JOLIET, Ill. (July 9, 2017) - When you are the quickest in three of four qualifying sessions and are seeded No. 2 for championship eliminations, it would seem you deserve a better fate than meeting a two-time reigning world champion in the second round.
That was the scenario Leah Pritchett and the Papa John's Pizza Top Fuel dragster team faced Sunday in the NHRA Route 66 Nationals near Chicago.
Pritchett's stellar qualifying performance led to her being paired in the second round against Don Schumacher Racing teammate Antron Brown, who had a subpar qualifying effort that seeded him seventh for eliminations.
"It's never a good thing when you race Antron Brown in the second round," she said. "If you have to race him you want it to be in the final round."
Although Brown's time of 3.853 seconds at 305.29 mph was not his best of the day, a mechanical issue with Pritchett's dragster slowed her to 4.689 and 165.64.
"Our clutch regulator had hung open and that's why we smoked the tires. We hadn't smoked the tires all weekend.
Point leader Steve Torrence went on to defeat Brown in the championship round. That enabled him to extend his lead over Pritchett to 101 points and allow Brown, who is third, to close to within two of his teammate.
"But man, every little bit counts between Torrence and Antron."
DSR TOP FUEL DRAGSTERS
Event winner: Steve Torrence (CAPCO Contractors)
No. 1 qualifier: Brittany Force (John Force Racing) 3.711 sec., 323.04 mph
LEAH PRITCHETT, Papa John's Pizza Top Fuel dragster
Crew chief: Todd Okuhara; Assistant: Joe Barlam
SUNDAY'S CHAMPIONSHIP ELIMINATIONS
First round: PRITCHETT (3.858 sec., 294.18) def. Troy Coughlin (3.968, 279.50)
Second round: Antron Brown (3.853, 305.29) def. PRITCHETT (5.247, 139.10)
Qualified: No. 2
FRIDAY: 3.763 sec., 326.48 mph, (Session 1); 8.668, 82.92, (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 3.817 325.30, (Session 3); 3.723, 326.56, (Session 4)
CHICAGO BY THE NUMBERS
Last event (June 15), Norwalk, Ohio: Qualified No. 4, lost in semifinals to Doug Kalitta
A year ago at Chicago: Qualified No. 9, lost in semifinals to Antron Brown
Career at Chicago: Wins 0; Runner-ups 0; Poles 0
2017 NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES TOP FUEL STANDINGS
(Unofficial after Joliet, Ill.; 13th of 24 events; wins in parenthesis; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1 Steve Torrence (5) 1,188 -----
2 LEAH PRITCHETT (3) 1,087 -101
3 ANTRON BROWN (2) 1,085 -103
4 TONY SCHUMACHER (1) 894 -294
5 Doug Kalitta 813 -375
6 Brittany Force (1) 795 -393
7 Clay Millican (1) 773 -415
8 Terry McMillen 509 -679
9 Scott Palmer 496 -692
10 Troy Coughlin Jr. 480 -708