Photo courtesy NHRA

NHRA: Leah Pritchett runs fastest Top Fuel speed ever in Arizona test

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It may have been one day late than what was on the actual calendar, but Saturday sure seemed liked Groundhog Day for NHRA Top Fuel driver Leah Pritchett.

Pritchett was the fastest driver in the NHRA’s annual “Spring Training” preseason test at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.

Just like last year’s test.

But this time it was with a symbolic twist: she ran the fastest speed ever in a Top Fuel dragster at a blistering 334.73 mph (at 3.78 seconds).

Unfortunately, because it was not a points paying national event, Pritchett’s speed will not be considered a national record.

“It was awesome,” Pritchett said of the speed. “I was smiling ear to ear. It was smooth and felt so incredibly great. We took the pieces of 10 runs and put them together and made it stick.

 

 

The current Top Fuel speed national record is 333.66 mph, held by 2017 Top Fuel champ Brittany Force).

Shawn Langdon recorded the fastest speed for a dragster at 334.15 mph in 2012 at Reading, Pennsylvania, but he did not back it up to set the national record on the same weekend.

The NHRA has since abolished “backing up” – a previous or subsequent speed within one percent of the potential record-breaker on the same weekend.

And now, just like Groundhog Day, Pritchett goes into this weekend’s season-opening Winternationals in Pomona, California, looking to repeat what she did at the start of last season.

That is: after being the fastest in last year’s preseason test, Pritchett went on a roll, winning the season opener at Pomona and the following race two weeks later at Phoenix – and wound up winning three races overall in the first five of the 2017 season.

She’s hoping to have her own version of Groundhog Day this weekend and then again two weeks later in Phoenix.

“It’s warm and will probably be even warmer in Pomona, so we think we’ll see a testament to all of this testing in Pomona,” Pritchett said. “We’ve got a good foothold on the tune-up. Man, we really needed that.”

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.