Troxel staged for Sonoma success
Sonoma, prerace: Melanie Troxel is enjoying the challenge and the competition the Top Fuel class of the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series provides her and the Skull Shine team as she fights for her first Top Fuel championship this season.
After leading the points through the first 12 races, she finds herself 40 markers behind Doug Kalitta heading into the 15th of 23 events this weekend at the Fram-Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway. Brandon Bernstein and her DSR teammate Tony Schumacher are also breathing down her neck (103 and 110 points behind, respectively). Undaunted, Troxel and the year-old team continue to work towards a turnaround following four consecutive early-round losses as they search for that solid summer tune-up.
In this three-race Western Swing, mile-high Denver and Seattle produced temperatures in the 90s, resulting in many teams struggling for performance. The weather for this weekend's Sonoma, Calif., event might also call for heat. "It was looking as though it was going to be very hot here this weekend," says Troxel, a Colorado native. "That is a concern for us. We still don't have a solid, hot weather tune-up. We really don't have any choice but to keep working at it. We're just going to keep plugging away until we get a tune-up that works in the heat because even if it turns out to be a little cooler here this weekend, we know we'll have plenty of other events where it will be hot yet this year.
"I said it before, and I hope that it's true, that we are making some progress. We went down the track three out of the four runs in qualifying in Seattle and qualified No. 4. I think we're moving in the right direction; we just haven't gotten the whole package together just yet."
As for her competition, including Kalitta, who easily could have earned a greater points lead, except for his two semifinal finishes and a second-round loss in the last three races. "It has seemed that Doug hasn't been as dominant as he was for three or four races," adds Troxel. "That certainly has helped us out. Tony Schumacher (Seattle winner) and the U.S. Army team are making a hard charge right now. You don't know at this point of the year who's going to be there at the end of the season to have a shot at that championship.
"We're just going to do the best we can to work on our program."
Troxel, who qualified No. 10 here last year in her second race for Don Schumacher Racing and lost the first round to Scott Kalitta, enjoys her visit to the wine country. "It's beautiful up here," she says. "We always enjoy coming up and doing some wine tasting." And, as for the racing, "It does sound like the temperatures are supposed to be a little cooler than we thought they were going to be. That certainly will help us."
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