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Fuller ends Dixon’s Dad’s Day string; Capps, Line, Smith also score wins

By Rob Geiger,

Top Fuel driver "Hot Rod" Fuller stopped former champion Larry Dixon's incredible streak of five consecutive Father's Day victories Sunday by beating Dixon in the final of the 37th annual K&N Filters SuperNationals presented by Strauss Discount Auto. Fuller was joined by Funny Car's Ron Capps, Pro Stock's Jason Line, and Pro Stock Motorcycle's Matt Smith in Old Bridge Township Raceway Park's winner's circle.

Fuller's Valvoline rail went straight down a hot and greasy quarter-mile in 4.692 seconds at 314.24 mph to beat Dixon's tire-hazing 4.825 at 299.73 mph. Capps took an emotional holeshot win over teammate and reigning series champion Gary Scelzi, 5.025 to 5.012. Line went wire to wire in beating Dave Connolly for his third straight E-town win, and a dead-late Smith caught and beat Karen Stoffer for his first NHRA win.

Fuller's third win at the Professional level instantly became his favorite, and not because he halted Dixon's Father's Day streak at 23 successive eliminations round-wins. After winning his first race in his Valvoline-sponsored David Powers Motorsports dragster in Memphis last year just after a health scare with his mother, he found himself in the midst of a divorce when he won earlier this year in Phoenix. This time, nothing was weighing him down.

"The last two wins had sad stories attached to them," Fuller said. "Today it's a happy one because this one's for my dad. He's a racer, and he's the reason I love racing. I used to lay under his car on the creeper when I was a little kid just to spend time with him. He's my best friend.

"I knew Dixon had that Father's Day thing going, but our car was running great all weekend, except for the semi's, and I knew we had a chance if we stayed within ourselves. I didn't know who won until they told me. Then I just let loose. I've got a great team, and all these guys need to be congratulated. We needed this."

Fuller's win lifted him from sixth to fourth place. Dixon falls to 38-33 in final rounds. His last victory in the Miller Lite dragster was last September in Indianapolis.

Season-long points leader Melanie Troxel's first-round loss to Dixon – her first this season -- combined with her 11th-place qualifying effort, helped Doug Kalitta trim her lead in the POWERade standings from 71 to 48 points.

After starting the day as somewhat of an afterthought in the No. 14 position, Capps and his Brut Dodge team came alive on race day once again, zooming to their fifth victory in seven final-round appearances this season.

The final was a nail-biter as Capps got a big head start with a .079 to .133 reaction-time advantage, only to barely hold off a hard-charging Scelzi and his Oakley/Mopar Charger, who just ran out of racetrack. The final numbers showed Capps winning with a 5.025 at 299.46 mph to Scelzi's 5.012 at 301.81 mph.

"Beating Gary on a holeshot takes some of the excitement out of this win," Capps said as he held back tears. "Last year, 'Ace' [crew chief Ed McCulloch] got sick the Thursday before the race with his cancer, and Scelzi's crew chief, Mike Neff, jumped in and helped us so much. It meant a lot to us. Gary is a mentor to me, and our teams are together. Our trailers literally connect to one another, and I know he wanted that win.

"I won on Father's Day when I was teammates with Larry Dixon, so it's great to do it again. I know my dad is listening back home in San Luis Obispo in California. He always listens to the broadcast on, and he heard me win. Happy Father's Day, Dad."

This was Scelzi's first final-round appearance in his title defense. He moved up one slot to seventh in the POWERade points. Capps more than doubled his advantage in the standings with this win. After entering the race with a 48-point cushion, he leaves town with a 106-point edge.

All the pre-final talk in Pro Stock focused on Connolly's lethal performances at the starting line, but Line came through with a great light that began his 6.729, 205.98 victorious pass. Line's .013-second start got his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO rolling, and he carried that momentum to the other end, beating Connolly's 6.739 at 206.45 mph pass in his Skull Gear Cobalt.

"I can't believe I won this race as crappy as I've been driving all day," Line said. "This is really something. I don't know what it is about this racetrack, but I love it. We won the last two years here before I was a father, and now I win my first Father's Day race since my son, Jack, was born. How cool is that?"

Greg Anderson paid the price for his first-round holeshot loss to nemesis Warren Johnson as his lead in the POWERade rankings was trimmed from 110 to 37 points over Line, his KB Racing teammate.

This was Line's 10th win and his second of the year. Connolly is 2-2 this season in the money round and 7-10 overall.

Smith finally got his first NHRA victory by coming from behind and taking care of Stoffer in the Pro Stock Motorcycle final round. Smith was awarded the victory at last year's Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at the racetrack, but officials later reversed the decision when videotape showed he crossed the finish line after Steve Johnson. This year, the same thing happened in an earlier round victory over Michael Phillips.

This one was a clear victory. Smith overcame a terrible .030 to .107 reaction-time deficit by half-track and took the win with a 7.111 at 185.38 mph ahead of Stoffer's 7.234 at 186.12 mph.

"The first thing I asked them at the top end was, 'Are you guys absolutely sure I've won this race?' " Smith said. "I guess this one was legit. Even Karen came over and said she saw that I was ahead of her at the stripe, so I think it'll stick. It feels like this has been a long time coming, for sure. I'm glad Dad [Pro Stock driver Rickie Smith] was down there waiting for me.

"I didn't think I was that late. I'd had good lights all day. We knew we had a performance advantage, and George Bryce, my crew chief, told me just to get a decent light and we'd win. I guess I tried to blow it."

Smith is now 1-2 when there's a trophy on the line. Stoffer dropped to 2-5 in final rounds.

The top of the Pro Stock Motorcycle standings remained unchanged when points leader Angelle Sampey and second-place points earner Andrew Hines both lost in the first round.