Mar 14, 2015 4:47 PM

NHRA's Dixon walks away from scary crash at Gatornationals

The Associated Press

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Larry Dixon sat down in the track tower Saturday afternoon and got cell service for the first time in hours.

His phone immediately started beeping. And beeping. And beeping. And beeping.

"Wonder what happened," Dixon joked.

Just a harrowing crash at the NHRA Gatornationals that gave Dixon, fellow drivers, crewmembers and thousands of fans some anxious moments.

The three-time Top Fuel champion managed to walk away from the wreckage, providing relief for everyone watching, waiting and worrying.

"It'd be like going to Disneyland and being on a roller coaster and you fly off the track," Dixon said three hours after the crash. "Now what are going to do? You've just got to wait to land and hope everything's doing its job for you."

Dixon's dragster started to buckle at nearly 280 mph, broke in half, got airborne, landed hard on the asphalt and then slid into the outside retaining wall at Auto-Plus Raceway.

Dixon remained in the cockpit as safety workers reached him. He was alert, awake and talking to safety personnel as they helped him out. He walked to a waiting ambulance under his own power and waved to the crowd.

His upper back and left knee were a little sore, but Dixon was pretty much unscathed. It was quite different from his similar wreck at Memphis in 2000 when he didn't have a Head and Neck Support (HANS) device, a seven-point harness system or padded head rests surrounding his helmet.

"I've been through worse," he said. "Last time I did that, I had a helicopter ride."

It was unclear what caused the chassis to buckle at such high speed. Dixon said the car had 60 or 70 passes on it, so frame rails shouldn't have been stressed to the point of failure.

"It shouldn't have done that," said Dixon, who drives for Bob Vandergriff Jr., and has 62 career victories. "There's no rhyme or reason for it."

The 48-year-old Dixon was expected to see a doctor later Saturday before deciding whether to race in the elimination rounds Sunday.

He said he would have no hesitation about getting back behind the wheel.

"I feel invincible in that race car," he said. "Driving to the track I'm more fearful for my life than I am in that car. That car is designed to go through that. You don't fear it. You're counting on all your equipment to do its job."


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