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Baad Goat-Don Dixon's 2005 Pontiac GTO runs great numbers in LME Street King

Witten by Ainsley Jacobs Photography by Kevin DiOssi Don Dixon devoted his life to serving others, and after years of hard work, he's busy having fun at the track. He is enjoying doing something for himself racing his baaad '05 Pontiac GTO with his friends on the NMCA circuit. Much of his youth was shaped by his father's love of racing, as Dixon's dad had a knack for racing go-karts. We would race around the driveway at the house, reminisced the man of his youth spent alongside his father, working on shade-tree mechanic-type projects at their home in North Carolina. Now 66 years old, Dixon still remembers his first car, which he obtained half a century earlier, quite well. It was a '57 Chevy that we built together. It came with a really smokey 265ci engine so we put a 283 in it and stroked it out to a 301 and did headers, a cam, and some other things, he recalled. The Tri-Five was a cool car for a high school kid, but Dixon soon traded it for something even cooler a '67 Chevy Camaro with a 396ci engine in it. I raced both cars on Sunday afternoons, just playing around, over at Piedmont Dragway. Although it seemed likely Dixon would dive into drag racing at that point, he took another path and instead opted to join the U.S. Army at age 17. He was still able to mess with cars a little as he was stationed at Fort Bragg, less than two hours from his home, but mostly focused his time and energy into serving his country. During his nearly 30-year career with an airborne artillery unit and falling out of airplanes for a living, Dixon met his late wife, Donna, who was also a diehard hot-rodder. Together, they had three beautiful children: Chris, Shannon, and Scott, and focused on family first. Dixon retired from the armed forces in 2000 and took a new career in the public service sector, working next at the U.S. Post Office. Wanting to get back into racing, he purchased a '96 Chevy Impala SS, which he still owns, and got involved with the Impala SS Clubs of America. He built up his Impala a bit and even won first place at several national ISSCA event car shows, but when the fifth-generation Pontiac GTO was announced not long after, Dixon knew he needed one. Having decided on the Cyclone Gray Metallic color and 18-inch wheels, the only Goat that Dixon was able to find was located a long way away from him in Lawrenceville, Georgia. So, I rented a car on a one-way trip, drove down, bought it, and drove the GTO back. It only had 21 miles on it when I picked it up! he shared of the day at the dealership back in 2005 when he made his showroom acquisition. It wasn't long after obtaining his new '05 Pontiac GTO that Dixon took it to the track and started modifying it with basic upgrades like the cam and torque converter. Then, his good friend Nick Williams opened a own shop, aptly named Nick Williams Performance, and Dixon found his second home. Nick is a really smart guy and a talented machinist. He bends over backward for me and has always been there when I need his help, added Dixon, who met his other good friend, Jeff Heintz, through Williams. Jeff has also been a huge supporter, and anything I manage to come up with he's able to make happen. He's someone I can trust and depend on, and always comes through in a pinch. Dixon spent nearly every Thursday and Friday at the shop, and, unsurprisingly, his GTO received a bit of attention during its time there as well. In '07, he added a Magnuson TVS2300 supercharger for extra power and enjoyed the boosted life. That same year, Dixon attended the GM Performance Parts LSX Shootout that was held as a part of the Nitto Tire NMCA World Finals in Memphis, Tennessee. I was waiting for a converter and the UPS guy showed up, we rushed to get it installed, rolled the car off the dyno after a quick tuning session, and then I drove all night to Memphis, laughed the good-natured man who doesn't get stressed out. He raced a few years with the Magnuson, but ultimately decided to swap to a ProCharger F-1A supercharger instead around '09. The Magnuson was a lot of fun on the street, but the heat soak on the intake made it tough to be consistent on the track, he explained of the change. In 2010, Heintz was interested in a change of his own and pursued his own endeavor. He purchased Williams' operations and renamed it Heintz Racing, while Williams went on to continue producing throttle bodies and other racing-inspired aftermarket products instead of running a full-scale performance shop. With Heintz Racing backing him, Dixon expanded his racing program and ventured into the Proform Rumble category at select NMCA events. In 2011 while racing at the Holley LS Fest at Beech Bend Raceway Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Dixon took top honors in a huge class of 70-plus cars. I had raced Rob Farley in the semi-finals or something and I finally beat him, proclaimed Dixon, who was thrilled to have finally surpassed one of his toughest opponents. I came back to the pit and told Jeff I was ready to pack up and go because that was such a big win in itself¦ But he told me to keep going, and I wound up winning the entire race! Dixon has been back at it ever year since, and drag racing has since become his vice of choice. I don't drink, I don't smoke, I just go racing with the NMCA, joked the racer who has come to love his automotive family almost as much as his blood family. He stepped into other categories as well over the years, including LME Street King. Although he had hurt his 406ci LS engine earlier in the year, Dixon was able to get it rebuilt by the team at Scoggin Dickey Performance Center without having to miss any events and went on to earn a strong runner-up finish with his GTO in 2015 at the Chevrolet Performance Challenge Series event in Norwalk, Ohio; he wrapped up the season fourth overall in the championship points standings. Similarly, Dixon has also found success racing his Goat in the Chevrolet Street Car Challenge class with the NMCA. In both 2019 and 2020, he scored overall runner-up honors when he clocked three-run averages of 9.47 seconds and 9.55 seconds, respectively. In late August of 2020, he was the outright winner while racing at the Arrington Performance NMRA/NMCA All-American Nationals at US 131 Motorsports Park in Martin, Michigan, with a 10.38-second average. After a decade of ProCharger power under his Pontiac's hood, Dixon decided it was once again time for a change and turned to turbochargers. In January of 2021, Dixon and Heintz hurriedly began working on the transformation of the Pontiac's combination. He purchased two billet 6266 turbos from Huron Speed along with an NLR Systems AMS-1000 boost controller, and Scott Bagshaw of Bagshaw Hotrod Fabrication in Mooresville, North Carolina, fabriacted the componentry necessary to fit the set of matching snails. Bagshaw was already familiar with Dixon's GTO, as he had put in the 8.50-second certified roll cage about five years prior. He's amazing with what he can do, noted Dixon. People don't even realize that the cage is in there, he's got it tucked up so tight The biggest challenge during the turbo conversion, though, was simply fitting the exhaust manifolds to work with the aftermarket heads that were already on the engine. The kit we used was built off an old APS Performance Specialists kit from Australia that we can't even get anymore, and it was designed to use the stock GTO heads, said Dixon of making it work with hiss runs six-bolt Trick Flow GenX 235 heads. It took about a week and was a big challenge, but Scott dropped everything to take care of it for us. Fortunately, despite having to scramble to install the turbo kit and prep the rest of the car for another year of competition, the guys at Heintz Racingincluding Cory Adams and Jake Hoyledidn't have to worry about much else as Dixon freshened his Gall Racing Engines-built bullet at the start of the 2020 season. The 406ci LS platform makes use of a Warhawk block filled with a Callies DragonSlayer crankshaft, Callies Ultra H-beam connecting rods, and Wiseco pistons. COMP Cams supplied the custom-ground bumpstick, while Jesel sent the rockers, Meziere Enterprises provided the electric water pump, and the aluminum radiator arrived from Ron Davis Radiators. Finally, a FAST intake manifold and a 102mm billet throttle body from none other than the master himself, Nick Williams, finished the engine. It's the same throttle body he first built for me back in '07, just updated for the current application, added Dixon, who has been more than happy to act as a Guinea pig for his friends' innovations over the years. Dixon runs the same 4L65E automatic transmission that came in his car from the factory, although it is upgraded to a sturdy Level 10 status thanks to the team at RPM Transmissions, along with a custom-built FTI torque converter. People are amazed it's the stock transmission, they all expect a Powerglide or a Turbo 400, but Rodney said it'll hold up, and, so far, it has, Dixon said decisively. They sure build some good transmissions, especially since this car is so heavy at 3,870 pounds with me in it! Still equipped with the factory dash, gauges, and more, Dixon did delete the rear seat to reduce weight and change out the factory GTO seats for a set of lightweight seats from a COPO Camaro. Spectators will sometimes come down from the stands to look at the car because it's so surprisingly quick, he laughed. Up until January of 2021 when we went turbo, it still had the air conditioning in it, too! A set of double-adjustable coilovers from Menscer Motorsports were installed up front, and double-adjustable QA1s were added out back. Also out back, an independent 9-inch rearend from the Driveshaft Shop, along with matching axles and driveshaft, has been in place since around '17. When it was time to put the Pontiac on the dyno and see what the new turbocharged engine could do on its VP Racing Fuels C16, Jeff Heintz hit the keyboard to pull the data and get the factory computer tuned up right before handing the reins over to Dr. Phil Hoefler for the final finessing of the up and down arrows. It made 1,094-horsepower and 958-pound-feet of torque, shared Dixon of his street-legal ride which rolls on Mac-Fab beadlocked Bogart Racing D-10 wheels and Mickey Thompson radial rubber. And it wasn't even maxed out yet! Although Dixon wasn't able to make any test hits after the power-adder swap, he headed out for the first race of his 2021 NMCA season armed and ready. When the Heintz Racing team rolled into Florida's Bradenton Motorsports Park for the 19th Annual Whipple Superchargers NMCA Muscle Car Mayhem, they knew they didn't have a full battle plan but were pleasantly surprised with the results regardless. Our first passes were 9.04, 9.01, and 8.99 at 149 mph, shared Dixon, whose prior personal best was in the 9.3-second zone. It was a huge jump in performance for the car not being fully tuned, and for going in cold turkey. The turbos pull so hard at the top end! It's a lot of fun. Dixon detuned the GTO so they could work through traction troubles and get it to hook up right, and wisely chose to run on a 9.25-second index, as he did not yet have a parachute on the car and needed to stay south of the 150-mph mark. In LME Street King qualifying, his 9.450-second hit placed him seventh in the field but Dixon was a little off the pace when eliminations began and wasn't able to advance after the first round. With only a few weeks before the Scoggin Dickey Parts Center NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals presented by MAHLE Motorsport in Atlanta, Georgia, Dixon didn't have much opportunity for testing. Still working on the tune up and learning how to drive with the new turbos, Dixon qualified well with a 9.295-second run on his 9.25 index but mostly enjoyed not having to footbrake the Pontiac anymore. I had a two-step and transbrake installed with the ProCharger that TJ Cannon wired in, but couldn't use it with that, so it was really nice to be able to cut some killer lights and surprise guys like Kurt Anderson, he joked, proud of his 0.017-second reaction time. He walked over after I lost in E1 and asked where that light came from, and I just wiggled my thumb. If I hadn't spun, the race would have been on! After, Dixon took time to go testing at Mooresville Dragway with Eric Yost, the Bigun at Customs by Bigun, and get the suspension dialed in. He was a huge help. He raised the front end a little, adjusted the springs, worked on the rear, and got the tire pressures sorted out, said Dixon, grateful for the guidance. By the time the NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Street-Legal Drag Racing Presented by HPJ Performance rolled around, Dixon and his group were ready to run at World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis, Missouri. We had the car turned down a little for boost and launch RPM, and we got it to where it would leave the line and still run the number, noted the man who qualified third in LME LSX Street King with a 9.275-second run. Unfortunately for him, Dixon was defeated by Thomas Dabbs in round one of eliminations, but he wasn't too upset as it was his friend that did the deed. We have a little group that we travel with for every race. Myself, Terry Faust, Tommy , and Jeff Heintz, we all help each other but sometimes we have to race one another, said the good-natured sportsman. And, Tommy loves to cook so he keeps us very well fed! On his next attempt, Dixon's plans were inadvertently upset when his car sprang a leak in its transmission the week before the Inaugural Arrington Performance NMRA/NMCA Power Festival Presented by Force Engineering in Michigan in late July. Heintz was too busy with work to be able to make the repairs that Dixon's GTO needed, so, instead, Faust, who also runs in LME Street King but didn't want to see Dixon have to sit out, generously offered up his own 2002 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 as a loaner. His car is pretty fast, actually! remarked Dixon, who dialed in a quicker 10.00 index to run on for the weekend and qualified seventh in LME Street King with a 10.173 at 133.45 mph blast as a result not bad for an unfamiliar car. The street-legal Chevy is equipped with aftermarket heads and a cam and typically runs 10-second passes all day long with Faust, but Dixon realized too late that he should've dialed in at 10.25 seconds instead to account for the weight difference between him and his friend; as a result, he exited the show in round one of eliminations. On the way home from the race, Dixon and Heintz stopped in at RPM Transmissions to see Rodney Massengale. We talked about doing a Turbo 400 for my car, and Rodney said if I stayed overnight that he would build one for me by the next morning, said Dixon, shocked of the outstanding service he received. He had it on the trans dyno and everything, ready to go, true to his word. With a new gearbox ready to rip, Dixon found himself still waiting on a converter. So, Faust once again handed over the keys to his rent-a-racecar and Dixon was able to continue his points chase for the season at the 20th Annual NMCA All-American Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio. There, he corrected his dial in to 10.25-seconds and went 10.386 in qualifying to sit ninth. He faced Kurt Anderson in round one of eliminations and the pairing was so close at the finish that even the men weren't sure who won. Ultimately, though, Dixon broke out and Anderson had a more accurate package to take the win. I really appreciate Terry and what a good friend he is to have let me use his car while he was at home taking care of his family, added Dixon, whose performance was followed on FloRacing by Faust. In preparation for what will be the final NMCA event of the 2021 season, the 20th Annual NMCA World Street Finals Presented by Chevrolet Performance in late September at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, Indiana, Dixon has been busy prepping his GTO just in case he's able to hop back in It has a Stroud parachute on it now with a custom mounting bracket fabricated by Scott Bagshaw, affirmed Dixon. And Rodney put a real-deal pro transbrake on it now. Over the years, Dixon developed a second family at the track. In addition to his travel group, fellow racers like Kevin and Taylor Lumsden, and Nick and Wayne Massengale, have made him feel at home no matter what part of the country he finds himself in. Dixon is also grateful for the NMCA to have a place to race, and he appreciates support from his team, sponsors, and others who help keep not only him, but the series itself, moving forward including Scoggin Dickey Parts Center. As he finally retired from the Post Office last year and raising his three children to adulthood, Dixon can now finally focus on putting his own interests first. Drag racing is his therapy, his release from all the stress of everyday life, and he's happy to have a place where he can enjoy it with a smile on his face. The Details Owner/Driver Owner: Don Dixon Driver: Don Dixon Hometown: Greensboro, North Carolina Occupation: Retired US Army (27.5 yrs) & USPS (16 yrs) Class: NMCA LME Street King Car Make/Model/Year: 2005 Pontiac GTO Powertrain Engine: LS Engine builder: Jered Gall / Gall Racing Engines Displacement: 406 cubic inches Block: Warhawk Bore: 4.010 inches Stroke: 4.00 inches Crank: Callies Dragonslayer w/ATI balancer Rods: Callies Ultra H-beam Pistons: Wiseco Heads: Trick Flow 235 Valvetrain: Jesel w/ COMP T-bar lifters Cam type: COMP Cam custom grind Carburetor or EFI system: Nick Williams 102 mm Billet throttle body, FAST 102 intake, Lonnie's Performance Twin 255 Walbro Fuel Pumps and Fuel Injector Clinic 1,000cc injectors Power-adder: Huron Speed Billet 6266 Twin Turbos Fuel brand and type: VP Racing Fuels C16 Headers and exhaust: Custom Exhaust by Scott Bagshaw / Bagshaw's Hotrods Transmission: RPM Transmissions 4L65 level X Transmission Builder: RPM Transmissions/Rodney Massengale Clutch/shifter/torque converter: FTI Rearend: Driveshaft Shop 9-inch IRS conversion, axles and aluminum driveshaft Chassis Body and/or chassis builder: NA Suspension (Front): Stock w/ Menscer Motorsports dual-adjustable coilovers Suspension (Rear): Stock w/QA1 Dual Adjustable Coilovers Brakes (Front): Stock calipers w/DBA Rotors and Hawk Pads Brakes (Rear): Stock Calipers w/DBA Rotors and Hawk Pads Wheels (front): Bogart D-10s Wheels (Rear): Bogart D-10s w/ MAC-FAB beadlocks Tires (Front): MT Sportsman Tires (Rear): MT ET Street Radial Pro, 275/60-R15 Aftermarket body modifications: None Safety equipment: 8.50-cert cage by Scott Bagshaw/ Bagshaw Hotrods, Simpson Belts Vehicle weight: 3,870 pounds Quickest ET: 8.990 seconds Best 60-foot: 1.33 seconds Fastest mph: 153 Sponsors: Heintz Racing

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