Driver of the Papa John's Pizza Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 10 (3.797 E.T. at 328.30 MPH)
E1: 3.769 E.T. at 329.67 MPH defeated Antron Brown 5.402 E.T. at 134.91 MPH E.T.
E2: 3.929 E.T. at 298.93 MPH defeated Kyle Wurtzel 5.171 E.T. at 137.16 MPH
E3: 3.832 E.T. at 326.16 MPH defeated Blake Alexander 3.896 E.T. at 325.06 MPH
E4: 4.501 E.T. at 192.08 MPH defeated by Clay Millican 3.894 E.T. at 289.32 MPH
Leah Pritchett raced to her fourth career runner-up finish on Sunday afternoon in Joliet.
The final-round appearance was the second of the year for Pritchett in her Papa John’s Pizza Top Fuel dragster, including a victory at the NHRA Atlanta event in May.
Starting tenth and from the bottom half of the field for just the second time this year, Pritchett opened Sunday in strong fashion by defeating higher-qualified teammate Antron Brown with her quickest pass of race weekend, a 3.769-second E.T. at 329.67 mph. The Mopar-powered Top Fuel pilot next took out Kyle Wurtzel, leading from start to finish on a 3.929-sec pass that was quickest of the quarterfinals.
In a rematch of the Atlanta final round, Pritchett faced Blake Alexander in the semifinals. The Papa John's dragster pilot trailed her opponent just slightly at the start, but quickly zoomed ahead with a 3.832-sec run, once again outrunning Alexander, and advancing her to her first-ever final at Route 66 Raceway.
In the final that pitted the two most recent Top Fuel winners on the NHRA tour, Pritchett was unable to score the event win against Clay Millican after smoking the tires and slowing near the 330-foot mark, but the runner-up performance boosted the six-time Top Fuel winner from fifth to third in the overall Top Fuel point standings
“The silver lining about today is when we’re on together, we’re on together. I think the most impressive thing was three full pulls in eliminations under conditions we didn’t have before. The car reacted to what we were telling it to do. Unfortunately, in the final round, we had issues from the start. Sometimes when you’re winning you get used to that. The more we do well, the more appreciative and in the moment I get. Going rounds today the enjoyment factor was really high.”