Troxel thunders to qualifying lead at FIA Finals in England

NORTHAMPTON, England (Sept. 11) -- American drag racer Melanie Troxel posted a steady 6.027 at 241.22 mph Saturday at historic Santa Pod Raceway to assume the top spot in the Pro Mod class at the season-ending FIA Finals.

After missing Friday's action altogether -- one round was lost to rain and the team suffered an ignition problem before the other -- Troxel and crew chief Al Billes shrugged off a anxious night of sleep and opened Saturday's action with a conservative 6.351 at 235.29 mph in the Roger Burgess-owned R2B2 Camaro to jump up to the sixth spot.

Having a good read on the track, Billes turned the screws for Saturday's second session and Troxel did a great job of driving to keep the car in the groove. The end result was the best run of the weekend in the entire class.

"I wouldn't have guessed, with as crossed-up as that run was, that we'd be No. 1 qualifier," Troxel said. "When you have to drive the car that much that early in the run, especially in qualifying when you're already in the show, it's easy to think about lifting and playing it safe. On race day I'll do whatever it takes to get to the finish line, but you usually don't have that mindset in qualifying unless you're not in the show.

"We were thinking worst-case scenario because everyone was saying how bad the weather was going to be today. I kind of prepared myself for the reality that we might have made this long trip for nothing. It turned out to be the nicest day we've ever had in our two visits to Santa Pod. It was a picture perfect day for drag racing."

As the top qualifier, Troxel will have lane choice over final qualifier Robert Joosten of the Netherlands, who posted a top run of 6.396 at 224.46 mph.

Troxel's European teammate, Micke Gullqvist of Sweden, slipped from Friday's top perch to fourth place overall on the strength of his opening run of 6.087 at 233.76 mph. The class points leader through qualifying, Gullqvist starts race day against Germany's Marco Maurischat, who carded a 6.356 at 221.46 mph to earn 13th place on the grid.

Johan Lindberg, who entered the race tied with Gullqvist for the points lead, barely made the cut in 14th place with a 6.396 at 224.46 mph. The Swede has only made it down the track one time under power.

"Until the last few pairs when Adam (Flamholc) jumped over us it looked like we would be racing Johan in Round 1," Gullqvist said. "That would have been a very big race. We have a great car and being a part of R2B2 Racing has helped us tremendously. We need to finish the job tomorrow and win the championship for Roger Burgess."

-source: r2b2