By Rob Geiger, www.NHRA.com

Larry Dixon gave drag racing legend and team owner Don "the Snake" Prudhomme the 100th win of his career Sunday by beating Doug Kalitta in a thrilling Top Fuel final at the sixth annual NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals in Las Vegas. Dixon used a 4.59 at 326 mph to better Kalitta's 4.64 at 319 mph to take his 36th NHRA trophy, all of which have come under the Prudhomme Racing umbrella.

Whit Bazemore and Dave Connolly used wins in Funny Car and Pro Stock to pole vault back into points leads in their respective categories. Bazemore drove around first-time finalist Tony Bartone in Funny Car to retake the POWERade points lead from John Force, while Connolly conquered Vegas king Greg Anderson by nearly a tenth of a second to pass Warren Johnson for first place in the rankings.

 
Larry Dixon

Aside from Prudhomme himself, who scored 49 national event wins, Dixon's 36 victories account for a big part of Prudhomme's stunning total of 100 wins. Dixon himself is now nearing immortal status as he moves into third place on the all-time win list in the class, just behind Kenny Bernstein's 39 and 16 back from Joe Amato's 52.

A devout chronicler of drag racing history and minutia, Dixon was obviously well aware of the historic moment at hand as he blazed from the gate with a great .041-second reaction time. He then rode crew chief Dick LaHaie's tune-up to the stripe with his 4.591 at 326.40 mph easily beating Kalitta's 4.648 at 319.52 mph.

For the second race in a row, the first and second qualifiers raced through to the Top Fuel final. This was also a rematch of the Gainesville final, which Kalitta won. Dixon has reached the finals here for the last four years in a row. He's now third in the points, 68 out of the lead.

"I think it's way cool to get 100 wins for Snake," Dixon said. "I think he had like 30-something wins and he was still racking them up. To be here now talking about 100 wins for ¿Snake¿ makes me feel very old all of a sudden.

"We didn't make a full run in qualifying when the sun was out but I had faith in Dicko [crew chief Dick LaHaie] and I really slept pretty good last night. It wouldn't have done any good to sweat it. Dicko made it happen today and all the credit goes to him. It's funny because sometimes I wish I was at the starting line when the win light comes on and there's a big number on the board. I'm always the last to know."

The accolades for LaHaie continued with Prudhomme.

"We don't really keep track of numbers like [the media] does, but if 100 is special then I want to dedicate it to Dick," Prudhomme said. "This sport is so demanding on crew chiefs. The time and energy it takes is too much some times and you can question why you're doing it or if you really want to continue. Dick takes it deeply serious and I worry about him leaving some times, so let's give any credit that 100 wins brings to Dick. He deserves it."

Dixon guided his Miller Lite dragster past Mike Strasburg, Brandon Bernstein, and Dave Grubnic to reach his 65th career final round and second of the year. Although he got slower each round heading to the money round, Dixon's 4.74 from the semis gave him lane choice over Kalitta.

Mac Tools pro Kalitta raced from the top slot past Scott Palmer, a broken Jack Beckman, and points leader Tony Schumacher for his 42nd chance at NHRA glory. Like Dixon, Kalitta slowed slightly in each round as the heat increased.

Schumacher entered this event 52 points ahead of Morgan Lucas. He's now 60 ahead of his nearest rival, Doug Kalitta, meaning he gained ground in Las Vegas. Considering he only made one run down the track in qualifying and began race day in the 13th slot, his worst start in three years, Schumacher might look back on his good fortune here as a turning point in another championship run.

 
Whit Bazemore

Bazemore collected his second win in the last three races and, when combined with former points leader Force's first-round exit, managed to pad his lead in the standings to 61 points, which translates to slightly more than three rounds of racing action.

The lead changed hands twice in the final. Bazemore streaked out first with a .083- to .116-second reaction time advantage, but at half-track Bartone was actually ahead by a fraction of a second. Not backing down, Bazemore kept his foot in it and got his Matco Tools Dodge Stratus R/T around his rival for his second win of the season and 19th overall. Bazemore had four runner-up finishes here in the past.

"I didn't really feel any pressure today because I was under so much yesterday that I think I used it all up," said Bazemore, who didn't qualify for the race until the final time trial. "I was thinking that even if we lost in the first round we were still 20 points better than it looked like it was going to be. I have to admit, I was really nervous yesterday afternoon.

"Then I watched [teammate Ron] Capps take out Force in the first round right in front of me and I knew we had a tremendous opportunity in front of us. It was hard to focus, but the guys came through and we managed to take out a great-running car in the final. Typically, the semi's are the worst conditions of the weekend and Bartone ran a 4.92, which was tremendous. We had to take them very seriously.

"To have 19 wins is hard to believe. You could have just one and call it a successful career. Now I have 19 in 300 career races. I'm very grateful for what I've been able to do."

Bazemore got to his 43rd final by beating former series champion Tony and Cruz Pedregon, as well as rookie Robert Hight. As the No. 12 qualifier, every one of Bazemore's wins could be classified as upsets. His 5.30 against Hight was beatable and he edged Cruz by just four-thousandths of a second.

An NHRA champion in the Top Alcohol Funny Car ranks, Bartone needed just 41 races at the Pro level to break through for his first final-round showing. He surprised Tommy Johnson Jr., Tim Wilkerson, and Ron Capps on the day, posting one of the quickest passes of the day, 4.92 seconds, over Capps to get to the final. Bartone racked up 25 TAFC and three TAD victories during his sportsman career.

Phil Burkart Jr., the POWERade points leader after the Phoenix race, dropped out of the top 10 this weekend after qualifying 10th and losing in the first round to Bob Gilbertson. Burkart is now 11th overall, three behind teammate Del Worsham but only 22 points out of fifth place.

 
Dave Connolly

Pro Stock winner Connolly now has five career victories to his credit; four of them have come against Sunday's final-round victim Anderson. The third-year racer has been to nine finals in the last 15 races including three of the first five this season, making him the hottest driver in the class and, once again, the POWERade points leader.

Anderson entered the final with 19 consecutive elimination-round wins at this racetrack. But Connolly showed him that all good things eventually come to an end, driving away for a 6.879- to 6.955-second win

"It seems like Greg's always over there in the other lane," Connolly said. "To outrun him in a final round says a lot because that's a great team over there. He's the champ and the guy we're all chasing. But I guess he didn't scare us all away over the winter. We just went to work.

"I'm bummed that we have to put the cover on this Cavalier now. We're debuting the Cobalt at the next race and it'll be hard to shelf this car the way it's been running. But I think we'll back-half even better.

"I think the key to staying up front is not to get cocky and just keep running the way we are. 'Grump' [engine builder Bill Jenkins] is making awesome horsepower and he just works for us now so we're at a point where we have three great motors under the bench now. That's what it takes to run for a championship."

Connolly ran a gauntlet of heavyweights in his Bullet Motorsports Chevrolet to get to his third final of the year and 11th overall. The 22-year-old beat Jason Line, Kurt Johnson, and Greg Stanfield with a string of mid-6.8-second passes and an average reaction time of .019 seconds.

Anderson now has an awesome total of 47 final rounds in just seven years of racing after driving past Richie Stevens, Jeg Coughlin, and Warren Johnson. The semifinal grudge match with W.J. felt like the main event and the .0018-second margin of victory the student carded over "the Professor" came after a big .035- to .071-second holeshot.

Defending AMS Staff Leasing Pro Mod Challenge champion Mike Ashley got some revenge on Valvoline's Jay Payne when he claimed the rematch of Gainesville finale for his Torco Race Fuels team. Ashley left the line first, .051 to .072, and arrived at the finish line first, with a 6.277 at 227.84 mph to Payne's 6.361 at 228.58 mph, to even their head-to-head final-round record this year.

Top Alcohol Funny Car -- Steve Gasparrelli 
Super Stock -- Kevin Smith 
Stock Eliminator -- Steve Wann 
Super Comp -- Robert Naber 
Super Gas -- Ed Olpin

ARSLANIAN, LADWIG, EFANTIS, CRAWFORD AND HILLIER EARN VICTORIES

AT THE NITTO SPORT COMPACT NATIONALS AT LAS VEGAS

 

            LAS VEGAS ¿ Ara Arslanian earned his third career Pro RWD victory Sunday at the third annual Nitto Sport Compact Nationals at the sixth annual NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

            Marty Ladwig (Pro FWD), Paul Efantis (Modified), Mike Crawford (Hot Rod) and Shawn Hillier (All Motor) also won their respective categories at the second of 11 events in the $2.1 million NHRA Summit Sport Compact Drag Racing Series.

  Arslanian, who finished third in the 2004 final point standings, was handed the victory when final round opponent and current points leader Steph Papadakis left the starting line early. Papadakis, who qualified No. 1 for the event in his AEM Honda Civic, had been dominant through qualifying and his early round appearance, but cold do nothing as he watched Arslanian cruise to the finish line for the victory and cut into his lead in the standings.

  Ladwig, the two-time defending Hot Rod world champion, earned his second consecutive Pro FWD event win by driving down the quarter-mile in 8.618 seconds at 170.28 mph in his GM Racing Chevy Cobalt. Ladwig¿s performance was enough to hold off the charge made by Bergenholtz¿s Mazda 6, which shut the clocks off at 9.159 at 177.02 for the runner-up finish.

  Efantis, the defending NHRA Summit Modified world champion, padded his lead in the point standings with his second consecutive victory on the season. The 24-year-old blasted his Lucas Oil Toyota Solara to the finish line in 7.252 at 191.13, outrunning the Lexus of Justin Humphreys which ran a slower time of 7.371 at 187.00.

  Crawford¿s third career Hot Rod victory came when No. 1 qualifier Ron Lummus suffered mechanical problems in his Pontiac Sunfire and was rolled off the starting line giving Crawford a solo run to the winner¿s circle. Crawford had plenty of time to enjoy the win  as he opted to cruise down the quarter-mile in 24.028 at 28.59 in his Mopar Dodge SR-T.

  Hillier, the current points leader and winner of the season-opening event in Florida, also expended his lead in the All Motor standings with his second career victory in as many races. Hillier, who made his NHRA debut this season, had a perfect reaction time of .000 and would have been hard to beat but final round opponent Jesus Padilla left prior to the green light start and was disqualified.

  This event marked the first time ever where competitors from the NHRA Summit Sport Compact Drag Racing Series earned championship points at one of the events that comprise the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. The next such event will be the Nitto NHRA Sport Compact Summer Nationals at the 17th annual O¿Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals, May 26-29, at Heartland Park Topeka.

  The next event on the NHRA Summit Sport Compact Drag Racing Series schedule is the fifth annual Nitto NHRA Sport Compact Springnationals, April 30-May 1, at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park at Englishtown N.J.

 

 

LAS VEGAS -- Sunday's final results from the third annual Nitto NHRA Sport Compact Nationals at the Sixth annual NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the second of 11 events in the $2.1 million NHRA Summit Sport Compact Drag Racing Series.

 

PRO RWD -- Ara Arslanian, Solara, 15.880, 51.67  def. Stephan Papadakis, Honda Civic, foul.

 

PRO FWD -- Marty Ladwig, Cobalt, 8.618, 170.28  def. Ed Bergenholtz, Mazda, 9.159, 177.02.

 

MODIFIED -- Paul Efantis, Toyota Solara, 7.252, 191.13  def. Justin Humphreys, Lexus GS300, 7.371, 187.00.

 

HOT ROD -- Mike Crawford, SRT-4, 24.028, 28.59  def. Ron Lummus, Pontiac, broke.

 

ALL MOTOR -- Shawn Hillier, Acura RSX, 10.558, 111.16  def. Jesus Padilla, Mazda RX7, foul.