Denver: Melanie Troxel preview

Back Home in Denver, Melanie Troxel Ready For 1,000-foot Track, Improving Performances Returning to her hometown of Denver brings back a lot of memories for NHRA Funny Car driver Melanie Troxel. "I lived a majority of my life there," said...

Back Home in  Denver, Melanie Troxel Ready
For 1,000-foot Track, Improving  Performances

Returning to her hometown of Denver brings back a lot of memories for NHRA Funny Car driver Melanie Troxel.

"I lived a majority of my life there," said Troxel, who now calls Avon, Ind., home. "I still have a lot of family and friends in Denver that, quite honestly, with the schedule we keep and the limited amount of off-time we have, I don't get to see very often," Troxel said as she prepared for the 29th Mopar Mile-High Nationals at venerable Bandimere Speedway in nearby Morrison.

"It brings back a lot of memories when I race at the track where I  got my
start.  I literally grew up at Bandimere."
In the early  years, she was there watching her late father, Mike Troxel,
race, and it was at  this race track that she ultimately developed the
competitive racing instincts  she carries today.
"I have a lot of memories of my dad racing,"  Melanie said, "but even more
than that, Morrison is where I grew up.  Even  when I wasn't paying attention
to the racing, I hung out at the race track  during the weekends with the other
racers' kids who were my  friends."
Troxel, meanwhile, has developed a large following of  fans during her
successful racing career, many of whom still reside in the  Denver area.  This
weekend, they will be seeing her for the first time in  the ProCare Rx Dodge
Charger R/T, as she enters the second half of her first  POWERade Series season in
the full-bodied, nitromethane burning Funny Car  class.

She has adapted to the nuances presented by these cars and fared well in this highly-competitive category, winning at Bristol, Tenn., in just her eighth race. That victory made her the 14th driver -- and the first female driver -- to win national events in both Funny Car and Top Fuel. Her husband, Tommy Johnson Jr., also is in the select group. Overall, Troxel has five wins in nitro cars, including four in Top Fuel, and she has two Top Alcohol Dragster national events wins.

And there are more challenges ahead.

First, of course, is the debut here of the first NHRA Top Fuel and Funny Car races to 1,000 feet. The temporary mandate that lopped 320 feet off the traditional distance was made last week as the drag racing community searches for ways to make the cars safer following the tragic loss of Funny Car driver Scott Kalitta last month.

"I  haven't thought about it yet," Troxel says of the shorter track, "but
it will be  something I will be thinking about as I get into the car.  You have
to  remind yourself that you only have to go 1000 feet.  It doesn't take a
lot  of thought, but it would be real easy to drive it farther than  necessary."

Second are the traditional altitude problems the cars and their tuners face in the oxygen-deprived atmosphere.

"I think we have seen the car make consistent improvements for many weeks now," acknowledged Troxel. "Sometimes it is just a small gain, but as long as we can continue to improve, we are definitely going in the right direction. We have a fairly consistent race car. It will be interesting to see what the adjustments for the altitude will do for our tune-up this week.

"We are moving in the right direction . . . although, quite frankly, with the way we started the year there was nowhere to go but up, and we've continued to do that. Even though we aren't in the top 10 (she's 14th), we are moving in that direction.

"Really, our goal is to hit our stride coming into the last quarter of the season."

Third,  this is the beginning of the grueling three-race Western Swing that
includes  stops at Seattle (July 18-20) and Sonoma, Calif. (July 25-27) before
the  Indianapolis-based team can return home.

"Three races in a row are always really tough on everybody, especially the guys on the crew," Troxel said. "They are on the road for two-plus weeks this month.

"A lot could change in the next three weeks and this kind of sets you on a course to see which way your season is going to go. If you do well, you pick up momentum that seems to carry on through (races in Brainerd, Minn., and Reading, Pa.) to Indianapolis (the U.S. Nationals, Aug. 29-Sept. 1). On the other side, if you really struggle, it makes for a really long three weeks. Sometimes it's hard to break out of that slump.

"It is going to be important for us to not let the grind drag us down."

One thing missing from Troxel's Bandimere resume is a Top Fuel or Funny Car victory. A visit to the winner's circle Sunday would provide a solid momentum boost to the ProCare Rx team as they return to sea level for the Seattle race.

Kudos to Bandimere Speedway

Troxel complimented the Bandimere Family for "the way the  Speedway has
transformed over the years," she said.  "I can remember very  vividly when the
pits were at the bottom side of the track and they had a round  (announcing and
race staff) tower.  Some camping was about all there was on  top."
All that changed when the track was completely  remodeled and updated in
1988.  Spectator seating was tripled and a  press/corporate suites tower was
added.  This year, the racers will have a  new, all-concrete racing surface.
"They have done an incredible job  of keeping the facility up to date.  They
are constantly making  improvements to the track.  I know the altitude is kind
of tricky for the  tuners, but I still think it is one of the facilities that
the racers look  forward to coming to."

-credit: gcr

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Scott Kalitta , Melanie Troxel