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Tue, 27 Dec 2005, 10:41 AM

Johnson Jr. to Help Christen Lakeside International Dragway in New Zealand
Courtesy of Ted Yerzyk

VISTA, Calif. -- While the rest of their peers will be enjoying the holiday season and the coming of the New Year, NHRA stars Tommy Johnson Jr. and Melanie Troxel will ring in 2006 by traveling half-way around the world to help celebrate the opening of Lakeside International Dragway in Taupo, New Zealand.

The world's fastest husband-and-wife was invited to attend the opening of the new facility by promoter Gavin McLaughlin. The launching of Lakeside International Dragway takes place on January 2, 2006, and is highlighted by New Zealand Drag Racing Association's inaugural Summernationals. The drag strip is part of a $13 million redevelopment project in Taupo's Centennial Park. The facility also includes a 3.5-kilometer road course and a motor sports business park. Johnson and Troxel also will take part in a charity dinner to benefit racing scholarships.

"I'm really excited to not only represent our race team and Don Prudhomme Racing, but the entire NHRA community," Johnson said. "To see our sport grow to where we're getting worldwide attention is great. And that it happens to be in December and during the summer in New Zealand is just a bonus. It's also a great way to celebrate our second anniversary."

After returning home to the United States on January 8, Johnson and Troxel will gear up for preseason testing, which begins on January 20 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Johnson will again pilot Don Prudhomme's Skoal RacingSM Funny Car in '06 as the six-time NHRA winner aims to improve upon a career-best finish in 2005, while Troxel, who became the quickes! t and fastest female driver in NHRA history after posting a 4.458 second, 330.31 mph run in October, will compete for her first NHRA Top Fuel title.

"I like to go on vacations and trips and Tommy (Johnson Jr.) doesn't," Troxel said. "This trip has to do with racing, so he was excited to take me on a vacation that has to do with racing and that makes both of us happy."

For more information on Lakeside International Dragway or the NZDRA Summernationals, visit .

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