The Santo’s Cranes Super 3 Extreme Drag Race will play host to NHRA royalty later this month when three-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon and renowned crew chief Lee Beard jet ‘down under’ to join the Rapisarda International Autosport team at the Mar. 29-30 event at Australia’s Willowbank Raceway .
After signing with naming rights sponsor Santo Rapisarda’s NHRA team earlier this year, it has been confirmed that the pair will appear for the team at Willowbank Raceway’s two-day Easter spectacular.
Dixon, the second most successful driver in NHRA history with 62 wins and three championship titles (2002, 2003 and 2010) to his name across an award-laden 18 year driving career said he was looking forward to making his mark at Willowbank.
“I am very excited to be heading ‘down under’,” he said. “I have heard a lot of great things about the racing in Australia and I am really looking forward to getting on track and competing over the quarter-mile at this new event.”
Announced at the end of 2012, the Santo’s Cranes Super 3 Extreme Drag Race concept, featuring the Louie Rapisarda Top Fuel Trophy Race will see professional drag racing return to the Easter timeslot at Queensland’s premier drag racing facility for the first time in years. The concept will operate on the idea of two individual championship rounds in one event for the Top Fuel and Top Alcohol categories, with a winner to be crowned on both the Friday and the Saturday of the event.
Racing will begin with the first pass for all Top Fuel and Top Alcohol cars at approximately 5 p.m., followed by an elimination round for all cars later in the evening. From this round, the third and fourth quickest winners will proceed to the ‘Preliminary Final’ while the two quickest winners battle it out in ‘The Final’, as per the Special 3 Round Format ratified this season in the ANDRA rulebook.
Once the winner is crowned on Friday, the full field for each bracket will get ready to do it all over again on Saturday, while the winner for the Louie Rapisarda Top Fuel Trophy will be decided at the conclusion of racing on day two using the combined points from both Friday and Saturday.
“The three-round format is something that is used here in the US quite a bit for exhibition and non-NHRA events, so I am pretty familiar with it. I have actually raced it once before with Shirley Muldowney where I was fortunate enough to get the win, so hopefully I can have the same kind of success this time around.
“Once we arrive in Australia after our Florida round (at Gainesville) we will be heading straight to Santo’s race shop to take a look at the equipment and get the right set up prepared, so by the time we pull in to the gates we will be ready to race. As far as taking in any of the Australian sights, that will have to wait until after the racing is done, but hopefully we will have some time for some sightseeing after a successful event!”
Guiding Dixon through his Easter campaign at Queensland’s premier drag racing facility as the team’s Director of Operations will be Lee Beard. The celebrated NHRA crew chief has previously won 54 events in both Top Fuel and Funny Car with 11 different drivers – his most recent coming at the 2012 season finale at Pomona in California.
“It will definitely be exciting to come to Australia’s Willowbank Raceway for the Santo’s Cranes Super 3 Extreme Drag Race,” said Beard. “I haven’t participated in much racing outside of the United States other than at the opening of the Yas Marina track in Abu Dhabi, so I am very much looking forward to heading to Australia to compete with the Rapisarda family, especially after visiting Sydney over the New Year.
“The three-round format is something we are very familiar with and given the event’s significance to the Rapisarda family, I am very honored to have been invited to take part,” he added. “Preparation is something that is very important to me, so as soon as we get into Australia I will be working hard to create a set-up that will allow us to be competitive and able to put together a great event for Santo and his family.”
The Santo’s Cranes Super 3 Extreme Drag Race will feature the Louie Rapisarda Trophy Race, in honor of Santo’s son (a Top Fuel driver) who passed away in 1990. Thanks to a partnership between Rapisarda and Willowbank Raceway, a special commemorative trophy for the winner of the Top Fuel bracket will be on offer.
“I am very honored to be able to represent Santo and his family at this great event in memory of his son Louie,” said Dixon. “I know this event and the Louie Rapisarda Top Fuel Trophy Race is something which is very special to Santo and his entire family, so I hope we can get some great results together for him when we head to Willowbank Raceway later this month.”
“Not only does this event feature a memorial trophy in honor of my son Louie, but in Larry and Lee we will be bringing some top ranking NHRA-class experience to the race track with us this Easter – I think that is pretty special,” he said. “Thanks to their experience we will hopefully have a winning edge over our opponents for this event, especially given the fact that we will be tackling what is a exciting new format for Top Fuel racing in Australia.
“This announcement really underlines our commitment to this event – we truly are bringing all hands on deck, it means a lot to us and we are going to be chasing after the win with everything we have got.”
Dixon and Beard started their tenure with the Rapisarda Autosport International team at Pomona Raceway in February of this year with two events already completed.
“So far the season is off to a good start for us – we have qualified at both events and have made some great advancements since bringing Larry and Lee on board, such as resetting our personal best elapsed time and speed markers and making improvements in our parts performance and maintenance,” said Rapisarda. “A win at Willowbank Raceway in memory of Louie would be a great way to cap off what has been already been a promising start to our 2013 season.”
Willowbank Raceway Managing Director Steve Bettes said the signing of Dixon and Beard was a big coup for the Santo’s Cranes Super 3 Extreme Drag Race event.
“Everyone here at Willowbank Raceway is absolutely delighted to have Larry and Lee coming to Australia for the Santo’s Cranes Super 3 Extreme Drag Race,” said Bettes. “As true NHRA royalty, their appearance this Easter at Willowbank Raceway seals the deal on this event being one not to be missed by race fans. I would personally like to thank Santo Rapisarda, his family, Larry and Lee for making this happen – we can’t wait to see them all later this month!”
Joining the Top Fuel and Top Alcohol racers on-track will be an array of sportsman competitors across the Outlaw 10.5, Pro/Modified Street Blown and a range of fixed index, heads-up pro start categories; who will complete three qualifying sessions on Friday 29 March before racing in a Chicago Shootout plus final format on Saturday 30 March.
Willowbank Raceway is Queensland’s premier drag racing facility, located 45 minutes from Brisbane or just a short drive from Ipswich, offering a year-round program of events for the entire family. For more information including a full event calendar, please visit www.willowbankraceway.com.au
(Photos courtesy Rapisarda Racing; Click to enlarge)