After falling just two points painfully shy of the NHRA Full Throttle Top Fuel championship last year to decade-long rival Tony Schumacher, Larry Dixon and the Al-Anabi team finished the job on their second try, concluding a dominating 2010 season by locking up the championship Sunday at the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals.
Dixon fended off the late charges by Schumacher and Schumacher's teammate, Cory McClenathan, who both entered the event with a mathematical foot in the door that Dixon slammed closed by winning his first-round match with Mike Strasburg.
“I’ve never had so much excitement for a first-round win in my life,” said Dixon. “What an awesome job by the team all year. It was one round today, but it was all the great rounds that we’ve had in previous races, the second rounds, the semifinals, a lot of wins, and they’ve all added up to this point. Credit to Alan Johnson, Sheik Khalid, Jason McCulloch, and the entire Al-Anabi crew. Everybody pitches in to make this happen, and this is it, this is what we do it for.”
The championship is the third for Dixon, who won back-to-back titles in 2002 and 2003 while driving for Don Prudhomme, and the ninth in the class for team manager Johnson, who tuned Schumacher to five straight titles (2004-08) before leaving Don Schumacher Racing for the 2009 season to lead the new Al-Anabi operation owned by His Highness Sheik Khalid Al Thani of Qatar. Johnson also tuned Gary Scelzi to three Top Fuel crowns (1997-98, 2000) and won four world championships in Top Alcohol Dragster with his late brother, Blaine. It's the seventh championship for crew chief McCulloch, who was the assistant crew chief under Johnson with Schumacher and was on Cruz Pedregon's Funny Car championship team in 1992, but his first title as crew chief.
The Al-Anabi team finished the 17-race regular season as the top playoff seed after recording nine wins, in Pomona, Houston, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Chicago, Englishtown, Norwalk, Sonoma, and Brainerd. The group added three more wins in the playoffs, in Indy -- Dixon's fourth victory at the famed Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil -- Charlotte, and Reading to run its final-round record to an astounding and unblemished 12-0, making Dixon the first driver in NHRA history to accomplish such a feat. The team also accumulated eight No. 1 qualifying berths and compiled an impressive 60-10 record, with just two first-round losses in 22 races. Dixon advanced to at least the semifinals at 16 of the 23 events this year.