Larry Dixon Jr., one of the winningest drivers in National Hot Rod Association’s Top Fuel drag racing class, will be back in the cockpit. Dixon will be driving in both the northern and southern hemispheres with Australian industrialist Santo Rapisarda and his Rapisarda Autosport International racing business for the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the Australian National Drag Racing Association (source: NHRA). This Top Fuel operation is joined by veteran crew chief Lee Beard who will manage the program while turning the screws on the 10,000 horsepower ground-crushing dragster. The young sons of Rapisarda, Santo Jr. and Tino, will help as co-crew chiefs on the dragster as well.
The 46 year old Dixon had been mostly on the sidelines this past year after parting ways with Alan Johnson and Al Anabi Racing following the 2011 season. He drove briefly in late 2012 with three appearances for the Dote Family Racing Top Fueler (source: Yahoo Sports). It was rumored that Dixon might be driving in several different seats but none of those had panned out. Dixon is the son of Top Fuel pilot Larry Dixon Sr. who had his own successes back in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Dixon Jr. has driven for three decades with the second most wins (62) in Top Fuel history, while Beard has been the crew chief for more winning drivers than can be counted. Yet, neither has ever worked with the other over both their long successful careers. The 59 year old Beard was the crew chief on Cruz Pedregon’s Funny Car in 2012 but was let go after the season. Prior to last year, Beard worked for Don Schumacher Racing. Dixon is originally from California and Beard is from Colorado.
Of course with every hire, someone else is left out and this time it’s another well known driver: the 49 year old Cory McClenathan. McClenathan has been a Top Fuel driver for many years, earning 38 career wins. Cory had a good outlook on the situation stating to Phil Burgess of National Dragster, “In a way, the Rapisarda team’s decision was freeing because now I can focus my efforts on finding a new home in a championship-caliber car and pursuing the championship and working towards getting the sponsorship dollars that will help me get there.”
Santo Rapisarda’s crane business allows him to run the Top Fuel team on a part-time basis in both the NHRA and ANDRA. It’s not known whether this international operation will have the funding for a full schedule in 2013. The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series starts February 14-17 in Pomona, California, with the Winternationals.