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Dixon, Beard Return with Rapisarda Top Fuel Team

Rapisarda_car_rendering640Rapisarda Autosport International today has announced the signing of two legendary drag racing figures – Larry Dixon and Lee Beard – for its 2013 Top Fuel dragster organization with campaigns set in the 2013 National Hot Rod Association Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the ANDRA Australia Drag Racing Series.

The Rapisarda Autosport International operation, led by Australia crane mogul Santo Rapisarda and his sons Santo Jr. and Santino (Tino), will have Dixon, the three-time Top Fuel NHRA World Champion, behind the wheel of the Rapisarda Top Fuel dragster for a limited 2013 schedule which will include races  in North America and Australia.  Dixon, 46, is the second winningest Top Fuel driver in NHRA history with 62 national event victories and three series titles (2002, 2003 and 2010).  Santo Jr. and Tino are co-crew chiefs for the Rapisarda dragster.

Larry Dixon and Lee Beard

Larry Dixon and Lee Beard

Beard, a three-time NHRA world champion crew chief and team manager in the fuel ranks, will serve as the Director of Operations for Rapisarda Autosport International. Beard, one of the most respected fuel tuners in Top Fuel and Funny Car competition, brings a wealth of experience to the Rapisarda effort in 2013.  Beard is the only NHRA crew chief to have won national events with eleven different drivers. The Colorado native scored world titles in 1989, 1992 and 2009.

“We are extremely pleased to have the talents of Larry Dixon and Lee Beard joining Rapisarda Autosport International for 2013,” said Santo Rapisarda, team owner.  “Both Larry and Lee have some of the greatest resumes in NHRA drag racing history.  Although they have never teamed up together before, we believe their leadership and competitiveness will lead us to victory lane this year.  I’m extremely excited to have this pair as part of our organization.”

Dixon, a second-generation Top Fuel racer, began his Top Fuel career in dramatic fashion in 1995, driving the Don “Snake” Prudhomme-owned machine to the U.S. Nationals, Budweiser Shootout and Rookie of the Year crowns.  Since that spectacular debut, Dixon passed the likes of NHRA greats Don Garlits, Shirley Muldowney, Joe Amato and Kenny Bernstein in Top Fuel wins.  Dixon has been the No. 1 qualifier in NHRA national competition 51 times and has reached 108 final rounds.  Dixon competed in three events in 2012.

“This opportunity to join the Rapisarda team and work with Lee for the first time is very exciting for me,” said Dixon, the California native now residing in Avon, Ind.  “Last year, I worked with ESPN and the NHRA announcing team as an analyst at the national events and it gave me a great insight of the sport from outside the pit area.   I think, like Lee, I can bring the Rapisarda organization solid background and race experience that can give the team strong performances.  I want to thank Santo and his family for this opportunity.”

Beard, 59, has led drivers to 65 No. 1 qualifying positions in Top Fuel and Funny Car and 54 wins, his latest the 2012 Finals at Pomona. In addition, Indianapolis racing executive is one of two men (Dale Armstrong the other) in NHRA history to have had their drivers and cars join the exclusive 4-second and 300-MPH clubs in both Top Fuel and Funny Car, capture a series championship and be named Crew Chief of the Year and Person of the Year by Car Craft magazine.

“I see a lot of potential with the Rapisarda Autosport International team,” said Beard.  “I’m anxious to work with Larry after all of our years as competitors.  He is one of the greatest Top Fuel drivers ever.  My job as Director of Operations is to oversee the team and teach my skills and craft to Santo’s two sons, Santo Jr. and Santino. I see them as the future of our sport.”

This story was originally published on January 15, 2013. Drag Illustrated

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