Rain showers created several delays for the NHRA POWERade Series today at Bristol Dragway causing final eliminations to go well into the evening. But you won't hear any complaints from Tony Schumacher, Melanie Troxel or Dave Connolly who are proud...
Rain showers created several delays for the NHRA POWERade Series today at Bristol Dragway causing final eliminations to go well into the evening. But you won't hear any complaints from Tony Schumacher, Melanie Troxel or Dave Connolly who are proud owners of brand new Wallys from the O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals. Troxel became the first woman in NHRA history to win in both Funny Car and Top Fuel.
The NHRA Safety Safari probably got more time on the track and used more fuel than the dragsters, drying the quarter mile at the first sign of clearing clouds, only to have the rain start up after one or two elimination runs. Rain also wreaked havoc on the schedule, allowing Top Fuel to get a round ahead of everyone else somewhere during the delays.
Just before 9 p.m., Tony Schumacher and Larry Dixon lined up for the Top Fuel final. The Sarge carried an 8-4 advantage over Dixon in their previous final round match-ups. Though both pilots had great reaction times, Dixon lost traction and Schumacher sailed down the quarter-mile to his third victory this year with a 4.555 second run at 306.81 mph.
"With all of the rain delays that we had, it felt great to end a very long day with a win," Schumacher said. "You have to give all the credit in the world to my team. They were in championship form yet again.
The Sarge took out Alan Bradshaw, J.R. Todd and Hillary Will to reach the finals. Dixon eliminated Doug Herbert, Troy Buff and Brandon Bernstein in earlier rounds.
With a win and his No. 1 qualifier, Schumacher increased his lead in the POWERade Series Top Fuel Championship points race.
"We're still on top of the points, so we'll go out to Topeka looking to strengthen our position," The Sarge continued. "We're performing real well right now, but there's always room for improvement. You have to continually be striving for more and more in this sport."
Someone forgot to tell Mother Nature it's a school night, as her antics bumped the last two races well past 10 p.m. The Pro Stock finals pit Greg Stanfield against Dave Connolly. With the two Pro Stock teams in the staging lanes, rain sprinkles began to fall... again.
After a short delay, the drivers wasted no time getting to line as soon as the track was cleared to run. Connolly and Stanfield staged the cars and watched the christmas tree finally turn green. Stanfield watched a little longer, giving Connolly a huge advantage off the line and a hole-shot victory with his 6.731 pass at 204.7 mph.
"This is the same team we had last year and we have such good chemistry," shared Connolly. "We might have brought the car out a little premature because it wasn't running as fast as we thought I should, but we did some testing and now it seems as good as our car last year. I'm just excited to be back out here with the folks and having a good time. It's wonderful to pick up points and have a good shot at making the Countdown to the Championship."
Connolly beat Tom Hammonds, Greg Anderson and Ron Krisher to advance to the final versus Stanfield, who eliminated Jason Line, Mike Edwards and V. Gaines in earlier rounds.
The Funny Car final matched Rookie driver Mike Neff, who reached his first Funny Car final two weeks ago in St. Louis, with Melanie Troxel, who's been to several Top Fuel final rounds but this is her first driving a Funny Car.
Fans who endured the cold, gloomy weather got one final bout of excitement and drama when Neff's team failed to lift the body on his dragster to re-arm the clutch after the burnout, even with the help of Robert Hight and Dean Antonelli [Ashley Force's crew chief].
Neff had the quicker reaction time and when Troxel lost traction for a split-second it looked like Neff would sneak one out, until his engine went up in flames. Troxel got her car hooked back up, got the win light and drove straight to victory lane for the first time in a Funny Car, her winning pass a 5.066 at 310.27 mph.
"We shook the tires like that in the semifinals, too," Troxel said. "When I looked at the computer I saw that the track was so tight that I probably could have pedaled it quicker, so I filed that away for the final. I knew [Mike] was having troubles over there but I didn't want to win on a bye. I saw him out there on me but I was reeling him in when he just disappeared."
The women of drag racing continue to prove themselves. Troxel has four career event wins in NHRA Top Fuel and now her first in the Funny Car class which she switched to this year. She's now in the NHRA history books as the only woman to have victories in both classes.
"We were just so focused on getting some rounds and we really needed to have it happen soon if we wanted to catch up to that top 10," shared Troxel. She came to Bristol 20th in points but will jump up after this win. "We've been saying for a few races that we had to do it soon, because we struggled so much this season. We've been putting in a lot of effort to get our new chassis out that we have to run in July so we don't have to struggle again in July."
Troxel defeated Tony Pedregon, Ashley Force [the first ever pairing of females in Funny Car eliminations] and Jim Head throughout the rainy day. Neff eliminated Tony Bartone, Ron Capps and teammate Robert Hight in the first three rounds.
Next the NHRA POWERade Series rolls into Kansas in 2 weeks for the Summer Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka.