St. Louis: Sunday eliminations report

SMITH WINS WITH NATIONAL RECORD; CAPPS, TROXEL, CONNOLLY ROUND OUT WINNERS IN ST. LOUIS MADISON, Ill. - Female superstar Top Fuel pilot Melanie Troxel won her first race of the 2007 season and the third of her career Sunday at the 11th annual ...

SMITH WINS WITH NATIONAL RECORD; CAPPS, TROXEL, CONNOLLY ROUND OUT WINNERS IN ST. LOUIS

MADISON, Ill. - Female superstar Top Fuel pilot Melanie Troxel won her first race of the 2007 season and the third of her career Sunday at the 11th annual O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway International Raceway in St. Louis. Troxel outlasted veteran Cory McClenathan, 4.741 to 5.355, in the money round to become just the second female winner in track history.

Ron Capps extended his lead in the POWERade Funny Car points to 121 with his third victory of the year, this one over Del Worsham. Connolly topped teammate Jeg Coughlin by .016 seconds to move into second place overall in Pro Stock, while Matt Smith used a stunning national record elapsed time of 6.901 seconds to earn the Pro stock Motorcycle hardware over three-time Gateway winner Angelle Sampey.

This was the first victory for Troxel's new Vietnam Veterans/POW-MIA team, which came together in the off-season under the guidance of Evan Knoll. It was also the first for the popular pro in more than a year, as she last visited the trophy stand in Las Vegas in April of last year.

"We knew it would take a little time to get a new team together and get to a point where we were running well," Troxel said. "It's certainly took us a few races and even when we started running a little better we didn't get any breaks. Today we weren't the best car and we definitely got little breaks here and there along the way so it was nice to see things fall our way."

Troxel powered from ninth to fifth in the rankings, while McClenathan solidified the 10th-place perch for the FRAM team. Top qualifier "Hot Rod" Fuller raced to the semifinals in his Fabick Caterpillar rail, which moved him back into the points lead he handed over to Brandon Bernstein at the last event. He is now 23 points up on the Bud Prince, who went out in the first round.

Capps looked exhausted when he climbed out of his Brut Revolution Dodge Charger R/T after dispatching Checker, Schuck's, Kragen racer Worsham in the trophy round. His 4.882 at 305.98 mph was just enough to beat Worsham's 4.918 at 308.50 mph and his 25th career win obviously took a lot out of him.

"I don't know if the people watching on TV at home have any idea at all how brutal it was this weekend," Capps said. "This is one of the toughest races I've ever been in and I can feel it now."

The party was on in the Victor Cagnazzi Racing camp with Connolly catching and passing a slightly out-of-shape Coughlin to win the Pro Stock crown with a 6.663 at 206.99 mph in his Torco/Slammers Chevrolet Cobalt over Coughlin's 6.695 at 206.64 mph. Both drivers passed reigning series champion Jason Line in the points with Connolly second overall and Coughlin third.

"Victor has been working this program for so long and he's put so much effort, time, and money into this deal," Connolly said. "To give him his first win feels great, and the fact both his cars were in the final made it perfect. I was so happy to beat Jeg because he's a guy I really respect and I knew I would have to earn it to get it."

This was Smith's third Pro Stock Motorcycle final of the year and the third time he raced a female competitor for the race title. This time he finally got the win, using an otherworldly national record 6.901 at 191.78 mph on his Torco Buell V-Twin to conquer Sampey, who slowed well before the finish line and coasted through with a 7.132 at 162.67 mph on her Suzuki.

"I finally beat the girls and it feels so good," Smith said. "I beat two of them today. It was in my head a little, I have to admit. Credit this team with giving me a bike that has been running so sweet all year. We've worked very hard for this win so to go out and get it done is very satisfying."

Smith's third career win and the 20-point bonus he earned for setting a national record vaulted him to a 53-point lead over Karen Stoffer. Sampey is five points back in third.

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , Cory McClenathan , Karen Stoffer , Melanie Troxel , Jason Line , Angelle Sampey , Matt Smith