-year-old, expired chassis [inspection] sticker issued by NHRA. Dixon, talking to www.competitionplus.com’s Bobby Bennett, thought nothing of the fact, but NHRA wasn’t happy and made certain they removed the sticker that same day (last Tuesday).

That was the last Dixon heard about the kerfuffle until this past Monday, when NHRA announced his indefinite exclusion from competition in both the Mello Yello and Lucas Oil (sportsman) series. It’s unknown whether Dixon intended to compete for Bartone Brothers in the Pomona series finale this weekend; their TAFC car isn’t on the entry list. NHRA has declined to speak further on the subject.

Read More: Dixon in Deep DooDoo with NHRA

It was Dixon’s intent, in having SFI chassis committee member and longtime nitro tub constructor Murf McKinney rebuild this car to include a second cockpit, to help market NHRA’s Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Although a side-by-side Super Comp two-seater has been constructed and is being used by racing school owner and instructor Frank Hawley, Dixon’s machine would be the first Top Fuel dragster with a second, inline seat available for rides.

As Dixon explained to Bennett, “Everything that runs in exhibition – wheel-standers, jet cars, jet trucks, two-seat gas dragsters, two-seat top fuel dragster – there is no SFI spec to get in. I didn’t know and I’m obviously very sorry to create all this uproar.”

The two-seater dragster, which Dixon named NitroX2 has run at several tracks. Notably, in a video designed to promote the ride-along program, Dixon filmed at Palm Beach International Raceway (PBIR) in Florida, an IHRA track; he also put the car through its paces at NHRA-sanctioned Edgewater Sports Park, located near Cincinnati, Ohio.

Larry Dixon, a 62-race winner in NHRA Top Fuel, said he’d never intended to surprise the sanctioning body with the car. He said he’d told current president Peter Clifford about the car and had asked for blessings from Graham Light, vice president of operations, who declined to approve the car, which would strictly be used for exhibition, never for competition.

Light was likely concerned about safety of the car, and also wanted to know the business plan Dixon was proposing for it. He wanted to know the tune and who would be crewing the car, as Dixon explained his idea of running on Mondays after events, when many competitors stay to test. Dixon also spoke of possible integration into the show, when the second-generation drag racing star might take a visiting celebrity or VIP for an eighth-mile ride of a lifetime.

Dixon presented his insurance policy to the series, told them how the car would work and what the chassis load would be. Although Light didn’t agree to the car being part of NHRA’s marketing programs, he did not deny Dixon the right to have McKinney convert the chassis.

Dixon just doesn’t understand why Light has decided to deny approval for the car. Does the rationale go back to March and his appearance in Gainesville? Is Light worried about insurance and liability to NHRA? With NHRA continuing to remain mum on this issue, the onus is on Light and his technical group to explain why they won’t welcome a marketing program that can bring more corporate and fan exposure to the excitement of NHRA drag racing.

About Anne Proffit 16 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.
  • Robert Swain

    Looks like the NHRA is hooting themselves in the foot again.

  • William P. Tiedje

    The NHRA cannot stand anyone to make any improvements to racing without their blessing , I would tell them to go EFFFF them self and run IHRA …

    • Tony Rutherford

      I agree with you William……….a bit of innovation creeps in that will advantage the sport and the pricks whoooohaaa it…..tell ’em to jam it up their derrierres and go IHRA.

  • Gary Moscato

    I think Larry Dixon is a genius! ….
    Everyone knows that drag racing for the most part is a boring spectator sport. I really believe that if there was a program that would allow spectators to take an eighth mile blast in one of these cars, it could give a huge boost to the spectators who are interested in this sport. I think that giving just one spectator a ride would add tons of hype to this whole sport. Just imagine if dozens of spectators were able to participate!

  • Paul Johnson

    Yeah, not enough 13 car fields and ‘all chebby’ pro stock program—straightline NASCAR coming soon!

    • Don Roden

      You nailed it…..NASCAR …

      Run your top headliners off.

  • Russell Pottenger

    Another hypocrisy from NHRA.
    They say they’re concerned about safety, but why do they allow

  • Steve Penrose

    This is nothing but a big bully (NHRA) getting their panties in a bunch because someone thought of something fun to do at the drags. Guess they think the only thing fans come for is try and get a good reaction time at that silly little booth. Get real NHRA your attendance is going into the cellar , time to open your big eye. (Cyclops reference intended)

  • See The Future

    NHRA executives are overpaid underworked leaches all about killing the host. Graham Light departed from racing 40 years ago and is well beyond his best before date. I used to love going to National Events until it became a travelling team circus.

  • Larry Hawkins

    If they don’t get money from a company they can’t sponsor a car, Try to show up sponsored by Gatorade, will not be allowed in the pits, Coke products only. It is no longer racing its a show, innovation is no longer allowed. How is it racing if you all run the same tires, heads, blowers, fuel, and look at prostock, revlimiters, all the same fi units, pure B>S>

  • Still a fan

    What ever happened to the NHRA that allowed a ” Run whatcha brung” type of racing ? TV Tommy Ivo”s 2 engine dragster wouldn’t be allowed now. Anything that doesn’t fit in the ” cookie cutter” is no longer allowed, I am not surprised that attendance is dropping at many venues now. Jet dragsters just don’t cut it anymore. We need more door slammer like Super Stock that we can relate to.
    .

  • Frank Semonious

    I think I know why street racing is so popular. Because that’s the only real drag racing left. When Drag Racing was born, not a lot time was spent on safety. In fact we were rather proud that as spectators we were in a more dangerous position than the drivers. Having NHRA be in charge of drag racing is like putting your grandma in charge of planning an orgy. It’s probably not going to be very fun, and you will probably regret even attending. Picture of car we sold to go street racing. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ff6a8fca3d82770ec6a785c1d0f0f9737aa51c1950f980f0c1feee32c198f6b2.jpg

    • theodore

      man you right think you somebody see what I see we need more eyes .

  • Aquay Mizmo

    Wow. This story can’t be true. Censorship of sponsors must be hogwash. Say it ain’t so?

  • HAOLEBOY55

    This is the reason why NHRA has been loosing attendance the keep biting the hands that feed them mainly the dedicated racers and the fans who support them. Larry Dixon has always shown to be a stand up guy for this sport, when he was world champ and drawing thousands of fans NHRA didn’t complain then. Why should they care what sponsors they have they’re not paying for it. Your regulations are becoming idiotic and distasteful

  • HAOLEBOY55

    NHRA is dying a slow death to it self inflicting greed and ruining a good sport. Outlaws will always rule the quarter mile

  • MSAutoWorks

    I have been a fan of Drag Racing since 1984 when my father brought me to Englishtown for the first time. If the NHRA wants to continue they need to get a T.V. network to actually air it , and not 6 hours later after the race is over. ……Say no to the NASCAR type format , Mike Dunn got screwed out of a broadcasting job, Who else got the axe? ………I would rather watch FIA & ANDRA on MAv T.V. , different cars and nicer drivers who actually rely on the fans to make a living, All the NHRA has to do is drop one fuel pump and one mag and then return the full 1320.
    What is next 358 cube engines for Pro-stock ? Don’t forget the death of Pro-Stock trucks.
    Wally Parks must be turning in his grave , RIP Wally and thank you for creating the NHRA because that is what has driven me to the sport since 1984 , If it wasn’t for Drag Racing I wouldn’t be a technician today, and when I could spend time with my dad .
    I wish the IHRA was bigger , the American public should demand a 24/7 Drag Racing channel on T.V.
    Thanks ,sorry for the long rant but this really grinds my gears!

  • MSAutoWorks

    Does anybody remember the Top Fuel dragster that was sponsored by Playboy Magazine? Did that get censured ? It is not about the name but what it symbolized.

  • WhatsammatteU

    NHRA is going down the same rabbit hole as NASCAR, over regulation, cookie cutter cars led by oversized teams and super big bucks. It isn’t about the innovator anymore, now it all about the team. NHRA lost me years ago, oh I still check in now and then just to see which team is allowed to win this time.
    When it was announced that Fox Sports was taking over the broadcasting rights we were told how much better the broadcast’s were going to be,,,Really? I would much prefer to see the Super Stocks and the non professional categories than all these ” paid ” hot shot drivers in team cars.

  • James Robin

    PLEASE tell me that this doesnt have anything to do with alleged sexual misconduct like whats happenin in Hollywood? I am tired of all the “finger pointing” thats been goin on with all the rich and powerful celebrities? I’m even quite sure how that would happen with a T.F. 2 seater and Dixon?

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