Larry Dixon Jr., Drag Racing, Class of 2021
What "qualifies" one individual for Hall of Fame induction over another? Is it winning — and is winning enough? Every year the voters for the MSHFA face these questions. Sometimes the "answers" are easy, other times not so much. In the case of three-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon, he checks all the boxes.
Victories? Sixty-two, second all-time in NHRA T/F competition.
Innovative ideas? Check that box, too. Just give his two-seat dragster a look, consider its purpose, consider what it could do in expanding corporate enthusiasm for drag racing and you'll be shaking your head in agreement.
Popularity? Is that a trick question? Check out the long lines awaiting an autograph when Dixon is competing. Has he generated publicity through controversial words and deeds? Uh, yeah, but unlike others, he's never sought those headlines.
At 54 Dixon appears closer to 35 and knows his youthful appearance has kept him behind the wheel when others are contemplating retirement. Every aspect of his career has been the result of careful consideration. One of his strong suits is his ability to listen and learn — and he's absorbed lessons from the greats, like team owner and fellow inductee Don "The Snake" Prudhomme and former Top Fuel champ Dick LaHaie, for whom Dixon drove when the latter was Snake's tuner.
Dixon worked two stints with Prudhomme, first as a mechanic and later as his driver. He had to earn that job by first competing in a Top Alcohol dragster that ran in an area where winter weather often resulted in bumpy tracks — but Dixon mastered them, earning invaluable experience on his way to a T/F ride that would produce multiple U.S. Nationals victories.
We mentioned Dixon's penchant for forethought, and none might have been more important than his decision to begin building race shops in Brownsburg, Indiana. Recognizing that the top drag racing operations were shifting from California to the Midwest, he provided them with a place to call home. It's the kind of long-term investment that will continue paying dividends long after he finally hangs up his helmet.
Dixon's relationship with the National Hot Rod Association could be fairly termed "problematical." Three incidents aroused the ire of drag racing's largest sanctioning organization. The first was the announcement he would serve with a group that would try to bring T/F back to IHRA. Despite never getting beyond that stage, the NHRA let their feelings be known. The second came during his last competitive outing in NHRA when his car carried signage promoting an event that happened to be taking place at an IHRA- sanctioned facility. Few would have noticed it, but NHRA — which had ignored similar signage on other cars — forced him to cover the signage. The final blow came when Dixon's two-seater was displayed at the SEMA Show, where an NHRA chassis-approval tag that should have been removed was discovered and the finger-pointing began.
The situation has yet to be rectified despite numerous court appearances, but one thing we can predict: Dixon will come out of this more popular than ever. All he needs is the opportunity to race, and three championships will become four, five and more.
Larry Dixon is a champion — in every sense of the word.
By Jon Asher
Asher is the former editor of five drag racing-related magazines. In 54 years of writing about and photographing the endeavor he's received two Special Recognition Awards from the All-Star Drag Racing Team, the Founders Award from the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame and AARWBA's Straight Shooter Award.