WHERE THERE'S A WOMAN, THERE'S A WAY IN NHRA THREE OF FOUR FINAL-ROUNDS AT ACDELCO GATORNATIONALS INVOLVE A WOMAN; TWO OF FOUR POWERADE SERIES POINTS LEADERS ARE WOMEN GLENDORA, Calif. - Thriving in NHRA's gender-blind...
WHERE THERE'S A WOMAN, THERE'S A WAY IN NHRA
THREE OF FOUR FINAL-ROUNDS AT ACDELCO GATORNATIONALS INVOLVE A WOMAN; TWO OF FOUR POWERADE SERIES POINTS LEADERS ARE WOMEN
GLENDORA, Calif. - Thriving in NHRA's gender-blind environment, cultivated by the trailblazing Shirley Muldowney, a new generation of young women are flourishing in a way never before seen in NHRA or any other motorsport.
The five women competing full-time in NHRA in 2006 - Melanie Troxel and Hillary Will in Top Fuel, Erica Enders in Pro Stock and Angelle Sampey and Karen Stoffer in Pro Stock Motorcycle - went a combined 11-3 in final eliminations at the 37th annual ACDelco Gatornationals Sunday with three final-round appearances and one victory.
Troxel and Enders were runners-up in their respective classes while three-time POWERade Series world champion Sampey was victorious on her U.S. Army Suzuki to take the early points lead in Pro Stock Motorcycle. It was the 38th career win for Sampey, placing her in a tie for ninth (with Top Fuel driver Larry Dixon) on the all-time NHRA POWERade Series victory list and first among women.
"It was awesome to see three girls in the finals," said Sampey, a 10-year NHRA veteran and the senior member of this group of women. "I thought Melanie and Erica would win too the way they were running. It didn't happen this time but it's going to happen, and not just one time. And once Ashley (Force, daughter of NHRA icon John Force) gets into Funny Car we'll have an all-girl winner's circle."
Ashley Force, by the way, won the Top Alcohol dragster (Lucas Oil Series) class in Gainesville this past weekend to mark the ninth time in NHRA history (full list available upon request) that two women have won at the same national event. The first time it happened was at Columbus, Ohio in 1980 when Muldowney won Top Fuel and Amy Faulk won Super Stock.
To be sure, Gainesville is not an anomaly, but rather a trend. After three of 23 events (one in Pro Stock Motorcycle) in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Series season:
* Women lead in two of the four POWERade Series classes: Troxel leads in Top Fuel; Sampey leads in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
* Troxel has advanced to four consecutive final rounds (dating back to the final event of the 2005 season).
* Erica Enders has two No. 2 qualifiers in three events in 2006 and has advanced to one final round (her second career final round).
* Will qualified 4th at the season-opening event with a 4.515-second pass at 324.67 mph.
* Stoffer returned to action at the Gatornationals by qualifying No. 6 qualifier and advancing to the quarterfinals. She has won back-to-back events in Houston, site of NHRA's next event, the O'Reilly Spring Nationals presented by Pennzoil (March 31-April 2).
Consider too that women comprised 37.5 percent of the final-round drivers at the Gatornationals and 25 percent of the winner's circle. For the 2006 season, 20 percent of the seats in NHRA POWERade Series final rounds have been occupied by a woman.
"Seeing all the women in the final round is great for the sport," said Dave Grubnic, who defeated Troxel at the ACDelco Gatornationals. "Of course, Shirley Muldowney, who is on our team (Kalitta Motorsports, which includes Will), got it all started and she'll tell you just like these girls today will tell you that they just want to be thought of as competitors. That's how I look at them."
The next race on the schedule is the O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals presented by Pennzoil.