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.