POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 12, 2017) - Leah Pritchett returned to her home dragstrip in Southern California where her dream of racing a Top Fuel dragster began as an 8-year-old guiding a half-scale NHRA Jr. Dragster.
On Sunday, she was in the cockpit of Don Schumacher Racing's 11,000-horsepower Papa John's Pizza dragster, and after winning her team's second pole in five events going back to the past season, she drove to her second Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event title in less than one year and first with DSR when she beat veteran Doug Kalitta in the final round.
She joined with DSR teammate Matt Hagan to sweep the nitro categories as each won their respective poles and event titles.
It also is the second time in the past five Mello Yello events - dating to the event in Reading, Pa. last October - that Pritchett and Hagan started race day in No. 1 qualifying positions and left with NHRA Wally trophies.
"This definitely is taking delivery from the momentum from last year," Pritchett said. "What just happened is the best thing that has ever happened for me in my career. In my opinion, right now, we have the perfect group of people, partners, sponsors and a car that is reacting. This thing is A-plus, Grade A, perfect kid in school type of situation and we're taking advantage of it right now."
Pritchett with crew chief Todd Okuhara and assistant Joe Barlam are starting her first full season with DSR after joining the juggernaut midway through last year and driving in 15 of 24 events. It was quite a homecoming for the 28-year-old who grew up in nearby Redlands, Calif., and graduated from Cal State San Bernardino.
Pritchett defeated Steve Torrence and eight-time champion Tony Schumacher en route to the finals where she beat Doug Kalitta.
"You've got to have confidence if you're going to run one of these beasts and confidence is contagious," said Pritchett, who won her second NHRA Wally Trophy in less than a year. "Todd and Joe have confidence in the car and that's contagious to me as a driver and our whole Papa John's team. That's how we're jelling so well."
Event winner: Leah Pritchett (Don Schumacher Racing)
No. 1 qualifier: Pritchett (DSR), 3.672 sec., 327.90 mph
LEAH PRITCHETT, Papa John's Pizza
Crew chief: Todd Okuhara; assistant: Joe Barlam
First round: 3.707 sec., 325.14 mph, bye
Second round: PRITCHETT (3.707, 324.44) def. Steve Torrence (3.755, 328.22)
Semifinals: PRITCHETT (3.687, 327.43) def. Tony Schumacher (3.727, 327.35)
Final: PRITCHETT (3.711, 324.98) def. Doug Kalitta (7.630, 103.85)
Qualified: No. 1
FRIDAY: 8.835 sec., 67.47 mph, (Session 1); rained out, (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 3.702, 324.83, (Session 3); 3.672, 327.90, (Session 4)
RDAY: 3.942, 320.58, (Session 3); 3.933, 32
NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel Points
1. Leah Pritchett, 122
2. Doug Kalitta, 105
3. Antron Brown, 79
4. Tony Schumacher, 70
5. Brittany Force, 57
6. Troy Coughlin Jr., 54
7. Steve Torrence, 53
8. Terry McMillen, 48
9. (tie) Scott Palmer, 32; Shawn Reed, 32
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