Chicago Team Rocks World's Fastest Motorsport with Multiple World Championship Title Chances

Ron Capps may be popular for his movie-star good looks and quick smile, but in 2005 he was the man who got dangerously close to his first Funny Car world championship title only to finish second in the closest points chase in recent NHRA memory - losing by 8 points to his Don Schumacher Racing teammate, Gary Scelzi, driver of the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Charger.

At the same time, in the same camp, Melanie Troxel quietly began her crusade to loosen her teammate Tony Schumacher's hold on the sport's fastest category and finished second to Schumacher in the final event of 2005, then reached the final round of six of the season's first eight events, winning in Pomona and Las Vegas. Last spring Troxel was without a ride, living vicariously through her husband, Funny Car driver Tommy Johnson Jr. - but her successful return to POWERade Series competition has netted her comparisons to none other than - Schumacher.

As if that wasn't enough drama for one team, Pro Stock motorcycle teammates Angelle Sampey, the winningest female driver of NHRA history, and Antron Brown battled to hold off the Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson duo of GT Tonglet and Andrew Hines, the eventual world championship title winner of 2005. And, this season in Pro Stock, the Mohawk-sporting Shaun Carlson brought a little punk to the Schumacher roster when he joined Richie Stevens in the camp.

All operate under mastermind and Chicago business owner Don Schumacher, one of the fiercest match racers to ever compete in a Funny Car. They will compete in the ninth annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, June 8-11 at Route 66 Raceway. The $1.8 million race is the 10th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. The Series' top eight Pro Stock drivers will get the spotlight when they face off in the 22nd annual King Demon Crown, a lucrative race-within-a-race bonus event on June 10.

Last fall, Tony Schumacher set the national E.T. record at a blistering 4.437 seconds in his U.S. Army dragster at Route 66 Raceway. He eventually earned his third and second consecutive world championship titles in the category. This year Schumacher has shown his customary strength during qualifying - but his weak performances on Sunday has left the door wide open for Troxel, his biggest threat.

"We just can't seem to establish any consistency," Schumacher said. "We'll get down the track one time and then struggle to make it past the 100-foot mark the next time. Hopefully, we can cure our ills real soon. We're overdue for giving our hard-working soldiers a victory. Perhaps, in honor of the U.S. Army's birthday at Joliet, we can serve them up a nice present."

While Schumacher looks to rebound, others in Top Fuel are continuing to surge forward, including three-time season winner Doug Kalitta and two-time winner Brandon Bernstein. Dave Grubnic, Larry Dixon, Rod Fuller and Morgan Lucas also are top threats to win.

In Funny Car, Brut Dodge driver Capps is holding firm to the top of the point standings with four victories and has led since the season's second event. A slumping Scelzi has dropped steadily and now sits 10th overall. Schumacher's third driver in the category, Whit Bazemore, has faired slightly better with a mid-season surge in his Matco Tools Dodge Charger and is seventh.

Summit Racing Pontiac GTO driver Greg Anderson - who will lead the King Demon Crown bonus event as the No. 1 seed -- has maintained his series points lead in a season filled with parity in Pro Stock. There have been eight different winners in nine races and Dave Connolly is the only driver to post multiple victories and he is currently fifth in the standings. Erica Enders has been fast during qualifying, and at Topeka became the first female to qualify No. 1 in Pro Stock history. Jason Line, Kurt Johnson and Jim Yates also will be racing for victory.

Sampey and Brown readily admit that although they place friendly bets on which one of them will win, they don't necessarily mind which one of them reaches the winner's circle, as long as the yellow and black of the U.S. Army defeats that other army of Harley-Davidsons and Buells. In addition to Hines and Tonglet, Chip Ellis, Matt Smith, Ryan Schnitz and Karen Stoffer also are among a long list of pre-race favorites.

SCHEDULE: Professional qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3 and 7 p.m. on June 9, and 12:10 p.m. and 3:05 p.m. on June 10. King Demon Crown rounds are set for noon, 3 and 4:25 p.m. on June 10. Pre-race ceremonies will begin at 10:30 a.m. on June 11, followed by the first session of professional eliminations at 11 a.m.

TICKETS: Tickets can be purchased at the Route 66 Raceway Ticket Office, by phone at 815-727-RACE (7223) or online at .

ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise two hours of qualifying at 4 p.m. (CT) on June 10. ESPN2 will telecast NHRA 2Day, a 30-minute weekly news magazine show, at 10:30 a.m. (CT) and televise two hours of eliminations at 4 p.m. (CT) on June 11.

*NOTE: For more NHRA news and current NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series driver standings, be sure to check out .

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