WOMEN DRIVERS LEAD TWO OF THREE CATEGORIES HALFWAY THROUGH QUALIFYING Melanie Troxel leads in Top Fuel, Robert Hight in Funny Car, Erica Enders in Pro Stock TOPEKA, Kan. -- Melanie Troxel and Erica Enders stood atop their respective categories...
WOMEN DRIVERS LEAD TWO OF THREE CATEGORIES HALFWAY THROUGH QUALIFYING
Melanie Troxel leads in Top Fuel, Robert Hight in Funny Car, Erica Enders in Pro Stock
TOPEKA, Kan. -- Melanie Troxel and Erica Enders stood atop their respective categories after the first two of four rounds of qualifying at this weekend's 18th annual O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals presented by Castrol GTX.
Troxel and Enders were joined by Robert Hight on Heartland Park Topeka's provisional No. 1 qualifying podium at the $1.9 million race, the ninth of 23 on the $50 million NHRA POWERade Series.
If the 4.567 of Troxel in Top Fuel and the 6.785 of Enders in Pro Stock hold up -- as is expected with temperatures in the mid-90s expected Saturday -- it would mark the first time in NHRA history that two women have earned No. 1 qualifiers at the same event.
"These are the kind of things we should expect to happen," Troxel said. "So many women have come before us that it's just a non-event to me. I'm not surprised one bit that women are doing well. What's good to see is that good drivers are getting opportunities with good teams and some of those drivers just happen to be female."
For season-long Top Fuel points leader Troxel and her Skull Shine team, it would be the second No. 1 qualifier of this season and the second of her career.
Like Troxel, Enders took advantage of the cooler evening round to grab the No. 1 slot in Pro Stock with a 6.785 at 203.06 mph in her Slammers Ultimate Milk Chevrolet Cobalt. Her margin over the chase pack was an even three-hundredths of a second. For Enders, it would be the first No. 1 qualifier of her career and she would become the first female in NHRA history to earn a No. 1 qualifier in Pro Stock.
"It looks good but I'm not going to say anything to jinx this," Enders said, when reminded that she would become the first woman in the class to qualify No. 1 should her time hold through Saturday's two sessions. "We thought we had it in Phoenix because you don't see many people improve in the heat, but Greg (Anderson) got around us in the final session. You just never know."
John Force Racing has set the table for their seventh 1-2-3 sweep of the top three qualifying slots if they can maintain the positions team drivers Hight, Force, and Eric Medlen earned Friday. Hight's 4.824 at 315.19 mph in his Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang was the quickest of the three.
"This is a good deal except no one who has qualified No. 1 this year (in Top Fuel or Funny Car) has ended up winning the race," said Hight, who was low qualifier at last weekend's race in Columbus, Ohio. "I hope we can change that because I really think that 4.82 will hold. It's supposed to be very hot tomorrow and I don't see anyone out-running that number when the sun's out."
If the number holds up, it would mark the ninth No. 1 qualifier for Team Force Drivers (Force 4, Hight 3, Medlen 2) in nine events, but that is only half the story: Of the 16 No. 1 qualifiers in Top Fuel in Funny Car this season, there have been no winners and only one runner-up.