LAS VEGAS (April 2, 2017) - Leah Pritchett was disappointed her Papa John's Pizza Top Fuel team lost the points lead it had held since the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing season began, but she understands it's a long season and there's not much wrong about being a semifinalist.
Pritchett, who opened this season by making history with two wins from the No. 1 qualifying position, won her first two races Sunday in the NHRA Las Vegas Nationals before losing to Don Schumacher Racing teammate Antron Brown, who went on to win the event title for DSR's 300th.
"Overall, I'm definitely satisfied," she said. "Our expectations were to continue being a competitive for the title and a threat to everybody that's right on our heels in the points. I feel that we definitely showed that we were there.
"I saw Antron out in front. At halftrack I could tell our car was laboring but at the same time there's situations where he could break a belt, put out an engine burst panel, parachutes could come out or whatever. I still felt like I had somewhat of enough momentum, in a worst-case scenario maybe take the stripe. So I made the decision to stick in it and that's why we have incredible sponsors that are able to help us fund, to be able to take those wins or losses.
"I'd say the most gratifying win of the weekend came in the second round against Brittany (Force). She really makes me step up."
Two of Pritchett's three Top Fuel titles came by beating Force in a final round with crew chief Todd Okuhara and assistant Joe Barlam.
"I'm very confident in the decisions that Todd and Joe are making. We're just so dedicated to wining and we're never going to let that fade. We're just going to keep working at it and get the points lead back at Houston."
DSR leaves Las Vegas with the top three spots in Top Fuel but a switch was made at the top with eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher passing teammate Leah Pritchett with Brown in third. Each of the DSR drivers have won at least one title this year.
The Mello Yello Series is off for two weeks before returning for the 30th annual NHRA SpringNationals near Houston. Then continuing near Charlotte and Atlanta for the first three-race swing on the 2017 Mello Yello Series schedule.
RESULTS FROM LAS VEGAS
QUALIFYING TOP FUEL
Winner: Antron Brown (Don Schumacher Racing)
No. 1 qualifier: Steve Torrence (CAPCO Contractors), 3.720 sec., 327.03
LEAH PRITCHETT, Papa John's Pizza
Crew chief: Todd Okuhara; assistant: Joe Barlam
Qualified: No. 5
First round: PRITCHETT (3.756 sec., 328.30 mph) def. Troy Buff (5.415, 128.19)
Second round: PRITCHETT (3.770, 328.06) def. Brittany Force (4.872, 153.39)
Semifinals: Antron Brown (3.797, 320.89) def. PRITCHETT (3.919, 311.20)
FRIDAY: 3.780 sec., 314.68 mph, (Session 1); 8.808, 71.28, (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 3.778, 324.98, (Session 3); 3.898, 265.43, (Session 4)
2016 Las Vegas 1 (with Bob Vandergriff Racing): Qualified No. 11, lost in second round to Antron Brown
2016 Las Vegas 2: Qualified No. 2, lost in semifinals to event winner Steve Torrence
Career at Las Vegas 1:Gainesville: Wins 0; Runner-ups 0; Poles 0
Career at Las Vegas: Wins 1 (2011 NHRA Pro Mod), Runner-ups 0, Poles 0
2017 NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES STANDINGS
(Official after Las Vegas 1; 4 of 24 events; wins in parenthesis; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. TONY SCHUMACHER (1) 382 -----
2. LEAH PRITCHETT (2) 376 -6
3. ANTRON BROWN (1) 357 -25
4. Doug Kalitta 301 -81
5. Brittany Force 258 -124
6. Steve Torrence 251 -131
7. Clay Millican 187 -195
8. Troy Coughlin Jr. 176 -206
9. Terry McMillen 164 -218
10. Scott Palmer 148 -236
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