CHANDLER, Arizona (February 3, 2018) – Leah Pritchett unofficially became the fastest Top Fuel pilot in history during NHRA Nitro Spring Training at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park on Saturday.
At day four of the annual pre-season test session, Pritchett powered her Mopar Dodge dragster down the 1,000-foot Phoenix track in 334.73-mph, the unofficial fastest speed recorded by a Top Fuel dragster.
Because it was accomplished during testing, the 3.664 at 334.73-mph test pass is not officially recognized by the NHRA, but the team welcomes the extra boost of confidence that claiming “top speed” brings going into the start of the season.
“It’s incredibly huge,” said Pritchett, who closed out her first full year as a member of Don Schumacher Racing with a career-best four wins and a top five finish in 2017.
“I had a smile from ear-to-ear. 250-feet into the run it had a nice little chatter to it. That’s the first real indication that it’s going to be on a full pull from the tune-up standpoint.
“It took us three days to be able to formulate a new tune-up for the additional amount of power this Mopar Dodge team was able to find in the off-season. On our fourth day of testing, we were able to lay it down, and man we needed that. That run right there was what we needed as a team to go into Pomona hot.”
While improving elapsed time (E.T.) is the goal first and foremost, assistant crew chief Joe Barlam shares Pritchett’s confidence-boosting sentiment.
“It’s always good to run fastest," said Barlam, who assisted crew chief Todd Okuhara in tuning Pritchett to the second quickest E.T. (3.640-secs) in NHRA history in 2017.
“Of course it’s just testing, but it’s good to go into Pomona knowing we’re able to run those numbers. Hopefully, it’ll go faster yet.”
On paper, Pritchett’s 332.75-mph pass from the 2017 St. Louis event is her career best, and rounds out “NHRA’s Top 10 Fastest Top Fuel Speeds” list.
Pritchett kicks off her 2018 campaign at the season-opening NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, Calif. Feb. 9-11, where she returns as defending event champion.