Troxel continues hot streak in Las Vegas

Melanie Troxel prefers to refer to herself as a NHRA Top Fuel competitor who happens to be a woman rather than a woman racer. She hammered that point home again Sunday, winning the SummitRacing.com Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor ...

Melanie Troxel prefers to refer to herself as a NHRA Top Fuel competitor who happens to be a woman rather than a woman racer.

She hammered that point home again Sunday, winning the SummitRacing.com Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Other winners Sunday were Cruz Pedregon in Funny Car and Kurt Johnson in Pro Stock.

But the day's big celebration was reserved for Troxel, who scored her second victory of the season and increased her Powerade Series points lead to 156 markers. She also became the first Top Fuel competitor to advance to the final round in the first five events of the season.

"No matter how much you tell people that (women) can be just as competitive, it's entirely another thing to go out and do it and get beyond the novelty of having a woman in the car," said Troxel, who advanced to the finals for the sixth consecutive race dating back to last season. "I think we're definitely making progress on that side of it. I know part of the story is always going to be the fact that I'm a female, but I think we changed the minds of those people. By no means is this a fluke, or we're just lucky."

Instead, consistency proved again to be the key to Troxel's success Sunday. She put together consecutive 4.5-second runs to advance to the finals before defeating Australian David Grubnic with a less-than-stellar 4.837 pass. Grubnic, who advanced to the finals despite smoking the tires during the first two rounds, overpowered the track and slowed to a 4.987.

"I keep waiting to wake up," said Troxel, who advanced to the finals with wins over David Baca, Morgan Lucas and Doug Kalitta. "Each week, we keep thinking that we can't keep this streak going. It's not that I'm losing confidence in the team, it's just unlikely you can keep doing this.

"We just keep telling ourselves that we won't be too disappointed when this string ends. It surprises us as much as anyone when we end up in the final." While Troxel was enjoying adding to her present streak, Pedregon and Johnson were excited to end their personal win-less streaks.

Pedregon, who beat points leader Ron Capps in the final, scored his first victory since winning the 2000 SuperNationals at Englishtown, N.J. He advanced with victories over Jim Head, Worsham and Tommy Johnson Jr. before beating a tire-smoking Capps with a sub-par 5.417 in the finals.

"This is just pressure relief" said Pedregon, winner of 24 national events and the 1992 Funny Car title. "It gets the gorilla off my back - a monkey is too small to describe what I've felt. It's taken five years to win out here. This car I had today, if I had it six, seven years ago, I would have won. But the competition is the real deal. It's just hard.

"It's easily the biggest win of my career. I'm very, very thankful for this win, believe me. I'm going to enjoy every minute of it."

So is Johnson, who earned his first win since winning the fall race here in late October. He beat Mike Edwards, Erica Enders and Jason Line before running a 6.842 pass to beat Dave Connolly in the final.

Connolly, who had hole-shot wins during the first three rounds, held a 0.006 advantage off the starting line. But his 6.874 run left him .003 short of Johnson at the finish. "We've been slumping, no doubt," Johnson said. "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."

Sunday's event also saw top qualifiers Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) lose in the first round. It's the first time all three No. 1 qualifiers went out in the opening round since the 2004 SuperNationals in Englishtown.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Head , Kurt Johnson , Ron Capps , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , David Baca , David Grubnic , Cruz Pedregon , Melanie Troxel , Morgan Lucas , Jason Line , Robert Hight , Dave Connolly , Mike Edwards , Tommy Johnson Jr.