Columbus: Melanie Troxel preview

TOP FUEL POINTS LEADER TROXEL NOT YET FEELING THE PRESSURE AS SERIES HEADS TO COLUMBUS HEBRON, Ohio (May 16, 2006) - Top Fuel points leader Melanie Troxel says she's not yet feeling the pressure in this young NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series ...

TOP FUEL POINTS LEADER TROXEL NOT YET FEELING THE PRESSURE AS SERIES HEADS TO COLUMBUS

HEBRON, Ohio (May 16, 2006) - Top Fuel points leader Melanie Troxel says she's not yet feeling the pressure in this young NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series season so far, despite her success and the publicity that has come with it.

In her first full year in Top Fuel competition, driving the Skull Shine/Torco Race Fuels dragster for Don Schumacher Racing, the 33-year-old Colorado native holds a 132-point cushion in the rankings over her next challenger, Doug Kalitta, as the tour heads to National Trail Raceway this weekend for round 8 of the 23-event series.

In the initial seven races of 2006, Troxel has become the first Top Fuel driver to reach the final round in each of the first five events of a season, has gone to six finals in the first seven events, has won twice, and has led the standings since the season-opener in Pomona, Calif.

Can this dream year continue?

"I don't think that I'm feeling any additional pressure," Troxel says, "but I think a lot of times there is pressure that you're not even necessarily aware of and it has an effect on how you do things.

"Right now, I'm feeling really good about everything and feeling very confident about the consistency of our team," adds Troxel, who has a 21-5 round win-loss season record so far.

She won't deny she is looking over her shoulder at Kalitta as well as her other competitors. "Doug definitely appears to have the toughest car out here right now," says Troxel. "That team has won the last two races. It still remains to be seen what's going to happen when we start getting to hot race tracks. Obviously, the last couple have not been hot, but, yes, it kind of helps me focus a little bit more on what we have to do, knowing that they could come out and win a lot of races. They're very competitive right now and we need to remain consistent. And, even if we don't win a lot of races, just going rounds is going to help us keep as much of our cushion as we can."

Does she sense that target on her back from her other fellow drivers? "I don't think I do feel that yet," she says. "It might be the fact that I've never been in this position before and maybe because it's so early in the season. When it comes down to later in the year and it becomes easier to quantify every round and what that means, that may be a different story."

As for this weekend's event at National Trail Raceway, just outside of Columbus: "I have not raced Top Fuel in Columbus. My biggest concern right now is for the weather. The weather report hasn't looked great, but it looks as though it may be improving and that is a good sign."

MELANIE'S COLUMBUS MEMORIES

Although she's never competed at National Trail Raceway, Troxel does have memories of her late father Mike racing his Top Alcohol Dragster here, as well as her husband (and current Fuel Funny Car racer) Tommy Johnson Jr., whom she married in 2003, winning here.

"The one strong memory I have of National Trail Raceway is of my dad racing here," she says. "He's raced here many times, but the time that sticks out in my mind is in 1989. He actually crashed in that race. He went into the sand trap and ended up rolling the car up the hill, across the road and into the yard of the house that was across the street.

"He was fine. Nothing more than bumps and bruises. That would have been a year before I graduated from high school; I was 16. I had never been at a race my dad had won and he won the championship in 1988 and it might have been the first race I had gone to in 1989.

"I had missed Friday's qualifying and showed up a day into qualifying, and in the first pass of the first race I was at all year long he crashed. So, after that, I used to joke with him that I certainly wasn't his good-luck charm.

"(My husband) Tommy's first win ever in Alcohol Funny Car was also in Columbus, in 1988, and I was there hanging out with his little sister. We were both too young to come down to the starting line, so we watched from the steps of the tower and when he won we jumped on the scooter and went down to the end of the track and she just about killed the two of us to get there. But we were OK."

-dsr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Kalitta , Melanie Troxel , Don Schumacher , Tommy Johnson Jr.