04/04/2006 11:00PM

Lady dragster is fastest on wheels


The Strip is not known for drag racing. In fact, it comes closer to resembling a parking lot on weekends with bumper-to-bumper traffic barely exceeding 10 mph.

However, The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is another story. This weekend, cars will be topping out at 330 mph in the Summitracing.com Nationals as the National Hot Rod Association makes its annual stop.

Now this event isn't as big as when the Nascar's Nextel Cup circuit comes to town, but its fans are just as rabid and they'll be making the trek to the speedway to watch qualifying runs on Friday and Saturday, with the finals of the Pro Stock, Funny Car, and Top Fuel divisions taking place at 11 a.m. Sunday. Gates open each day at 7 a.m.

I'm not a huge auto racing fan, but I've been to both the Nascar and NHRA events, and while the good ol' boys of Nascar have a well-earned reputation of being fan-friendly, they have nothing on the dragsters.

The speedway likes to advertise that every ticket is a pit pass, and it's true. Between races, the drag racing teams take their cars back to the pit area and work on them, and the public can get within a few feet of them (be sure to bring ear plugs, or purchase them at the many vendors). And the drivers regularly meet and greet their fans and sign autographs.

There are also many interactive exhibits (driving simulators, skills test, NHRA history). It's a very enjoyable and entertaining way to spend the day. Plus, with the nature of the sport, if you're most interested in, let's say, Top Fuel, you can time it to walk the pits while other divisions are racing so you don't miss anything.

One of the most popular pits will be Top Fuel points leader Melanie Troxel's. While Indy car driver Danica Patrick is on TV all the time and doing magazine spreads, she is still winless and becoming the Anna Kournikova of auto racing. But Troxel is leading the Top Fuel points race and has made the final race in five straight events.

Station Casinos, keeping its reputation as the first stop for auto racing bettors, has Troxel as the 5-2 favorite to win the Top Fuel event. Stations also has a prop on whether she will make the finals, with the "yes" at +120 and the "no" at -150. The longtime dominator in the division, Tony Schumacher, is the second choice at 7-2, Brandon Bernstein is 5-1, and Las Vegas resident Rod Fuller is 6-1. Last year, Fuller was a 30-1 longshot but has won two events since then and has the home-track advantage this weekend.

Ron Capps is the favorite in the Funny Car division at 3-1, with legendary John Force at 7-2.

Greg Anderson tops the Pro Stock field at 5-7, with Jason Line at 3-1 and Mike Edwards at 7-2.

* The Nextel Cup circuit moves to Texas Speedway this weekend for Sunday's Radio Shack/Samsung 500. Greg Biffle, winless this season, is the 8-1 favorite at Stations, with Matt Kenseth at 9-1; Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, and Kasey Kahne at 10-1; Mark Martin and Carl Edwards at 11-1; and Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon, who has never won at Texas, at 12-1.

Saturday night's all right for fighting

The other big sporting event in town this weekend is the welterweight title bout between undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr. (35-0) and Zab Judah (34-3) at the Thomas & Mack Center on Saturday night.

Mayweather is a -500 favorite at most Vegas sports books with Judah offered in the neighborhood of +350. With Mayweather having 24 career knockouts and Judah 25, the over/under for the 12-round bout is set at 11 full rounds.

The fighters are the main event, but the sideshow is entertaining. The promoters are Don King, who represents Judah, and Bob Arum, who represents Mayweather. For trend bettors, King has won all three fights they've co-promoted (Muhammad Ali over Joe Frazier in 1975, Roberto Duran over Sugar Ray Leonard in 1980, and Felix Trindad over Oscar De La Hoya in 1999). Arum has the better fighter this time, but expect the jabbing to continue in the post-fight press conference regardless of who wins.

On the undercard, Jorge Arce is a -400 favorite to successfully defend his flyweight title belt vs. Rosendo Alvarez.

College hockey in spotlight

With Florida blowing out UCLA 73-57 on Monday night in the NCAA men's basketball final and Maryland rallying to beat Duke 78-75 Tuesday night in overtime for the women's title, fans of college athletics now turn their attention to the Frozen Four this weekend at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisc.

The semifinals of the NCAA Division I hockey championships were to be played Thursday with North Dakota favored over Boston College and Wisconsin favored over Maine to earn spots in Saturday's finale. Heading into the games, Wisconsin, obviously aided by playing in its home state, was the 6-5 favorite to win it all, with North Dakota at 5-2, Boston College at 3-1, and Maine at 9-2.

North Dakota is in a fight with the NCAA over its use of the Fighting Sioux nickname. Last Aug. 5, the NCAA released a list of 18 schools that had "hostile or abusive" American Indian nicknames and ruled they would have to change those names or be banned from postseason play. The deadline had been set at Feb. 1, but it has been extended to April 27 due to the appeals process, allowing the Fighting Sioux to skate this weekend.