Larry Dixon started his 42nd year in drag racing this weekend.
Quite an accomplishment for a 41-year-old.
The two-time NHRA Top Fuel season champion made his first trips to dragstrips in utero as his mother watched his father, Larry Sr., race.
“My dad was racing Top Fuel in 1965, and I was born the next year, so I’ve always been going to races,” Dixon said Saturday.
Dixon is starting his 20th season with the team owned by racing legend Don “The Snake” Prudhomme. The team spent the past two days shaking down its dragster at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in preparation for a new National Hod Rod Association season.
After today’s final sessions, Dixon and five other racers will head for Firebird International Raceway near Phoenix for more testing.
Dixon said the focus this weekend has been for crew chief Don Bender to adjust to an increase from a maximum of 85 percent nitromethane to 90 percent, a new NHRA rule in 2008.
When the team lost sponsorship for Dixon’s dragster late last year, Prudhomme opted to drop his Funny Car entry and shift its U.S. Smokeless Tobacco sponsorship to Dixon’s car. That left driver Tommy Johnson Jr. without a job, but he since has been hired to drive for Kenny Bernstein.
Dixon, who has won 41 NHRA event titles and recorded season championships in 2002 and 2003, has grown up amid the uncertainties of racing. But he can’t imagine life without it.
“Everything in my life I got from drag racing,” he said, noting that he met his wife, Allison, through the sport. “I have no complaints. Not one.”
A few years ago, however, Dixon began to wonder how he would earn a living if he were not a professional racer.
“I started to get paranoid about if I quit driving how would I take care of my family?” he said.
Out of that concern has grown a commercial real estate business.
Dixon designed and built a race team shop in Brownsburg, Ind., and leased it to a drag racing team. He added a second one and leased it out. Now he is nearing completion on a third in the ever-growing drag racing hub near Indianapolis.
Perhaps his next career move will be to own a drag racing team.
“That’s the only move up,” Dixon said. “I won’t do it against Prudhomme, but (I) have to think at some point he’ll retire.”
Contact reporter Jeff Wolf at firstname.lastname@example.org or (702) 383-0247.