11-28-06-collage_2.jpgTorco's CompetitionPlus.com traveled the 23-race NHRA POWERade tour to bring you the inside stories that transpire in the pits as well as complete coverage of the high-powered events. We have compiled our coverage of these events into a two-part series.




pomonasameday.jpgMelanie Troxel became just the sixth woman in NHRA history to win a Top Fuel event Sunday by racing to victory at the season-opening CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals.

Funny Car sophomore Robert Hight and three-time and reigning Pro Stock champion Greg Anderson also scored big wins at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, assuming the POWERade Series points lead in their respective
categories. The $2 million race is the first of 23 in the 2006 POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Eighteen years after her world champion father Mike Troxel won this event in his family-owned Top Alcohol dragster, Melanie returned to Pomona's famed winner's circle in her Don Schumacher-owned dragster and became just the eighth female to win in a professional category.

"It gets media attention to say I'm the 'Xth' number female to win a race, but those of us in the NHRA know that it's no big deal because we've had lots of female winners, especially when you compare us to all the other motor sports," Troxel said. "I'm thrilled there were women before me to pave the way but really we just want to be the best team out here, regardless of me being female."






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PHOENIX - WARREN JOHNSON RACES TO 96TH CAREER VICTORY AT CHECKER SCHUCK'S KRAGEN NHRA NATIONALS; Rod Fuller and Tommy Johnson Jr. also claim victories at Firebird International Raceway

dueldesert.jpgWarren Johnson, the most prolific Pro Stock racer in NHRA history, pushed his career victory total to 96 Sunday by winning the 22nd annual Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals presented by Castrol at Firebird International Raceway.

The 62-year-old Johnson stopped category dominator Greg Anderson, while Top Fuel sophomore Rod Fuller and Funny Car standout Tommy Johnson Jr. also scored victories at the $1.5 million race, the second of 23 in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.Johnson raced past his former crew chief Anderson with a final roundperformance of 6.770 seconds at 206.13 mph in his GM Performance PartsPontiac GTO, while Anderson's Summit Racing GTO lost traction nearmid-track.

"I never looked over in the final but when I didn't see him at half track I felt pretty good," Johnson said. "I beat him on the back half (of the track). We make more power at the top end, so if he isn't ahead of me by the eighth mile then he's toast."

The win was satisfying for Johnson, who employed Anderson in the 1990s and the two won multiple championships together. Anderson's series lead was held to 48 points by Johnson's victory.

"It's awful hard to make up rounds so the closer you can stay to the top guy the quicker you can catch him and pass him," said Johnson, who beat V. Gaines, Jason Line and Rickie Smith to advance to the final. "We have the team to hang with them. They all worked for me at one time or
another. I know what they can do."





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gatorcover.jpgFor the first time in NHRA history, three females had a chance to win a professional drag racing title at the same event. In the end, only Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Angelle Sampey got it done.

The most prolific female racer of all-time with 38 victories and three series titles, Sampey beat teammate Antron Brown Sunday for the trophy at the 37th annual ACDelco Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway. Top Fuel racer Melanie Troxel and Pro Stock driver Erica Enders settled forrunner-up honors, with Dave Grubnic and Tom Martino denying the women their chance at glory at the $2 million race, the third of 23 on the POWERade tour.

In Funny Car, a category bereft of females, Ron Capps beat John Force to stay out front in the standings, but Force took solace in the fact his daughter Ashley won the Top Alcohol Dragster sportsman title.

Sampey and Brown rode a pair of U.S. Army Suzukis to the final round. If not for his red-light start, Brown could have won the race as he ran four thousandths of a second quicker than Sampey with a 7.134 to her 7.138 at 187.73 mph.

"It was awesome to see three girls in the finals," Sampey said. "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 gets into Funny Car we'll have an all-girl winner's circle."

Troxel's bid was over 100 feet into the run when her Skull Gear/Torco Race Fuels dragster lost traction, allowing Australian Grubnic to take the win in 4.943 seconds at 317.90 mph in his StriVectin S-D dragster.

 "Seeing all the women in the final is great for the sport," Grubnic said. "Of course, Shirley Muldowney, who is on our team, 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."




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HOUSTON - Bernstein breaks through with big win; Capps, Edwards, Sampey share the winner's circle



springflingcover.jpgTop Fuel driver Brandon Bernstein scored his ninth career victory Sunday at the $1.7 million O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals, the fourth of 23 races on the $50 million POWERade Drag Racing Series. His 4.534 at 329.83 mph beat points leader Melanie Troxel.

Funny Car driver Ron Capps extended his points lead with a 5.005-second, 293.47-mph victory over Bob Gilbertson. Mike Edwards won in Pro Stock for the first time in four years, beating Jim Yates with a 6.731 at 206.01 mph. Angelle Sampey remained perfect on the season with her second win in as many Pro Stock Motorcycle races, beating rival Andrew Hines with a 7.144 at 190.11 mph.

The son of drag racing legend Kenny Bernstein, Brandon entered the day without a single elimination round win on the year. But the "Bud Prince" churned out the suds in the Texas heat, recording low elapsed time and top speed of the meet along the way.

"These guys never gave up," said Bernstein, who improved to 9-1 in his career in final rounds. "We just stayed positive through the stupid little mechanical failures we had earlier this year. Dad told us that he had many stretches during his career where stuff like this happened. We just had to be patient.

Starting the day 12th on the ladder, Bernstein beat Gainesville winner Dave Grubnic, Morgan Lucas, and low qualifier Cory McClenathan to get to the final. His slowest pass of the day was a 4.558 in the semis.





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vegasone.jpgSeason-long NHRA POWERade Series points leader Melanie Troxel raced to her second Top Fuel victory of the season and made drag racing history along the way Sunday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway by becoming the first driver in her category to open the season with five consecutive final-round appearances.

Troxel's Skull Gear/Torco Race Fuels dragster covered the quarter-mile distance in 4.834 seconds at 285.65 mph to win the seventh annual NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals, the fifth of 23 races in the $50 million POWERade Drag Racing Series. She was joined in the winners' circle by former Funny Car champion Cruz Pedregon and Pro Stock veteran Kurt

One of two females currently leading the 2006 POWERade Series standings, along with Pro Stock Motorcycle frontrunner Angelle Sampey, Troxel's dragster was nearly flawless in the early rounds as she posted three straight 4.5-second passes. She had to fight through some engine
problems against runner-up Dave Grubnic, but he was in bigger trouble, sputtering through the timers in 4.987 seconds at 319.60 mph in his StriVectin-SD dragster.

"It seems like we can do no wrong," said Troxel, who outran David Baca, Morgan Lucas and Doug Kalitta in earlier rounds. "Richard Hogan (crew chief) seems to have the ability to adapt the car to whatever conditions we face, and the guys are doing a great job of getting the car back together the same way every time. We're not making many mistakes.





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bristolsamedaycover.jpgRon Capps beat drag racing legend John Force by one-hundredth of a second Sunday at Bristol Dragway to extend his Funny Car lead in the POWERade Drag Racing Series championship chase. Capps was joined by Doug Kalitta and Jason Line in the winner's circle at the $1.5 million O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Q, the sixth of 23 races in the $50 million POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Capps posted a run of 4.793 seconds at 319.52 mph in his Brut Dodge Stratus to beat Force's quicker 4.788 at 310.13 in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. The difference came at the starting line when Capps left in .080-of-a-second in front of Force's .104-second start.

"I'm in disbelief," said Capps of his third victory of the season and the 20th of his career. "I got on the radio and said, 'I can't believe it, we won again.' It's not that I don't have confidence in my guys, but it's just so hard to win and when it happens a lot like it has this year it's sometimes hard to believe. I love the competition and I love this class. This is just a great time to be racing right now."

In earlier rounds Capps defeated Scott Kalitta, Eric Medlen and teammate Gary Scelzi to advance. It was Capps' second win at Bristol Dragway, as he defeated Al Hofmann for the win here in 2001.

The final produced a swing of 40 points in the POWERade standings with Capps increasing his lead by 122 points over Force.

Kalitta repeated last year's Bristol Top Fuel final by beating Rod Fuller once again. This time Fuller's Valvoline/David Powers Homes dragster lost traction at the hit of the throttle and Kalitta's Mac Tools dragster powered to a time of 4.537 at a track record speed of 331.53. It was Kalitta's 25th career victory and third at this event.



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atlanta2006cover.jpgDoug Kalitta raced to his second straight Top Fuel victory Sunday by beating season-long series leader Melanie Troxel in the final-round of the 26th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals presented by Pontiac at Atlanta Dragway.

Former Funny Car champion Tony Pedregon, Pro Stock rising star Dave Connolly, and Pro Stock Motorcycle veteran Antron Brown also scored victories in their respective categories at the seventh of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Kalitta posted a 4.469-second pass at 327.57 mph in his Mac Tools dragster to defeat Troxel, whose Skull Shine/Torco Race Fuels dragster lost traction 100 feet into the race. It was Kalitta's 26th career victory and a carbon-copy of last year's sweep of races in Bristol, Tenn. and Atlanta.

"This is still hard to believe, but I'm pretty happy right now," said Kalitta, who defeated David Baca, Tony Schumacher and Larry Dixon in earlier rounds. "Two in a row is great and it gives us some good momentum. Melanie's got a strong team over there and we're all trying to catch up to her. They've had a really good start to the year and she's out there quite a bit on all of us."

Troxel's lead in the POWERade standings is now 132 points. She has raced to six of seven finals this year. With his win, Kalitta moved around his teammate Dave Grubnic and into second place in the standings.

A former series champion, Pedregon beat all three of his former teammates -- John Force, Eric Medlen, and final-round opponent Robert Hight -- to win his 30th career Funny Car title. After leaving the line first in the final, his 4.740 at 325.69 mph in his Q Racing Chevy Monte Carlo was good enough to hold off Hight's charging Auto Club Ford Mustang, which finished in 4.738 at 321.81 mph.




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columbuscover.jpgSecond-generation driver Brandon Bernstein improved to 10-1 in Top Fuel finals with his victory Sunday at the 42nd annual Pontiac Performance NHRA Nationals presented by Summit Racing.

The $1.5 million race is the eighth of 23 events in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Bernstein traversed National Trail Raceway's quarter-mile in his Budweiser dragster in 4.531 seconds at 329.58 mph to beat veteran Cory McClenathan, who blew up the motor in his Jeg's Mail Order dragster. He was joined in the winner's circle by Funny Car winner Tony Pedregon, Pro Stock champ Jim Yates, and Pro Stock Motorcycle victor Angelle Sampey.

"By the time you get to the final you just have such a good feeling," Bernstein said. "Especially with the success we've had in finals. It seems (crew chief) Tim (Richards) always delivers either our best pass of the weekend or at the very least keeps us repeating what we've done in previous rounds.

"I think we're contenders," said Bernstein (515), who pulled into third place, within 21 of Doug Kalitta (536) and 175 of Melanie Troxel (690). We certainly have the car and the capability to win the championship. This team has gotten it done before. (Troxel) got a good lead on all of us but we have a long way to go this year and if you can have a few days like today when she goes out early and you go on, it doesn't take long to catch up."

Pedregon's win was his second in a row in the sport's crowded Funny Car class. He powered his Q Racing Chevy Monte Carlo past Whit Bazemore's Matco Tools Dodge Charger in the final despite Bazemore's lane-choice advantage, which was negated when Bazemore's engine failed at half-track. Pedregon's slowish 4.923 at 313.66 mph ended up being more than enough for his 31st career win.




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CAPPS EXTENDS FINALS WINNING STREAK OVER NHRA ICON FORCE TO THREE; Doug Kalitta and Dave Connolly add wins in Top Fuel and Pro Stock

topekacover-may25.jpgPOWERade Series points leader Ron Capps made it a perfect three-for-three in 2006 final rounds against John Force when he sped past the tire-spinning NHRA icon in the Funny Car finals at the O'Reilly Summer Nationals.

Capps, who extended his lead to 109 points, was joined by Top Fuel driver Doug Kalitta and red-hot Pro Stock racer Dave Connolly in the winner's circle at Heartland Park Topeka, site of the Memorial Day Weekend $1.9 million O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals presented by Castrol GTX.

Although Force holds a hefty 37-15 lead in lifetime head-to-head races against Capps, he's just 7-5 versus Capps when a trophy is on the line, including the dismal 0-3 mark he's accrued this year.

"It's fun running so tight against Force," said Capps, who became the first driver to win in the new Dodge Charger body. "When we get to the final it always seems like it's him in the other lane. It's hard to build a cushion. You get to a final and you end up hoping you don't lose the race and give him back 20 points. It's so brutal.

The Topeka final started off favoring Force, as he left the starting line three hundreds of a second ahead of Capps' Brut hot rod. But Force started hazing his tires at 400 feet and Capps was able to scoot past for an easy 4.992-second, 293.54-mph victory over Force's resigned 6.162-second run at 150.53 mph in the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang.

Mac Tools racer Kalitta handed Budweiser's Brandon Bernstein his second career final-round loss in 12 tries with a wire-to-wire job on the son of six-time champion Kenny Bernstein. Both of Brandon's final-round losses have come against Kalitta, who trimmed Melanie Troxel's championship lead from 154 to 96 points at this event. Kalitta has won three of the last four races.




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CHICAGO - Force wins 120th Funny Car race; Kalitta wins fourth in a row

windycitycover.jpgDrag racing legend John Force won his record 120th Funny Car race Sunday at Route 66 Raceway to close to within 48 points of the championship lead.

Doug Kalitta, Kurt Johnson, and Ryan Schnitz joined the 13-time series titlist in the winner's circle of the ninth annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, the 10th of 23 races in the $50 million POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Force beat teammate Robert Hight in the money round with an off-pace 4.930-second pass at 233.60 mph in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang after both men encountered engine trouble. Hight posted a 4.890 at 244.56 mph but left the starting line .057 seconds behind Force. Coming into this race, the 13-time champion had tried unsuccessfully on four different occasions to get his 120th victory.

"You get older and you start to wonder what it's going to take," Force said. "I've had to monitor how I sleep the night and what I eat. I used to coffee-up."

Mac Tools ace Kalitta chipped away at Melanie Troxel's lead in Top Fuel by dismissing her in the final round with a 4.503 at 330 mph. With a career-best four wins in his last five races, Kalitta is unquestionably the hottest driver on tour. He may have only gained one round on Troxel at this event but his recent run has trimmed her once daunting lead from 174 to 71 points.

"Rahn [Tobler, crew chief] has a very aggressive tune-up but it's also very safe," Kalitta said. "We were able to stay in the same lane all day and the car was perfect. [Team owner Connie Kalitta] has pulled back a little and let Rahn run the car the way he wants to run it. It's great to see him develop that confidence in what he's doing."






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ENGLISHTOWN - FULLER ENDS DIXON'S FATHER'S DAY WINNING STREAK AT FIVE WITH HIS THIRD CAREER WIN; Ron Capps, Jason Line and Matt Smith round out Father's Day winners at K&N Filters Supernationals

etownsamedaycover.jpgTop Fuel driver Rod Fuller managed to stop Larry Dixon's streak of five consecutive Father's Day victories Sunday by beating Dixon in the final of the $1.8 million K&N Filters NHRA Supernationals.

Fuller's Valvoline rail went straight down a hot and greasy quarter-mile in 4.692 seconds at 314.24 mph to beat Dixon's tire-hazing 4.825 at 299.73 mph. Fuller was joined by Funny Car's Ron Capps, Pro Stock's Jason Line, and Pro Stock Motorcycle's Matt Smith in Old Bridge Township Raceway Park's winner's circle.

"I knew Dixon had that Father's Day thing going but our car was running great all weekend and I knew we had a chance if we stayed within ourselves," Fuller said. "This one's for my dad. He's a racer and he's the reason I love racing. He's my best friend."

Season-long points leader Melanie Troxel's first-round loss to Dixon combined with her 11th-place qualifying effort helped Doug Kalitta trim her lead in the POWERade standings from 71 to 48 points.

The Funny Car final was close as Capps got a big headstart with a .079- to .133-second reaction time advantage only to barely hold off hard-charging reigning champion Gary Scelzi. The final numbers had Capps winning with a 5.025 at 299.46 mph in his Brut Dodge Charger to Scelzi's quicker but losing 5.012 at 301.81 mph in the Oakley machine.

"Beating Gary on a holeshot takes some of the excitement out of this win," Capps said, as he held back tears. "Last year 'Ace' (crew chief Ed McCulloch) got sick the Thursday before the race with his cancer and Scelzi's crew chief Mike Neff jumped in and helped us. Gary is a mentor to me and our teams are together. Our trailers literally connect to one another and I know they wanted that win."

This was Scelzi's first final-round appearance of his title defense. He moved up one slot to seventh in the POWERade Series points. Capps more than doubled his advantage in the standings with this win. After entering the race with a 48-point cushion, he leaves town with a 106-point edge.

With all the pre-final talk focusing on Connolly's lethal performances at the starting line, it was Line coming through with a quick start that began his 6.729-second, 205.98-mph victorious pass. Line's .013-second start got his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO rolling and he carried that momentum to the other end, beating Connolly's 6.739 at 206.45 mph in his Skull Gear Chevy Cobalt.

"I can't believe I won this race as crappy as I've been driving all day," Line said. "This is really something. I don't know what it is about this racetrack but I love it. We won the last two years here before I was a father and now I win my first Father's Day race since my son Jack was born. How cool is that?"

Greg Anderson paid the price for his first-round holeshot loss to nemesis Warren Johnson as his lead in the POWERade rankings was trimmed from 110 to 37 points over Line, his KB Racing teammate.

Smith finally got his first NHRA victory by coming from behind on his G-Squared/Torco Race Fuels Buell and taking care of Karen Stoffer and her Geico Suzuki in the final round. Smith was awarded the victory at last year's U.S. Nationals at the racetrack but officials later reversed the decision when video tape showed he crossed the finish line second. This year, the same thing happened in an earlier round victory.

This one was a clear victory with Smith overcoming terrible.030- to .107-second reaction time deficit by halftrack and taking the win with a 7.111 at 185.38 mph ahead of Stoffer's 7.234 at 186.12 mph.






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stlouiscover.jpg Reigning Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher raced to his first victory of the season Sunday at the O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway International Raceway.

Tony Pedregon, Mike Edwards and Chip Ellis also were winners of the $1.3 million race, the 12th of 23 events in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Schumacher powered his U.S. Army dragster to a 4.565 second run at 327.59 mph to hold off final round opponent and defending event winner Brandon Bernstein, whose Budweiser/Lucas Oil dragster lost traction at the start. Schumacher carried a Purple Heart medal with him throughout eliminations and dedicated the victory, the 31st of his career, to the fallen Marine in the Winner's Circle.

"Today would have been the birthday of a young Marine we lost," Schumacher said as he clutched the medal. "Chris Belchik was killed in action August 22, 2004, but he was with me today. I might be the U.S. Army driver, but the men and women in the Armed Services are all together when it counts."

Season-long Top Fuel points leader Melanie Troxel had her series lead cut in half Sunday. She now leads Doug Kalitta by 24 points. Kalitta beat her in the second round before losing to Bernstein in the semifinals.

Funny Car winner Pedregon turned back former boss John Force after his rival's car quit just before the finish line. A broken blower belt on Force's Castrol GTX Ford Mustang left him without power at 1,100 feet and Pedregon's Q Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo was able to zoom past and take the win in 4.859 seconds at 320.43 mph to Force's 4.904 at 269.35 mph.




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