Leah Pritchett defeats Brittany Force in 2nd all-female final in NHRA history

(Photo courtesy NHRA)

Fans that came out to Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix hoping to see some history made in this weekend’s NHRA Car Quest Auto Parts Nationals got what they came for.

While there were no national records broken, folks in attendance won’t soon forget how the final round of eliminations played out.

The biggest event was in Top Fuel, where Leah Pritchett roared to her first career win, defeating Brittany Force in only the second all-female final in Top Fuel history.

The only other all-female final came in 1982, when Shirley Muldowney defeated Lucille Lee. Pritchett texted Muldowney prior to the final round to keep her abreast of what was happening.

“The monkey is absolutely off my back,” Pritchett said in the winner’s circle. “There’s no words to describe it. This is the happiest day of my life, obviously, besides getting married.

“This is what dreams are made of. The smile, I think it’s going to take a really long time for it to come off my face. … This isn’t just my (first win), but Mike Guger, this is his first Wally (winner’s trophy), as well, as a crew chief.

“So for all of us, all together, it’s incredible. … This is a day that I’m going to relive in my mind every single day as long as I can.”

Pritchett’s husband, Gary, who is still recovering from second and third degree burns from an incident over a month ago, had a setback and was in a local hospital in the Phoenix area on Friday.

Still, she managed to remain focused at the job at hand – and her husband was able to get out of the hospital to see his wife win in-person on Sunday.

“Honestly, it was pretty tough,” Pritchett said of racing while her spouse was hospitalized. “I like to put on some thick leather skin, but it doesn’t get any harder than that, knowing that the one you love, that shares the passion and competitiveness, can’t be here with you.

“I’m hired with the best of the best to do a job, no matter what goes on in my life, and I was able to do that with an incredible crew, crew chiefs, teams and sponsors.”

Ironically, Gary Pritchett works for Top Fuel driver Steve Torrence, who won the season-opening Top Fuel race at Pomona, California, two weeks ago.

“Just to point out, the two Wally’s in Top Fuel so far (this season) belong in the Pritchett household,” Leah Pritchett said with a smile. “I don’t know how long we can keep that going.”

In Funny Car, Tim Wilkerson held off 16-time NHRA champion John Force in Sunday’s final.

“I’m just happy to be here,” Wilkerson said with a smile. “What a great day for my team. It was a lot of adversity to get over.

“We have this old car and we’re retiring it after this weekend. Like my wife said, it’s like going to the beauty shop to get your hair cut when it’s long. You really don’t want to do that.”

Ever the Ford devotee, Wilkerson took the time for a little good-natured, post-race trash talking after defeating Force, who switched from Ford to Chevrolet prior to the 2015 season.

“He’s got two of my guys (former employees) over there, so I know why his car runs so damn good,” Wilkerson said. “I told him, if I can’t beat a garbage man in a Chevrolet, then I shouldn’t be out here.”

That comment drew a big round of cheers from the fans watching in the winner’s circle.

Lastly, in Pro Stock, Jason Line defeated Chris McGaha.

“The change to EFI (Electronic Fuel Injection) has been a challenge, for sure, but our team did our homework over the winter and we have been fortunate,” Line said. “I looked at it as an obstacle at first – I whined and cried like everybody else did; maybe we did more – but we turned it into an opportunity and we’re very fortunate. It was a fun day today.”

The next NHRA race, the Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals, will be in three weeks, March 17-20, at Gainesville, Florida.


Final finishing order:

TOP FUEL: 1. Leah Pritchett; 2.  Brittany Force; 3.  Doug Kalitta; 4.  Clay Millican; 5.  Antron Brown; 6. Dave Connolly; 7.  Tony Schumacher; 8.  Terry McMillen; 9.  Shawn Langdon; 10.  Steve Torrence; 11. Steven Chrisman; 12.  J.R. Todd; 13.  Scott Palmer; 14.  Richie Crampton; 15.  Troy Buff.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  Tim Wilkerson; 2.  John Force; 3.  Robert Hight; 4.  Courtney Force; 5.  Del Worsham; 6.  Jack Beckman; 7.  Ron Capps; 8.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 9.  Alexis DeJoria; 10.  Jeff Diehl; 11.  Matt Hagan; 12.  Jim Campbell; 13.  Cruz Pedregon; 14.  John Hale; 15.  Chad Head; 16.  Terry Haddock.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Jason Line; 2.  Chris McGaha; 3.  Bo Butner; 4.  Greg Anderson; 5.  Jeg Coughlin; 6.  Drew Skillman; 7.  Deric Kramer; 8.  Alex Laughlin; 9.  Joey Grose; 10.  Erica Enders; 11.  Vincent Nobile; 12.  V. Gaines; 13.  Allen Johnson; 14.  Matt Hartford.



Top Fuel — Leah Pritchett, 3.775 seconds, 323.12 mph  def. Brittany Force, 3.774 seconds, 321.35 mph.

Funny Car — Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.937, 320.43  def. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.016, 275.34.

Pro Stock — Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.666, 205.16  def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.671, 208.75.




ROUND ONE — Brittany Force, 3.723, 325.45 def. Shawn Langdon, 3.772, 321.65; Tony Schumacher, 3.742, 325.77 def. Scott Palmer, 7.611, 84.19; Doug Kalitta, 3.716, 328.22 was unopposed; Antron Brown, 3.766, 317.64 def. Steven Chrisman, 4.119, 257.04; Terry McMillen, 3.840, 304.53 def. Steve Torrence, 3.851, 312.28; Clay Millican, 3.940, 304.53 def. Troy Buff, 8.780, 84.00; Leah Pritchett, 4.361, 245.54 def. J.R. Todd, 4.612, 168.05; Dave Connolly, 3.765, 324.12 def. Richie Crampton, 8.532, 85.67; QUARTERFINALS — Pritchett, 3.808, 322.19 def. Brown, Foul – Red Light; Millican, 4.747, 223.06 def. Schumacher, 5.874, 124.21; Force, 3.771, 321.04 def. McMillen, 6.641, 105.60; Kalitta, 3.770, 323.19 def. Connolly, 5.070, 139.26; SEMIFINALS — Pritchett, 3.832, 317.05 def. Millican, 3.878, 299.86; Force, 3.760, 319.67 def. Kalitta, 3.794, 322.50; FINAL — Pritchett, 3.775, 323.12 def. Force, 3.774, 321.35.


ROUND ONE — Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.930, 326.79 def. Terry Haddock, Toyota Solara, 6.911, 91.55; Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 3.965, 319.29 def. Jeff Diehl, Solara, Foul – Red Light; John Force, Camaro, 3.955, 322.65 def. John Hale, Charger, 4.398, 231.75; Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.905, 327.11 def. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.313, 213.87; Del Worsham, Camry, 3.991, 318.24 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.298, 242.41; Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.939, 318.39 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.964, 320.74; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.003, 317.64 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.229, 266.32; Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.970, 320.81 def. Chad Head, Camry, 5.554, 158.93; QUARTERFINALS — C. Force, 3.973, 319.67 def. Johnson Jr., 7.998, 92.39; Hight, 3.977, 320.97 def. Worsham, 4.711, 170.82; J. Force, 4.014, 319.07 def. Beckman, 6.082, 110.62; Wilkerson, 4.597, 228.19 def. Capps, 6.168, 115.86; SEMIFINALS — J. Force, 4.006, 318.02 def. C. Force, 9.212, 82.51; Wilkerson, 3.994, 317.19 def. Hight, 8.351, 84.37; FINAL — Wilkerson, 3.937, 320.43 def. J. Force, 4.016, 275.34.


ROUND ONE — Jeg Coughlin, Dodge Dart, 6.653, 206.89 def. Alex Laughlin, Chevy Camaro, 6.684, 208.71; Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.633, 208.33 def. Erica Enders, Dart, 6.705, 207.53; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.634, 209.14 def. Joey Grose, Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Deric Kramer, Dart, 6.747, 206.95 def. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.711, 206.16; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.611, 207.69 def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.710, 207.78; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.595, 208.07 def. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.713, 206.99; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.590, 209.30 def. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.710, 206.61; QUARTERFINALS — McGaha, 6.664, 208.78 def. Kramer, 22.660, 34.45; Anderson, 6.630, 207.85 def. Skillman, 6.684, 207.46; Line, 6.641, 207.78 def. Coughlin, 6.670, 206.76; Butner, 6.638, 208.52 was unopposed; SEMIFINALS — McGaha, 6.692, 208.07 def. Butner, 6.690, 208.10; Line, 6.650, 207.53 def. Anderson, 13.587, 63.30; FINAL — Line, 6.666, 205.16 def. McGaha, 6.671, 208.75.



Top Fuel: 1.  Doug Kalitta, 171; 2.  Steve Torrence, 163; 3.  Brittany Force, 133; 4.  Clay Millican, 131; 5. Leah Pritchett, 129; 6.  Antron Brown, 110; 7.  Richie Crampton, 109; 8.  J.R. Todd, 105; 9.  Tony Schumacher, 98; 10.  Terry McMillen, 97.

Funny Car: 1.  Ron Capps, 183; 2.  John Force, 168; 3.  Robert Hight, 158; 4.  Del Worsham, 154; 5.  Tim Wilkerson, 147; 6.  Courtney Force, 141; 7.  Jack Beckman, 121; 8.  Alexis DeJoria, 87; 9.  Chad Head, 86; 10.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 85.

Pro Stock: 1.  Jason Line, 227; 2.  Greg Anderson, 209; 3.  Bo Butner, 171; 4.  Drew Skillman, 131; 5.  Chris McGaha, 129; 6.  Jeg Coughlin, 106; 7.  Allen Johnson, 87; 8.  Vincent Nobile, 86; 9.  Deric Kramer, 83; 10.  Alex Laughlin, 66.


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Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.



Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III