They need less
than five seconds to travel a quarter mile, but drag racers Melanie Troxel and
Tommy Johnson Jr. didn't rush into love. In 1986 Troxel was a 13-year-old
tomboy when she met the 17-year-old, mullet-wearing Johnson, who was competing
at a Denver track alongside her dragster-driving dad, Mike. "I had a crush
on Tommy," she recalls. "He says mullets were cool."
later Johnson was a fixture on the NHRA when Troxel joined the circuit, one of
three females among 103 drivers. This time Johnson was smitten. "I was
seeing her every week, and, you know, I got the fever," he says. She
rebuffed Johnson's date proposals for six months before he persuaded her to
have dinner with him. (He said they'd go "as friends.") After going out
clandestinely ("She kept worrying what people would think," he says)
and Johnson wooing Troxel with dates such as a ride on the Big Shot catapult in
Las Vegas, they wed in 2003.
hasn't slowed them down. Troxel, 33, leads the standings in the NHRA's top-fuel
division and has a top speed of 331.04 miles per hour over the quarter-mile
strip, a record for women. Johnson, 38, is sixth in the funny car class.
"Other drivers give me a hard time about how she's been doing so much
better than me," says Johnson. The couple, who live in a four-bedroom house
near Indianapolis with their Yorkie, Spike, travel in a 40-foot RV to races.
Don't get Troxel started on Johnson's backseat driving. "He even argues
with the girl on the GPS who gets on and says, 'Exit 300 feet,'" she