Gainesville: Gotham City Racing Saturday notes

Hawley grabs No 11 at Gatornationals, Troxel exits early GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 15, 2008) - Former Gatornationals and NHRA World champion Frank Hawley was literally bouncing off the walls on Saturday to get into eliminations at Gainesville ...

Hawley grabs No 11 at Gatornationals, Troxel exits early

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 15, 2008) - Former Gatornationals and NHRA World champion Frank Hawley was literally bouncing off the walls on Saturday to get into eliminations at Gainesville Raceway in his first Funny Car qualifying passes since 1991. Despite grazing the guard wall just after the finish line on his first of two qualifying attempts in the 39th Annual ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals, the 52-year-old Gainesville, Fla. resident landed in the No. 11 spot at the end of the day. Hawley's Gotham City Racing teammate, Melanie Troxel, suffered mechanical problems with her ProCare Rx Dodge Charger R/T and failed to qualify.

Hawley said he was unaware he'd even hit the wall until he climbed out of the car, but said he had noticed the car make a hard move toward the left wall about two-thirds of the way to the finish line. Because the contact came after the stripe, the 4.969/314.17 run was counted, and his second attempt was straight down the track netting a 4.916/319.60 and the 11th position overall.

"It certainly doesn't feel like it's been 17 years, that's for sure," Hawley said. "Aaron Brooks and the team gave me a great car today, and it felt really good going down the track.

"On that first run, I felt a hard pull at about 800 feet, maybe because of the high cross-wind, or maybe because we lost a cylinder, but I was so close to the finish line, I felt I could get across and keep it going straight. I didn't even know I'd hit the wall until they told me after I climbed out of the car, but it was more of a graze and not anything really damaging."

In eliminations on Sunday, Hawley will face "Fast" Jack Beckman in the first round. Beckman is an instructor at Hawley's NHRA Driving School, and according to Hawley, the match up couldn't have been scripted any better.

"It feels great to drive again, and I'm really looking forward to facing my friend and employee, Jack Beckman, in the first round of eliminations tomorrow. I guess we'll see how good of a student he really is," Hawley said with a smile.

The rain-shortened qualifying ultimately cost Funny Car rookie Melanie Troxel a spot in the finals on Sunday. Typically, a driver is given four chances to make the top 16, but persistent rain caused the cancellation of Friday's qualifying, limiting the attempts to only two. In her first pass, Troxel's Charger lost traction early in the run and netted her a 5.854/259.06. Her second attempt saw her matched up for the first time against her husband, fellow Funny Car driver, Tommy Johnson, Jr., and although Troxel left the line first, the car pulled hard to the centerline and she hit a timing cone at 330 feet, disqualifying her run. Johnson had to abort his run to avoid a collision, and neither driver was able to qualify for the show.

"It's be easy to get frustrated with the way things have been happening the past two races, but, when you look at the big picture, this is all part of racing," Troxel said.

"Other than high humidity, the track and racing conditions were excellent. Driving out of the potentially dangerous situation when the car crossed the line against Tommy was actually reassuring, in a strange sort of way, because, had I not known how to handle the car, things could have been much different.

"Of course, I'm sure I'll never hear the end of that from the team or my husband, but we'll move on and race again another day," she said.

"Not qualifying is disappointing, but, as a team, the other Gotham City Racing drivers are all doing really well, so, tomorrow, I'll cheer them on, and then we'll re-group and get ready for Houston in a couple of weeks," Troxel said.

In addition to Hawley's No.11 spot in Funny Car, Gotham City Racing co-owners Mike Ashley and Roger Burgess are both qualified in the Pro Modified Challenge - Burgess in the No.12 spot and Ashley taking top honors with a blistering 5.945/239.61.

-credit: gcr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tommy Johnson , Jack Beckman , Melanie Troxel , Mike Ashley , Frank Hawley , Roger Burgess