Leah Pritchett and her Dote Racing team had a stellar weekend, filled with many memorable firsts for the 26 year-old driver. After a career-best qualifying performance Saturday, she made her way through the tough 16-car Top Fuel field to her first ever final round appearance in Sunday’s eliminations. The Gumout dragster came up just short in the final against former NHRA Mello Yello Series champion Antron Brown in the 35th annual Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.
Now residing in Avon, Ind., California native Leah Pritchett started off her Sunday by clocking a 3.805 second elapsed time at 317.64 miles per hour to defeat drag racing legend Chris Karamesines 3.998 second at 305.15 mph run in the opening round.
In the second round, Leah scored victory over J.R. Todd with another strong 3.813-second pass at 319.29 mph. J.R. had problems in the other lane, running just 5.433 second E.T. at a coasting 132.19mph. This placed Pritchett in the semi-final round, the third semi-final appearance of her Top Fuel career.
Pritchett would take on three-time NHRA Mello Yello Series Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon in the semi-finals. She scored a major upset victory, running a 3.936 second E.T. after Dixon ran into trouble down the track and had to abort the run. The former Heritage Funny Car world champion advanced to her first final round in Top Fuel against Antron Brown.
It was an incredible run through the Top Fuel field today,” said Pritchett. “I even got my husband, Gary (a crew member on Steve Torrence’s Top Fuel team), to help me before the final round. Gary helped me pack the parachute and mix the fuel today. Everything worked well for the Dote Racing team and the Gumout dragster. It turned into a one-lane (right) track at the end and Antron had the right lane. We tried to stay with him but we hazed the rear tires at the 330-foot mark. Overall, it was a great showing with a little one-car team against the big squads.”
Pritchett’s search for her first NHRA national event title came up short, as she lost to Brown’s 3.887 second charge with an off-paced 4.202 second attempt at 260mph. Though she wasn’t able to land her first Top Fuel win, Leah has three NHRA national titles in the Pro Modified class.
It was a tricky track with the final round having a 126-degree track temperature,” she said. “So it was tough going against Antron who had the better lane. But everything worked well up until that point of the day. You needed a ‘hot track’ setup here and you might in Topeka next week too. I’m anxious to get the Gumout dragster back at the track after this weekend.”