Five Minutes With Larry Dixon
Larry Dixon is a second-generation drag racer who grew up watching his father, Larry Dixon Sr., compete against the sport’s top names in the ’60s and ’70s. This included a Top Fuel Eliminator win at the 1970 NHRA Winternationals. Racing was not a full-time gig for the elder Dixon; Larry Jr. wanted to make it one. “One thing I noticed early on was guys like Big Daddy, Snake, Mongoose, Shirley, Roland weren’t going home to their jobs. Racing was their job,” Dixon says. “That’s what I wanted to do.”
Dixon first pursued his racing passion as a crew member and then as a driver. After working for drag racing legend Don Prudhomme for six years, Dixon earned the team’s Top Fuel driving spot in 1995 – a dream come true for a kid who grew up idolizing “The Snake.” Dixon won his first NHRA National event in his second start and amassed a record that includes 62 wins, 51 top qualifying spots, 46 low elapsed time runs, and 33 top speed passes, not to mention three NHRA World Championships.
Dixon is now working to extend his racing passion to fans by offering the innovative Larry Dixon Top Fuel Experience, a ride-along program in a custom-built, 10,000-horsepower two-seat dragster. We caught up with Dixon for a few minutes to discuss his racing life, advice he’s received from mentors, and what he drives when he’s not in a race car.
Goodguys Gazette: Your father was a Top Fuel racer in the ’60s and ’70s. What are your earliest memories of the drag strip?
Larry Dixon: I grew up in Southern California. It seemed like every other week we went to a Top Fuel show at Lions or Irwindale or Orange County. Those were small facilities, but they were always packed. Mom would pick me up from school on Friday and we’d head to the track. I thought that’s how everybody lived.
GG: You crewed for drag racing legend Don “The Snake” Prudhomme early in your career, and then drove for him. What was that experience like? What was the best piece of advice he gave you?
Dixon: The thing I liked most about working for Snake was when you got to the track it was all business. If something needed to be sorted out, he wanted to test it before he got to the track. As far as advice goes, he had this saying: “Let a welder weld and a plumber plumb.” Meaning, leave it to the experts and don’t try and have all the answers yourself.
GG: We’ve heard about your ’66 Chevy II street machine. What can you tell us about it?
Dixon: Love that car! I got it a few years out of high school. I put a motor/trans in it and it ran low 11s on the bottle. It was a neat little sleeper. I was in between crew jobs and was having a good time with it. In the summer of ’88 I got a call from Snake looking for help to finish the year. I thought I’d work there for the rest of season and collect enough money to paint the Deuce. Well, Snake started winning and I’m collecting bonus money and having fun on his Funny Car. The rest is history – I was there for 20 years! Still haven’t painted the Nova. It’s got a LT4 in it now. Runs 9s and gets 22mpg on pump gas. It’s still not finished.
GG: A two-passenger Top Fuel exhibition car is at the center of the controversy between you and NHRA. Why are you so passionate about giving fans an opportunity to ride in a Top Fuel car?
Dixon: Before I built the car, I met with NHRA and they were enthusiastic on the concept. After several months of face-to-face meetings, emails, texts, and phone calls to voice their concerns, the car was built to their recommendations. In any of those meetings, if NHRA said this car would never be approved, I never would have built it. But it’s kind of hard to put the genie back in the bottle. The car is doing everything I hoped it would. Mid- to low-3s at 250ish mph in the 1/8-mile. We’ve given rides to young, old, guys, girls.
Last month I had a guy show up in his private jet to go for a ride and on that same day another guy had saved $65 a week for three years and they both hugged me and thanked me as it was the best time they ever had in their lives. It’s hard to feel like an outlaw when this car has that type of effect.
GG: You grew up in Southern California but now live in Indiana. What’s the most SoCal thing about you?
Dixon: Well, I still wear Vans. I have since elementary school. Also, I’ve been called out more than once for having the word “bitchin’” in my vocabulary.
GG: What advice would you give to someone looking to get into drag racing today?
Dixon: Work whatever angle you got and run with it. Some have money, some have sponsors, some have parents, some have talent. Some have more the one. Work what you got and grind. You’ll absolutely get whatever you want if you’re determined.
GG: What’s next for Larry Dixon?
Dixon: My life goal now is to someday work in one of my kids merchandise trailers. I say that half-jokingly, but my goals now are to help them achieve their goals, whatever they are. If I can do that, then I’ve made it.