Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals
Troxel back in the fray with runner-up finish
Reading, Sunday: Melanie Troxel is back to her early-season form, as the driver of the Skull Shine/Knoll Gas-Torco Race Fuels Top Fuel dragster, who led the point standings through the first 12 events of the 2006 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, reached her eighth final round of the season today at the rescheduled Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.
En route to the final, Troxel first sent packing a tire-smoking Larry Dixon with a stout 4.576-second pass at 320.81 mph, then dismissed Rod Fuller with a 4.536/325.53 in the quarterfinal. Her semifinal disposition of points leader Doug Kalitta was the highlight round of the day, as she drove around him to win with a 4.518/328.70 to his losing 4.563/328.70.
She was matched against her Torco teammate and rookie J.R. Todd in the final round in their third meeting of the season. They were tied 1-1 coming into the final. It was a close race to the finish, but it was Todd first at the stripe by .0599 of a second, with a 4.494-second pass at 324.12 mph to Troxel's losing 4.538/324.28.
With third-in-points Brandon Bernstein and second-in-points Tony Schumacher losing in the second round, Troxel made some ground on the championship contenders in front of her in the standings. She is now 150 points out of the lead, with three races remaining in her first full season of Top Fuel competition, 98 short of second, and 88 behind third.
"It's nice to be back in the hunt of an event," she said, although disappointed. "We've struggled, seen performance come and go, but I really feel like we made a big step toward having a competitive race car for the remaining three races.
"I don't know if it's realistic for us to have any expectations of a championship, but we could still go out, have fun, win some races, and see if we can move up a place or two in the points," said the two-time season winner.
"It was nice to get back in the rhythm on making some runs on Sunday. It's been a while since we've done that, and we almost forgot how to do it a little bit. We had a very consistent car. That gives a driver a lot of confidence. We ran good today, we didn't luck into anything. We went down the track every pass."
On defeating points leader Doug Kalitta: "They're always going to be tough. We got to see all the people ahead of us in points go out round by round. It's one of those important races to go out and do something and hope you can make up some of the ground.
"I have to admit, that's not on the forefront of our minds," she said of helping teammate Schumacher by beating Kalitta, "but, certainly anything we can do to help them out, it's a good thing. I know it's really tight up there between No. 1 and No. 2. So, that's what teammates are for."
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