Driver of the FireAde Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 5 (3.830 E.T. at 320.05 MPH)
E1: 4.630 E.T. at 187.94 MPH defeats Clay Millican (Foul, red light)
E2: 4.023 E.T. at 247.02 MPH defeated by Doug Kalitta 3.817 E.T. at 323.89 MPH
It was a battle of the Route 66 Nationals Top Fuel finalists at Virginia Motorsports Park when Leah Pritchett drew Clay Millican in round one. Pritchett was able to avenge last week’s final round loss to Millican when he stood on the gas early and fouled out, allowing Pritchett and the FireAde team to claim the round win.
The Southern Nationals winner squared off against Doug Kalitta in the quarterfinals. Both drivers appeared to be on a good run, but Kalitta was able to race to victory when the FireAde car hazed the tires and dropped a cylinder just past halftrack, ending Pritchett’s chances at a fourth semifinal appearance in 2018.
“It was a crazy weekend. This morning, we had an issue that reared its head from yesterday. The car just would not idle during warmup this morning and it took us three tries to get to the bottom of the problem before our first-round run. When the belt broke in Q4 yesterday, it smacked the injector with such force that it cocked the butterflies and messed up our idle, and there’s nothing in the telemetry that would’ve told us that. Ingenuity on the fly as we warmed up for first round.
“That run against Clay (Millican) was our redemption round for last week at Chicago. Our power source shut off down the track and the car started feeling erratic. I wasn’t sure Clay red-lighted so I stayed in it as long as I could, to make sure I got that win light, even though the car was acting up.
“What was difficult about our loss in the second round is that there is nothing we would’ve changed. For us, everything looked perfect. Our numbers were right on target, clutch wear, it wasn’t ever trying to get too fast. All of a sudden, to smoke at halftrack, that’s not a typical thing. We left together, I know I’m ahead of him at 330 feet, I’m pushing that throttle down thinking, ‘we’ve got this, we are on a run,’ I knew we put in a really hot tuneup. And then for it to surprisingly smoke like that – and of course it’s race day so you pedal it with oily tires, it was eventful.
“For us, we’re not letting it get us down even though we can’t change the circumstance of what happened. We feel good about what we came to race with. We didn’t go up there to not lose, we were there to win. We didn’t go up there to run an 82, and we were on an incredible run and it should’ve stuck. And that’s what I’m proud of. Ultimately, that’s going to set us up for championship contention, and we’ll take a lot of character and morale to Bristol.”