Troxel targets repeat performance in Vegas
Las Vegas, prerace: In only her first full season of Top Fuel competition, Melanie Troxel took the 2006 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series by storm, winning the season opener in Pomona, leading the point standings through the first 12 races and becoming the first Top Fuel driver to reach the final round in the first five events of a season.
The driver of the Skull Shine/Knoll Gas-Torco Race Fuels entry from Don Schumacher Racing captured her second career Top Fuel victory at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last spring and is aiming to repeat that performance at this weekend's ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals, as the season winds down to its last two events.
While resigned to the fact that claiming her first Top Fuel championship is out of reach after struggling through the second half of the year, Troxel, in fourth, is in a strong position to move into second in the standings. She is just 89 points out of that spot (Brandon Bernstein) and 83 points short of third (Tony Schumacher). Leader Doug Kalitta is 172 markers in front of her.
"We're coming into races where we ran very well in the beginning of the year, tracks that we have a lot of good information on. So, I'm looking forward to this weekend's race in Las Vegas," said Troxel, who last week was named the "Sportswoman of the Year" by the Women's Sports Foundation.
"We won the spring race here and I think we're on the right track to getting back to where our performance was earlier in the year. It would be great to finish off the year strong and move up one or even two positions in the point standings."
The last NHRA event, in Richmond, Va., where the series had not raced since 2000, took its toll on each of the top contenders, leaving its mark on the points chase. Kalitta scored the best result, a semifinal finish, while Troxel and Bernstein went to the quarterfinals. Tony Schumacher dropped from second to third in the rankings following a first-round loss.
"Richmond was a little bit tough on everybody," said Troxel. "It was an unknown race track and the top end of the track was really tricky. The majority of the teams were spinning the tires really hard down there, which did make it tough on us. We generally make pretty good power. When you get down track with a lot of horsepower it's tough to tame that down and keep it hooked up.
"It doesn't really affect us at all long term. We would have liked to have run better there, have a stronger finish, while we still had a possible shot at the championship, but that's behind us now and we're looking forward to tracks that we know how to run at.
"The track surface is great in Vegas. It is considered an altitude track, which can be a little bit tricky. But, we ran strong in the spring here, won the event, and I think that gives us a lot of confidence."
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