Last-minute substitution proves successful for Team Gotham, Troxel and Hawley land in provisional top five TOPEKA, Kan. (May 30, 2008) - Despite a last-minute driver substitution, Gotham City Racing teammates Melanie Troxel and Frank Hawley...
Last-minute substitution proves successful for Team Gotham, Troxel and Hawley land in provisional top five
TOPEKA, Kan. (May 30, 2008) - Despite a last-minute driver substitution, Gotham City Racing teammates Melanie Troxel and Frank Hawley landed in provisional top-five positions during the first day of qualifying for the O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka.
Less than 30 minutes before he was supposed to make his first qualifying attempt of the day, team co-owner and driver Mike Ashley received an urgent telephone call from his office at Lend America in Melville, New York alerting him of a business-critical meeting which required his participation. Ashley was forced to remove himself from competition and substitute former World Champion and veteran drag racer Frank Hawley in his place and leave Topeka headed back to Long Island.
"Unfortunately, business has to come first, and I've been working on some pretty big things for Lend America, and literally at the last minute an opportunity came together that I had to attend to personally," a disappointed Ashley explained.
"I had wanted to defend my title at the event, and while I'm bummed that I can't be there myself, I know that the team and our title is in very capable hands of Melanie Troxel, Frank Hawley, and [crew chiefs] Brian Corradi and Aaron Brooks," he said.
Very capable hands, indeed, so the qualifying results indicate.
Frank Hawley delivered a 4.907/311.63 pass in the second session to grab the provisional third spot as well as top speed honors for the day. Troxel maintained her momentum from winning the last race in Bristol, Tenn. and claimed the No. 5 spot with a 4.912/304.53 in the evening session as well.
A noted drag racing instructor and owner of the first drag racing school, Hawley had been alerted to the possibility of driving in Topeka and was at least slightly prepared to race, but when the call went out with less than a half-hour before qualifying, a flurry of activity ensued to get ready for the driver swap.
"We had to get the car re-inspected, and I had to sign a waiver form before NHRA would let me run in Mike's place," Hawley said. "And, while all that was going on, I had to mentally prepare to drive a 300-mile-per-hour, 8,000 horsepower racecar. It was definitely a challenge, but I loved it.
"I really had the chance to practice what I teach my students about not letting everything that's happening around you affect how you do your job - and, I think it worked. Aaron had the car ready to go, and I just had to push the pedal and hang on. It all worked like it should because Mike and Roger [Burgess, team co-owner] have put together such a great team of talented people," he said.
Troxel's first attempt of the day on a slippery track that was approaching 120 degrees was marked by tire-shake, but her evening run on a slightly cooler track was the fifth-quickest of the day, comfortably putting her in the field for Sunday's eliminations.
"There were a lot of things going on as I got ready for that last run. The team had the covers off the motor in the staging lanes, and they told me there might be issues getting down the track, so I really didn't know what to expect. Brian told me to go ahead and run it to try to get into the show, and that's exactly what we did.
"I could tell the motor was hurting itself towards the end of the run, but I kept it pinned to the track and got some good numbers, so now we can fix whatever the problems were and use tomorrow to prepare for eliminations," she said.
"I feel badly for Mike, because I know he really wanted to defend his title, but I completely support his decision to put Frank in the car and head back home. Lend America is on the side of that Charger, and ProCare Rx is on the side of mine, and the whole team knows that those are the companies that keep us out here racing, so Mike and Roger need to tend to matters at work when they come up," she said.
Frank Hawley added, "We'll work hard to defend the event title for the team. Melanie and I have a great shot at going all the way this weekend, and I'm just grateful to Mike and Roger for the chance to get to drive such a great car."