TROXEL RACES TO SECOND VICTORY OF SEASON, BECOMES FIRST TOP FUEL DRIVER IN NHRA HISTORY TO OPEN WITH FIVE CONSECUTIVE FINALS Pedregon and Johnson also score wins at NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals in Las Vegas LAS VEGAS -- Season-long NHRA ...
TROXEL RACES TO SECOND VICTORY OF SEASON, BECOMES FIRST TOP FUEL DRIVER IN NHRA HISTORY TO OPEN WITH FIVE CONSECUTIVE FINALS
Pedregon and Johnson also score wins at NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals in Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS -- Season-long NHRA POWERade Series points leader Melanie Troxel raced to her second Top Fuel victory of the season and made drag racing history along the way Sunday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway by becoming the first driver in her category to open the season with five consecutive final-round appearances.
Troxel's Skull Gear/Torco Race Fuels dragster covered the quarter-mile distance in 4.834 seconds at 285.65 mph to win the seventh annual NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals, the fifth of 23 races in the $50 million POWERade Drag Racing Series. She was joined in the winners' circle by former Funny Car champion Cruz Pedregon and Pro Stock veteran Kurt Johnson.
One of two females currently leading the 2006 POWERade Series standings, along with Pro Stock Motorcycle frontrunner Angelle Sampey, Troxel's dragster was nearly flawless in the early rounds as she posted three straight 4.5-second passes. She had to fight through some engine problems against runner-up Dave Grubnic, but he was in bigger trouble, sputtering through the timers in 4.987 seconds at 319.60 mph in his StriVectin-SD dragster.
"It seems like we can do no wrong," said Troxel, who outran David Baca, Morgan Lucas and Doug Kalitta in earlier rounds. "Richard Hogan (crew chief) seems to have the ability to adapt the car to whatever conditions we face, and the guys are doing a great job of getting the car back together the same way every time. We're not making many mistakes.
"I don't want to wake up from this. No matter how good a team you have, you just can't think that you'll continue to go to the finals every week. I'm surprised as anybody. We're on a team that has all the resources and is enjoying a lot of success and that motivates you to go out there and perform at your best."
Troxel increased her lead in the POWERade standings from 128 to 156 points over second place Grubnic. Three-time and defending world champion Tony Schumacher lost in the first round and fell to ninth in the standings.
Pedregon won his first Funny Car race in 126 events, which dates back to the tour's 2000 stop in Englishtown, N.J. Like Troxel, Pedregon's final-round pass wasn't pretty, but the 5.417 at 266.16 mph he posted in his Advance Auto Parts Chevy Monte Carlo was more than enough to take out series leader Ron Capps, whose Brut Dodge lost traction at the hit of the throttle.
"You can say I had a gorilla on my back because it was definitely bigger than a monkey," said Pedregon, who moved from 10th to fifth in the points. "My feeling in the final when I started smoking the tires out there was, 'oh well, Ron's gonna go by me.' But when I didn't see him I just started driving off adrenaline and instinct. I've never been so glad to see a win light come on."
Pedregon beat Jim Head, Tony Bartone, and Tommy Johnson Jr. along the way to his 50th career final. Capps' third final in a row -- he was coming off back-to-back wins -- pushed his lead in the series standings to 105 over John Force.
An 18-1 underdog with the local bookmakers, Johnson hadn't won a round all season but he collected four here, winning Pro Stock by 10 inches in his ACDelco Chevrolet Cobalt with a come-from-behind 6.842 at 202.42 mph against Dave Connolly's 6.874 at 202.00 mph in his Skull Gear Cobalt. It was Johnson's 33rd career victory and he is the fifth different Pro Stock winner of the first five races.
"We've been slumping, no doubt," said Johnson, who suffered first round losses in the season's first four races. "I was just glad the car started this morning. We've had some success here and we were able to look in the recipe book and figured out what to do. Everybody has periods where they're not running so well. You just have to fight through it.
"I came here in 2002 and I was an 18-1 underdog so I bet on myself. I got drilled in the second round so I said the heck with that, I'm not gonna bet on myself any more. I guess some people made money on me today but not me. I guarantee you I'm happier with this trophy."
The win also extends a personal streak for Johnson of winning at least one race in each of the past 12 seasons. He moved from 16th to 10th in the series standings.
Despite a first round upset, Greg Anderson maintained a 40 point lead in the POWERade Pro Stock standings over Mike Edwards.
The NHRA POWERade Series continues with the sixth annual O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, April 28-30 at Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway.