By Rob Geiger,

"Hot Rod" Fuller bagged drag racing's biggest one-day purse with a thrilling holeshot victory over Melanie Troxel Saturday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Fuller's 4.527 at 329.99 mph was just enough to beat Troxel's 4.526 at 326.40 mph and help the Caterpillar team clinch the top prize. 

Fuller in now in line to win an additional $50,000 "Double-Up" bonus from NHRA should he win this weekend's seventh annual ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals.

"I've been lucky enough to win a lot of races but this might be the topper," Fuller said. "To win this race here at home in Las Vegas, after getting so close last year and then breaking a motor in the final, to come back and win it all this time is so cool. I'm floating way up there right now.

"This season was so nerve-wracking early on because we didn't even know if we'd be racing from event to event. But [team owner] David Powers kept us out here and kept working at getting us a sponsor and he came through with Caterpillar. Now we're in the Countdown with a great chance at winning the championship and we come here and win $100,000, man, it doesn't get any better than this."

The event wasn't without some controversy. U.S. Army racer Tony Schumacher actually beat Troxel in the semifinals with a 4.506 at 327.90 mph -- the quickest pass of the day -- but was subsequently disqualified because his team failed to stop at the scales on the way back to the pits. 

"It's very simple, we have a minimum weight requirement for these cars," Senior Vice President-Racing Operations Graham Light said. "After the first session, all four winners stopped. After the semifinals, one winner stopped and one didn't. It's a clear violation of the rules and the precedent has been set, in fact it was set here a few years ago with Tony Pedregon. We're not saying they were cheating but they violated the rules, plain and simple."

"We should have stopped and weighed the car, period," a disappointed Army crew chief Alan Johnson said.

The showcase race features the top eight qualifiers from the previous 12 months fighting for a share of the $147,000 race day purse. Overall, Las Vegas-based Technicoat posts $239,000 in prize money for the high-dollar Technicoat Top Fuel Shootout. Aside from the money available on race day, Technicoat pays each national event's low qualifier a $4,000 bonus for the achievement. 

Aside from the $100,000 top prize, Troxel earned $15,000 for her runner-up finish. Schumacher and J.R. Todd pocketed $6,000 each for reaching the semifinals, while Cory McClenathan, Brandon Bernstein, Dave Grubnic, and Larry Dixon bagged $5,000 apiece for making the field.

A special points system is used to determine the eight racers who made the field of the 23rd annual Technicoat Top Fuel Shootout. Racers earn qualifying points based on their position at each national event. The points range from 175 for the top qualifier to 85 for the racer on the bump. No points are earned if a racer fails to qualify for an event.