BAYTOWN, Texas (April 21, 2018)
– Leah Pritchett leads the Top Fuel field heading into race day at the NHRA SpringNationals. The defending event champion took over the No. 1 spot when she piloted the Mopar Dodge Top Fuel dragster to a blazing 3.680-second pass during the weekend’s final qualifying session.
The No. 1 qualifier is Pritchett’s first of the season and eighth of her professional career. Pritchett considers Saturday evening’s monster pass a major step in the right direction for her Todd Okuhara-led team, which has experienced its fair share of hiccups in 2018.
“We’ve been developing some of our confidence in the last couple of races, specifically Vegas, where we tested the day after and, to finally put it on track is phenomenal,” said Pritchett, a five-time Top Fuel winner.
“I think one of the things I’m most proud of with our team is the amount of unity from each individual, knowing what we’ve done right and what we’ve done wrong and knowing to be very outspoken about it and learn from that.
“It’s easy to get down if you compare this season to last season and go, ‘Man, what’s the difference?’ The difference is last year we were racing and this year we have been developing, and now we’re developing and racing because we know we have to be exceptional against exceptional competition.
“Going into that run right there on Q4, obviously we knew we had to lay it down. The numbers we had in our packages before should have produced that and, time and time again, adversity struck. That run, I knew by 100-feet that we got that first part right. Then, the second quarter of track, we got that nice little quiver, and in my mind, I thought, ‘There’s that high-speed quiver that we’re going after,’ and then we started moving. Once I saw we were getting to the finish line, I thought, ‘If this isn’t No. 1, I don’t know what is.’ It felt great. It was a feeling that we finally got it figured out.
“Everybody needs a little bit of confidence,” added Pritchett, who as the reigning quickest female in NHRA history is no stranger to exceptional runs. “We’ve got the Mopar-power, and Pennzoil is running through our car, and we’ve got it running through our blood. And we’re proud to do it for the Pennzoil nation.”
Pritchett and the Mopar Dodge Top Fuel team will begin their campaign to defend their SpringNationals event title by squaring off against No. 16 qualifier Terry Brian in round one of eliminations.
Qualified: No. 1 (Lane Choice)
The Competition: No. 16 Terry Brian
Q1: 4.142 E.T. at 204.60 MPH
Q2: 9.039 E.T. at 78.42 MPH
Q3: 3.745 E.T. at 321.96 MPH (One bonus point for third quickest run of the session)
Q4: 3.680 E.T. at 326.00 MPH (Three bonus points for quickest of the session)
Bonus Points: Four