Englishtown: Melanie Troxel preview

TROXEL FOCUSED ON KEEPING HER DREAM SEASON ALIVE ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (June 14, 2006) - The 23-event 2006 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series is nearly at the halfway point, and Top Fuel points leader Melanie Troxel, who has led from the very first ...

TROXEL FOCUSED ON KEEPING HER DREAM SEASON ALIVE

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (June 14, 2006) - The 23-event 2006 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series is nearly at the halfway point, and Top Fuel points leader Melanie Troxel, who has led from the very first event this year, knows she needs to keep up the momentum if she's to win her first Top Fuel championship.

Troxel has reached the final round in seven of the 10 events so far, winning twice driving the Skull Shine/Knoll Gas-Torco Race Fuels Top Fuel dragster for Don Schumacher Racing in her first full season in the class, but she's looking over her shoulder at Doug Kalitta, who is closing in.

The team's performance at this weekend's K&N Filters SuperNationals in Englishtown, N.J., is critical to Troxel's quest. Only 71 points separate her from Kalitta (she has led by as many as 156 points this year), and Troxel is determined to snap Kalitta's streak of four wins in the last five races.

Troxel has two round wins over Kalitta since she returned to Top Fuel competition with Don Schumacher Racing in Denver last year, and she's looking to add to that record. She wasn't able to do that in last weekend's final round, however, when Kalitta won after she was disqualified for crossing the centerline when the car made a bizarre move to the left at the launch. En route to the final, however, she put together a stellar string of successively-quicker rounds.

"Well, I think we accomplished what we needed to last weekend as far as stepping up our program," she said. "We just didn't quite get the job done in the final round."

"There were a lot of indications that we're back to running like we had been earlier in the year (where she became the first Top Fuel driver to reach the first five final rounds of a season)," she said. "The Skull Shine dragster ran great. We're still not quite sure what happened in the final round, but up until that point the car was consistent, went down the track, and picked up a little bit each round. We just didn't come away with the win."

"We need to continue on that kind of pace to step up our program and if we're fortunate enough that Doug Kalitta doesn't make it to the final then we need to capitalize on that and gain some points. And if we're fortunate enough to make it the final and meet him there, then we need to come away with that win."

"He's chipping away at our lead. This is that tough time of year. The three-race swing can go so fast and make a huge change in the points (the St. Louis race follows next weekend after consecutive events in Chicago and Englishtown, N.J.). That was a good step, making it to the final round last weekend. We just need to keep up that momentum."

Did she ever expect to be in the lead at this point of the season? "The goal was to win two races by the halfway point," she explained, "and we've accomplished that. I wanted to have a legitimate shot at the championship, and we're definitely ahead of schedule.

"We've been leading the points the entire year and we need to keep at it. There's absolutely no room to relax and enjoy our success. It's going to be tougher than ever. Obviously, Kalitta's team has a lot of momentum right now and we need to keep pace with them if not break their momentum all together."

MELANIE TROXEL QUICK FACTS:

Top Fuel points leader by 71 points after Pomona and Las Vegas wins and runner-up finishes in Phoenix, Gainesville, Fla., Houston, Atlanta and Chicago

First NHRA Top Fuel driver to reach the final round in the first five events of a season

Troxel has reached six consecutive final rounds (two wins) dating back to final event of 2005. The string was broken at Bristol Dragway

She has now reached seven final rounds in 10 events in 2006

With Tony Schumacher's five straight final-round appearances to end 2005, Don Schumacher Racing has been in 12 consecutive final rounds

Was named the first quarter winner of 2006 Driver of the Year voting

Won her first national Top Fuel event in Pomona, Calif., Feb. 12, 2006

2006 is her first full season of Top Fuel competition

33 years old, born Aug. 31, 1972

Born in Littleton, Colo., lives in Avon, Ind., with husband and Funny Car driver Tommy Johnson Jr.

Two national event wins in Alcohol Dragster in 1999 (Seattle and Topeka)

Has seven runner-up finishes in Top Fuel: in 2000 (Dallas 2), 2005 (Pomona 2), Phoenix 2006, Gainesville 2006, Atlanta 2006 and Chicago 2006

She has qualified No. 2 twice so far, at Bristol Dragway in 2006 and Heartland Park Topeka 2006. She also has two No. 2s (Dallas '05 and Pomona 2 '05)

Drove limited schedule for Don Schumacher Racing in 2000, her first year in Top Fuel

Rejoined DSR in the 13th event of 2005 (Denver)

Runner-up in Alcohol Dragster points in 1999

Ran limited Top Fuel schedule in 2002 and 2003

Career quickest elapsed time in Top Fuel is 4.458 seconds, set in 2005 in Dallas

Career fastest speed is 331.04 mph, set 5/7/06 at Atlanta Dragway

In 2005, in 11 races, Troxel had eight round wins

Troxel is the quickest and fastest female driver in NHRA history, after clocking the 4.458-second pass and 330.31-mph speed in Dallas '05. She has since upped that speed to 331.04 mph.

SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. on Friday, June 16. Qualifying continues at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 17 and final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 18.

ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise two hours of qualifying of the K&N Filters NHRA SuperNationals at 5 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, June 17. ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise three hours of final eliminations coverage beginning at 4 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, June 18.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Melanie Troxel , Don Schumacher , Tommy Johnson Jr.