Melanie Troxel, driver of the Skull Shine/Knoll Gas-Torco Race Fuels Top Fuel dragster for Don Schumacher Racing, was awarded The USAC Kara Hendrick Spirit Award today at the fourth annual Women in the Winner's Circle 2006 luncheon, benefiting the Lyn St. James Foundation.

At the function held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in advance of the NASCAR Brickyard 400 this weekend, Lyn St. James presented Troxel with the fourth annual award which honors a female driver whose spirit, determination and
driving ability are reminiscent of the excellence demonstrated by Kara Hendrick during her brief racing career.

Hendrick was a rising star of the USAC Western States Midget Series and a fierce competitor with a bright future. On Oct. 5, 1991, at Cajon Speedway in El Cajon, Calif., 22-year-old Hendrick broke the track record, qualified first and was leading the race until her midget impacted the wall. She did not survive her injuries.

Troxel was taken by surprise when her name was called. "This was totally unexpected," she said, "and I am extremely honored to receive this very special award. I've been very fortunate with the opportunities I have been given and I also thank Lyn for everything that she has done.

"I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to race for Don Schumacher Racing and I'm grateful to everyone involved with the team. It takes a talented group of people to put a car out there that can win races and have success.

"When I first started coming to Lyn's events I was in between rides and she has been a great source of inspiration to me over the years, encouraging me to stick with it and stay out there in front of the teams and sponsors and the people who would make it possible for me to get back out there."

In her first full season of Top Fuel competition, Troxel, 33, led the Top Fuel points through the first 12 races of the 23-event 2006 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, was the first NHRA driver to have reached the final round in the first five events of a season, and has won two events so far.

She is currently second in points and in the middle of a serious chase for her first Top Fuel championship.

Troxel, who lives in Avon, Ind., with husband and Funny Car driver Tommy Johnson Jr., is the quickest and fastest female driver in NHRA history, after clocking a 4.458-second pass and 330.31-mph speed in Dallas in 2005. She has since upped that speed to 331.04 mph.

Her other achievements include ESPYS nominations for Driver of the Year and Female Athlete of the Year, and was the first quarter winner of the 2006 Driver of the Year award.

Don Schumacher Racing was also presented the 2006 Opportunity Award honoring teams that go above and beyond in helping with the development of female drivers.