Baytown: Melanie Troxel preview

Troxel Sees Good Times Ahead For ProCare Rx Funny Car Team -- Beginning in Houston When Melanie Troxel decided to forego her Top Fuel career in favor of a Funny Car ride this year, she knew a learning curve was ahead. There aren't many...

Troxel Sees Good Times Ahead For ProCare Rx Funny Car Team -- Beginning in Houston

When Melanie Troxel decided to forego her Top Fuel career in favor of a Funny Car ride this year, she knew a learning curve was ahead.

There aren't many physical similarities between the long, sleek cars with the big wing and big tires on the back and the little tires on the front and the shorter, full-bodied, usually unpredictable Funny Cars. But it was a challenge for which she was prepared. Heck, if she has any questions, she need do nothing more than look across the breakfast table for some advice.

And it's likely her husband, Tommy Johnson Jr., willingly provides the proper answers even though she is now one of his on-track rivals.

Troxel displayed no first-race discomfort when she made the most of four qualifying runs in Mike Ashley's ProCare Rx Dodge Charger R/T at Pomona, Calif. She posted the third-quickest elapsed time, 4.810 seconds at 327.90 mph, the fastest Funny Car speed of the weekend. On race day, she did all she could to get that first round win, too, leaving the starting line first with a .042-second reaction time -- fourth-best in eliminations -- but falling short when her car lost traction.

Inclement racing conditions doused Friday qualifying in ensuing stops at Phoenix and Gainesville, Fla., limiting the Troxel to just two qualifying runs at each event. And the team was unable to make the starting line-up at either race.

"This has been tough on my team," Troxel says of group led by crew chiefs Mark Oswald and Brian Corradi. "We knew switching to Funny Car wouldn't be easy. It's a tough class -- not that Top Fuel isn't -- but there are more competitive cars in Funny Car. It's tougher to qualify. All of the top 10 cars last year didn't qualify at least once."

However, an informative test session following the Gainesville race provided enough new data that Troxel believes will bring her back to competitive form for the O'Reilly Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway Park, Friday through Sunday. The prospects of good weather that will allow all four qualifying runs also would be comforting.

"We haven't done well when we've only had two (qualifying) sessions to get down the track," said Troxel, who has four career Top Fuel victories in 15 final rounds. "So that's probably the thing that's hurt us the most, but everybody else is in the same situation. It's not like we're at a disadvantage compared to everybody else, but we just haven't fared as well.

"We've got a great team and great equipment and all of the pieces we need to go out there and qualify and run well, but I guess the biggest thing for me is to hope we are going to get all four of those laps. We continue to make progress with the team and the setup.

"It has been disappointing not getting the laps in, and getting more laps will help me the most now being a rookie driver. Unfortunately, we're not getting those in qualifying or on race day. But we have been doing a lot of testing and getting a lot of runs down the track, just not the way we'd like to be doing it."

There is one mitigating factor that has troubled Corradi and Oswald -- the 100-pound weight adjustment NHRA added to Funny Cars this year for safety reasons.

"I think the extra 100 pounds have been tough for us to adjust to," added Troxel, who was Top Fuel runner-up at Houston in 2006. "Some of the teams were already quite a bit overweight, so it didn't affect them as much, but we already had to figure out where to add 30 or 40 pounds to the car to make up the difference between Mike (Ashley) driving it and me driving it. That didn't put us at a disadvantage, but now it's logistically figuring out where you are going to hang the extra 100 pounds so it's not going to affect the car differently that has been tough.

"But we are getting past that it; we've done a lot of testing and we are making progress. I hope the weather is going to be nice in Houston. I feel pretty confident we are going to go out there, go right down the track Friday and get qualified."

-credit: gcr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Melanie Troxel , Mike Ashley , Tommy Johnson Jr.