:::::: Feature Stories ::::::


Atlanta is a thriving metropolis with tourist attractions, a lively night scene, exceptional restaurants, and an energetic vibe which blends the Old South with 21st troxel2Century style. And people keep asking Melanie Troxel how she likes her new home.
She'd like to tell friends and family about the hotspots or her favorite eatery, but the trouble is that since moving to Atlanta from Indianapolis last September, she's rarely there -- or when she is, she has no time to explore the historic city.
Especially in her new role as General Manager of Roger Burgess' R2B2 Racing team, Troxel has her hands full. Just before Christmas, Burgess announced she would return to the Pro Modified class for all 10 Get Screened America Pro Mod Drag Racing Series at the NHRA races, as well as a complete slate of Full Throttle Drag Racing Series action in the In-N-Out Burger Funny Car.
Troxel said becoming R2B2 General Manager wasn't up for discussion when she relocated to Georgia to be near team headquarters in Duluth. Her reason for heading south was "making myself more valuable to the team by going beyond the standard job description."


Matt Hagan is banking on being less of a man making him more of a competitive driver.
For the first time since high school, Hagan, last year’s NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car championship runner-up, tips the scales under 200 pounds at 190.

Hagan has shed over 40 pounds since last season by religiously adhering to a rigorous workout regimen. He’ll readily admit a change was necessary, if only to shake off last season’s stinging championship loss.


John Force is driven by emotion.

forceAdmittedly the 15-time champion was emotional on Thursday afternoon when he made his first qualifying run at the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, CA. For the first time since 1986, Force was racing without his longtime crew chief, tuner, and voice of reason, Austin Coil.

“I love Austin and Bernie’s [Fedderly] been talking to him this week,” said Force. “You know he always talks to Guido [Dean Antonelli] and Robert [Hight] and we just haven’t talked.”

Coil announced his resignation from the team just days after the John Force Racing team captured an improbable 2011 world championship by overtaking Matt Hagan at the last race of the season. The two haven’t spoken since.



02_18_2011_craneSean Holly, President and general manager at Crane Cams, wants it known the company is back in business and rebounding strong.

“I think customers are going to be very happy and pleased with the new Crane,” Holly said. “These products are made in the United States exclusively by Crane, for Crane customers, and it’s going to be with quality that can’t be beat.”

Crane Cams, which is based in Daytona Beach, opened its doors in 1953 and by the late 1960s future drag racing legends like Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins, “Dyno Don” Nicholson, Bruce Larson and Don Schumacher were using Crane camshafts and valve train components in their racing engines.

In the following years, Crane Cams became a respected and iconic brand in the high performance


02_18_2011_scelziEver wonder what Gary Scelzi's up to? The former Top Fuel and Funny Car world champ, one the most successful and popular fuel racers of the past 20 years, is back home in Fresno, Calif., working at the family business, watching sons Dominic and Giovanni race at tracks around central California, and not particularly missing the life of a world-famous drag racer. (Well, maybe a little.)

"I did it for 12 years," Scelzi says. "You fly home for a couple days, work on plane and hotel reservations and whatever appearances you're going to make at the next race, and then you're right back on a plane headed to the next one. There are other things in life, you know? For a guy who's 25 years old, it's great. You'd do any thing to race. I would've – I did. But now I'm 50. Your priorities change."

For two years now, Scelzi has been working at Scelzi Enterprises, which manufactures custom truck bodies for the service and construction industries. And now his boys don't watch him race – he watches them.


Courtney Force can't remember a time when she didn't want to drive a nitro Funny Car, just like her famous father's.
“It has always been a dream of mine to get into a Funny Car and one day race my dad and then my sister. It's really crazy that I am finally living that dream,” exclaimed Force in a recent phone conversation.

“I grew up going to the races, watching my dad race every weekend on television if I couldn't make it,” remembered Courtney. “It's funny, I was at my mom's house last night going through old arts and crafts stuff from school and I have a million pictures of me drawing race cars that barely look like race cars, but then you can see a Castrol GTX written on the side of the car.”


02_18_2011_thermosMike Thermos believes the process of injecting nitrous oxide into automotive applications can be both a safe and efficient way to gain cheap horsepower. However, lately, Thermos, the founder of Nitrous Oxide Systems and renowned nitrous expert, admits he’s seen good intentions turn dangerous from those taking unsafe liberties with nitrous oxide.

Thermos is afraid those unsafe practices can quickly change what has been a relatively safe practice into a game of Russian roulette if some practices aren’t stopped.

“There have been a lot of issues lately with a lack of knowledge when working with nitrous oxide,” Thermos claims. “My goal and objective is to educate racers of what nitrous oxide can do if not handled properly. We just want to educate racers how to stay within the envelope of what nitrous oxide is supposed to do.”

Thermos says his mission is to let racers know that nitrous bottles, while helpful to elapsed time and speed, can in a split second become a thrust rocket or create a deadly explosion.


02_18_2011_buschNASCAR Champion Kurt Busch's rush to destiny at Gainesville Speedway is slowing down.

No, he's not backing off his plans to enter the Pro Stock portion of the NHRA Gatornationals. Those plans are full speed ahead.

Where Busch is experiencing a slowdown is inside the cockpit of his Shell/Pennzoil sponsored Dodge Avenger and as Busch explains it, slowing down is absolutely necessary to his efforts.

“We're 85 percent,” said Busch when asked if he was ready for Gainesville. “We're almost there. There is still more to learn and there always will be. The comfort in the car is settling in; things are slowing down when we're making our passes.”



02_07_2011_cockpit_safetySomewhere deep in the bowels of an 8000 horsepower beast a part fails and within milliseconds, shards of hot metal, parts, hot oil and fire are expanding outward in all different directions.

With most motors detonating deep into the run of a Top Fuel dragster, the fans in the stands are relatively safe from the flying debris and spreading flames. Sitting in the cockpit, inches ahead of the motor, the driver is in definite peril. Amazingly, those parts and pieces, along with the fireball, expand far enough forward, despite the 200 – 300 mile per hour speed, to put the driver in real danger of being hurt.

Seven-time NHRA Top Fuel Champion Tony Schumacher experienced such an explosion on the first day of testing at Palm Beach International while preparing for the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle season.

“I didn't even know I was on fire,” commented Schumacher when asked about the incident. And when he says “I”, he means the car, with him in it.


02_02_2011_ajAlan Johnson may have a way to go to pass Austin Coil as the most prolific fuel tuner in drag racing history, but is there any doubt that he'll end up on top in the end? Johnson, who won three Top Fuel championships (1997, 1998, and 2000) with driver Gary Scelzi and the Winston team a decade ago, another five with Tony Schumacher's Army dragsters in the 2000s (2004-08), and his first of who knows how many with Larry Dixon and the Al-Anabi team last year, is still in his early 50s.

And just how many Top Fuel championships would Johnson's late brother Blaine have by now if his life hadn't been cut short by a crash during qualifying for the 1996 U.S. Nationals? No one questions whether Blaine, then in just his third year in Top Fuel, would have won that 1996 title. Even Kenny Bernstein, who won a tainted title that year said so, graciously handing the championship trophy to the Johnson family during the awards ceremony in perhaps the classiest move of his long career. "I know this will have an asterisk next to it," Bernstein said at the time. "It will always be there."

"I think Blaine definitely would have a lot of Top Fuel championships by now," Johnson has said of his younger brother, who set the Indianapolis Raceway Park track record (4.61) on that fateful run. "I've had a lot of great drivers over the years, and I mean great drivers, but to me, Blaine is the best of them all."