TROXEL, MEDLEN AND LINE EARN NO. 1 QUALIFYING POSITIONS AT O'REILLY THUNDER VALLEY NATIONALS
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Melanie Troxel became the seventh woman in NHRA history to top a professional elimination field after qualifying No. 1 Saturday at Bristol Dragway. Troxel posted a 4.539 at 324 mph in her Skull Shine/Torco Race Fuels dragster to lead the sixth annual O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Q, the sixth of 23 events on the $50 million POWERade Drag Racing Series.
Troxel will try to make more history Sunday if she can race to her seventh consecutive final round, which would tie her with teammate Tony Schumacher for the category record. Fellow low qualifiers Eric Medlen (Funny Car) and Jason Line (Pro Stock) are each searching for their first victories of the 2006 season.
Troxel actually was part of two bits of history as she and rookie Hillary Will became the first pair of women to qualify first and second in a professional field. Will completed the best qualifying effort of her brief career with a 4.562 at 321.04 mph in her KB Racing dragster.
"I've stopped pinching myself to see if all this is real because the good things just keep happening and we're starting to see that it's the result of a lot of hard work by this Torco race team," Troxel said. "We've had our fair share of things going our way but we're also getting better and better as a team."
Reigning series champion Tony Schumacher is seventh after a 4.609 in the U.S. Army dragster, just ahead of Cory McClenathan, who ended up eighth overall with a 4.624 in the Fram Boost2 dragster. McClenathan, who was checked and released from the hospital late Friday night following a scary crash, plans to race Sunday in a new car. He did not make any attempts Saturday as his crew spent the day putting his new dragster together.
Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang driver Medlen appeared relieved to hold onto the No. 1 spot he earned Friday night after several drivers made runs at his posted performance of 4.755 at 306.53 mph. His biggest challenge came from his boss and Ford Racing teammate John Force, who moved up to third with a 4.766 at 323.19 mph in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang.
"Any more, all that being No. 1 qualifier means is that you get to race on Sunday with 15 other guys," Medlen said. "How many No. 1 qualifiers have won this year? Not many, if any at all. Our car's good, don't get me wrong, but I think if you asked anyone out here they'd tell you they'd take consistency over being No. 1."
Series points leader Ron Capps is mid-pack with a 4.818 in his Brut Dodge.
Former Rookie of the Year Line used a track record top speed of 204.66 mph to push his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO through a 6.727-second pass, which made him the No. 1 qualifier for the second time this year. The entire Pro Stock field was separated by just .037 seconds.
"I think I probably take more pride when Greg [Anderson] is No. 1 because tuning his car is still my top priority," Line said of his teammate. "I still feel that responsibility towards his car first. We try to make them the same but the truth is, as much as we want to think otherwise, there are still some things we just don't understand with these cars.
Anderson, whose car is tuned by Line, slipped to second place Saturday despite improving to a 6.734 at 204.26 mph in his Summit Racing GTO. Greg Stanfield returned to form here by qualifying third with a 6.736 at 203.92 mph in his PiranaZ GTO.
Eliminations begin at noon.