Las Vegas: Melanie Troxel returns in Top Fuel
TRoxel'S persistence pays off with Top Fuel ride in Las Vegas LAS VEGAS - After more than a year away from the cockpit of a Top Fuel dragster, the quickest and fastest female in drag racing history will return to action when the NHRA POWERade Drag ...
TRoxel'S persistence pays off with Top Fuel ride in Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS - After more than a year away from the cockpit of a Top Fuel dragster, the quickest and fastest female in drag racing history will return to action when the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series visits Las Vegas for the first time in 2002.
Troxel will be the new driver behind the wheel of the Western Rock dragster for the third annual NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals, April 4-7, at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The $1.9 million race is the fourth of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
Troxel, a 29-year-old racer from Parker, Colo., competed in 10 events in 2000, starting the year off in the Darien Meadows-owned dragster and finishing the season driving a second dragster for the Schumacher Racing team. Troxel finished the season in an impressive manner, scoring a runner-up finish at Dallas and becoming the quickest (4.576 seconds) and fastest (326.08 mph) female competitor in NHRA history while finishing 13th in the final standings despite competing on a limited basis.
Following the 2000 season, Schumacher Racing eliminated one dragster, leaving Troxel without a ride. Determined to stay in the eye of the racing world, Troxel continued to attend national events in hopes of landing on a team, but nothing came to fruition for 2001. Following the 2002 season-opener in Pomona, Calif., Troxel was preparing to limit the number of events she attended in order to work from home on the possibility of landing a sponsor.
"If you're not out there, people forget about you," said Troxel. "I was not going to attend as many races this year as I did last season. By the time I was in Pomona at the beginning of the season, I wasn't having any fun. I just wanted to go home. I was going to work on a sponsorship package from there. But it all worked out perfect."
Following the Phoenix race, Troxel received a call from crew chief Scott Graham asking her if she would be interested in driving the Western Rock dragster that is owned by the Michaels family. Troxel seized the opportunity.
"Scott bought a valve-spring compressor from me in Pomona, and I have known him since he worked for Bobby Baldwin," said Troxel. "Now, I don't know if selling them that tool earlier this year kept me fresh in their memory, but they thought of me when the job opened up. For whatever reason they weren't happy with the way things were and they were sitting around making a list on what they needed to change. They made a list of possible drivers, and I think selling them a tool got me on that list."
Initially the target for the team was to attend eight events throughout the remainder of the season. The Houston race was recently added bringing the total up to nine, but there are several factors involved in determining the number of races Troxel will compete in.
"Nothing is set in stone as far as the schedule goes," said Troxel. "If things go well and we run alright without hurting any parts, we can go to more races. We are working on getting a number together for sponsors to see what it would take to run the rest of the season. We want to race at as many events as possible."
Despite the time off from competition and newness of the parties involved, Troxel and the rest of the Western Rock team will not do any testing prior to the Vegas race. When she makes her first qualifying attempt at the NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals, it will be Troxel's first pass down the drag strip since her second round loss to Gary Scelzi at the 2000 Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at Pomona.
"My (Top Fuel) license is still current and this dragster is not new but there hasn't been any dramatic changes," said Troxel. "There will be a certain adjustment curve to coming back after a year-and-a-half off, but nothing should keep the car from going down the track to qualify. It's during eliminations where I am going to have to slide back into the comfort zone. I'll need to cut some descent lights and we'll win some rounds.
"I know the Michaels' have spent a lot of money making this team competitive, and they have been spending it in the right place. There is no reason we shouldn't be able to go out there and step up this program and be competitive with everyone else."
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