Oct. 17 2006: NHRA POWERade Series driver Melanie Troxel, who has advanced to a Top Fuel-best eight final rounds this season, has been honored by Billie Jean King’s Women’s Sports Foundation as its “Sportswoman of the Year.”
Past Sportswoman of the Year Award winners include a who’s who of the greatest female athletes of all-time, from Annika Sorenstam and Juli Inkster to Sarah Hughes and Michelle Kwan to Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert.
Troxel, who drives the Skull Shine/Knoll Gas-Torco Racing Fuels dragster for Don Schumacher Racing, is the first auto racer to win the award.
“For more than a quarter century, women have not only been competing, but winning, at the highest levels of NHRA POWERade Series drag racing,” NHRA President Tom Compton said. “This honor serves to validate that performance and it further strengthens NHRA’s leadership position as it relates to women in motorsports.”
Eight women have won POWERade Series events, six have won events in Top Fuel and two have won POWERade Series world championships (three each by Shirley Muldowney in Top Fuel and Angelle Sampey in Pro Stock Motorcycle).
Troxel will join the nine other finalists at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City Monday, Oct. 16, for the WSF Awards Dinner, where Troxel will be introduced as the Sportswoman of the Year.
The other finalists include: Annika Sorenstam (Golf), Amelie Mauresmo (Tennis), Cindy Klassen (Speedskating), Janica Kostelic (Skiing), Jessica Long (Swimmer), Chellsie Memmel (Gymnastics), Sanya Richards (Track & Field), Laurie Stephens (Skiing), and Hannah Teter (Snowboarder).
“It’s really an honor for me to be named the Sportswoman of the Year against a field of such high achievers in a variety of sports,” said Troxel, who was earlier this year recognized for her breakout season with ESPY nominations for Best Driver and Best Female Athlete. “To be the first race-car driver to win this award, to be recognized among these outstanding female athletes, is personally rewarding to me. It also indicates the continuing growth of awareness of the unique sport of drag racing with all sports fans.”
The Women’s Sports Foundation, founded in 1974 by legendary tennis champion Billie Jean King, is dedicated to advancing the lives of girls and young women through sports and physical activity.
“The Women’s Sports Foundation Sportswoman of the Year Award recognizes athletes who have had noteworthy or career-defining performances within the past year. Melanie Troxel’s 2005-2006 season has certainly earned her this distinction,” Women’s Sports Foundation CEO Donna Lopiano said. “She is making a tremendous impact on the sport of drag racing and in so doing blazing a trail for countless young female athletes. If the past year is any indication, Melanie will continue to set records that both male and female athletes will dream of catching.”
Earlier this year Troxel beat out NASCAR’s Jimmie Johnson and IRL’s Helio Castroneves to win the prestigious Driver of the Year first-quarter award, which is voted on by a distinguished panel of auto racing journalists. It is the first time in the 40-year history of the Driver of the Year award that a woman has won the quarterly or year-end vote. And in July she received the USAC Kara Hendrick Spirit Award.
Troxel, 33, set an NHRA record for the most consecutive final round appearances (five) to open a season in Top Fuel. The quickest (4.458 seconds) and fastest (331.04 mph) female racer in NHRA history, she is trying to join legendary Shirley Muldowney as the only women in NHRA history to win a Top Fuel world championship title. Muldowney earned three during her driving career, the last coming in 1982.
Troxel led the NHRA POWERade Series standings through the first 12 events of the 23-event season and is currently in fourth place. She sits 172 points off the pace set by Doug Kalitta with two events remaining.
The Denver native now calls Avon, Ind. home.
Melanie Troxel, 2006 Highlights:
* NHRA POWERade Series Top Fuel points through first half of 2006 season; currently in fourth place, 150 points behind Doug Kalitta.
* Named the first quarter Driver of the Year by a distinguished panel of auto racing journalists, beating out NASCAR’s Jimmie Johnson and IRL’s Helio Castroneves.
* She is the first woman to be selected as a quarterly winner for the prestigious Driver of the Year in the 40-year history of the award
* Set NHRA record for most final rounds to open a season (five)
* Has advanced to a Top-Ful best eight final rounds in 20 starts
* Has earned two victories: CARQUEST Winternationals at Pomona, Calif. and SummitRacing.com Nationals, Las Vegas
* Became the first female in nine years (Cristen Powell, 1997) to win a Top Fuel event
* She has earned two No. 1 qualifying positions: O’Reilly Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol, Tenn. and the O’Reilly Summer Nationals at Topeka, Kan.
* She is one of eight women in NHRA history to earn a national event victory in a professional category
* She is one of six women in NHRA history to earn a victory in Top Fuel
* She is the quickest and fastest woman in NHRA history with a career-best time of 4.458 seconds, and a career-best speed of 331.04 mph
* She is seeking to become the first female in Top Fuel to win a POWERade Series world championship in a quarter century (Shirley Muldowney, 1982).
Melanie Troxel, Career Highlights:
* Named the NHRA Auto Club Road to the Future Award winner in 2000, which recognizes a young driver with a promising future in the sport
* Became one of 39 women to win an NHRA national event in any category (including sportsman) when she won two Top Alcohol Dragster races in 1999 (Seattle and Topeka)
* In her professional career she has two victories and seven runner-up finishes
* Entering the 2006 season, she had earned Top Fuel runner-up finishes at Dallas in 2000 and Pomona, Calif. in 2005
Melanie Troxel, Notable:
* She is married to Tommy Johnson Jr., who drives a Funny Car in NHRA POWERade Series competition
* She is the daughter of the late Mike Troxel, a former NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster competitor in the 1980s
* She drives the Skull Shine/Torco Race Fuels dragster, fielded by Schumacher Racing and owned by Don Schumacher
Past Sportswoman of the Year Award Winners*:
2005 — Erin Popovich
2004 — Annika Sorenstam
2003 — Natalie Coughlin
2002 — Sarah Hughes
2001 — Stacy Dragila
2000 — Jenny Thompson
1999 — Juli Inkster
1998 — Michelle Kwan
1997 — Gail Devers
1996 — Amy Van Dyken
1995 — Bonnie Blair
1994 — Bonnie Blair
1993 — Julie Krone
1992 — Pat Bradley (Pro), Jackie Joyner-Kersee (Am.)
1991 — Meg Mallon, Jean Driscoll
1990 — Paula Newby-Fraser, Lori Norwood
1989 — Steffi Graf, Janet Evans
1988 — Susan Butcher, Jackie Joyner-Kersee
1987 — Susan Butcher, Jackie Joyner-Kersee
1986 — Lynette Woodard, Debi Thomas
1985 — Libby Riddles, Michele Mitchell
1984 — Martina Navratilova, Mary Lou Retton and Joan Benoit
1983 — Martina Navratilova, Mary Decker
1982 — Martina Navratilova, Mary Decker
1981 — Chris Evert, Tracy Caulkins
1980 — Tracy Austin, Mary Decker
*NOTE: Up to 1993, Awards were given to Amateur and Professionals; beginning in 1994, the Foundation awarded one award to the top individual and one to the top team.