Even before the first green light of the NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series turns on, Lucas Oil is already celebrating a championship. The Corona company entered into a lucrative business deal with the National Football League’s Indianapolis Colts for the naming rights of the new stadium due to open in 2008. Troxel is the defending Winternationals champion and knows what a boost a good start will do. She opened the 2006 season by reaching the finals in the first five events, an NHRA record. Counting the 2005 Auto Club Finals, Troxel made the final run in six successive national events. The streak enabled her to win the Billie Jean King Sports Foundation “Sports Woman of the Year” award. “Morgan and I have known each other for quite a while,” Troxel said. “It has been a different experience in getting to work with him. I think he’s an incredible easy guy to get along with and as well as all of his team. “We’re also kind of enjoying the opportunity of having a driver-to-driver rapport to talk about different things you feel in the car and different.” NEW TV VOICE “With the Super Bowl ending the football season, it’s time to start drag racing,” said Morgan Lucas, who watched Sunday’s Super Bowl game while testing. “I’m really psyched about the Colts winning and want that feeling for everyone in our organization. It’s their teamwork that inspires me.” On Thursday, the remodeled Morgan Lucas Racing team will take to the quarter-mile at Pomona Fairplex for the season-opening Winternationals. Joining Lucas will be Melanie Troxel and her Torco/Vietnam Veterans Memorial championship crew. Paul Page, who anchored select NHRA telecasts on ESPN2 in 2006, will serve as the lead announcer for the network in 2007. A veteran motorsports announcer with more than 30 years of experience, Page is perhaps best known as lead announcer for the Indianapolis 500 on either radio or TV for more than 25 years. Page will be joined in the booth for analysis by former drag racer Mike Dunn, a member of the ESPN2 drag racing coverage team since 2002. Gary Gerould and David Rieff also return as pit reporters. Rieff also will be the host for NHRA Race Day, a news and information program airing on Sunday morning of all 23 NHRA Powerade event weekends on ESPN2. The show will originate from NHRA’s Nitro Alley. OUT FOR THE SEASON For the first time in the last 21 years, Mark Pawuk will not have an entry in the Winternationals’ Pro Stock field. Pawuk, following consultations with his family, sponsors and his employees, opted to forego the 2007 season. “This was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make,” said Pawuk. “What’s made it even harder for me is that our sponsors, who have demonstrated amazing loyalty, have been so encouraging. Every single one of them has indicated that when we return to action next season, they’ll continue to have their logos displayed on our car, and I’m very grateful for their support. “During the last few months I’ve also realized that, with my growing children, my family situation and my business, I just need to stick closer to home for the next few months. There’s just no way to be truly competitive in NHRA Pro Stock drag racing if you can’t devote your every waking hour to it, and at this point I’m just not able to make that kind of commitment.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!