UPDATED — NHRA: Leah Pritchett, Dave Connolly back behind wheel at 4-Wide Nationals

(Photos courtesy NHRA)
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UPDATED Thursday, April 21, 12:40 p.m. ET:

Shortly after it was announced that Leah Pritchett and Dave Connolly would once again be racing this weekend, John Force, 16-time Funny Car champion and the winningest driver in NHRA history, exclusively told NBCSports.com  that he’s glad to see the duo back racing just over one week after being released by Bob Vandergriff Racing.

“Losing those two cars and Vandergriff was a big thing,” Force said. “He’s a big name, his dad was there in the early days with me.

“Pruett worked hard to put together a sponsorship and team with Vandergriff and then Connolly coming from Pro Stock, they’re both great drivers. We need them back.”

Force admits that even though things have improved on the sponsorship level, “It is hard times still. A lot of kids will take a sponsorship, even if it’s not enough to run a full season, to run for the championship and to try and find more money. It’s a seven day a week job. We need them in the sport.”

ORIGINAL STORY:

In just over a week’s time, NHRA Top Fuel drivers Leah Pritchett and Dave Connolly have gone from unemployed to back on track.

Pritchett and Connolly began the season racing for Bob Vandergriff Jr. Racing. That is, until April 11, when Vandergriff shocked the drag racing world by immediately folding his entire racing operation and retiring from the sport.

That left Pritchett, who had won her first career Top Fuel race at Phoenix on Feb. 28, and Connolly, who moved to Top Fuel in 2015 after several years in Pro Stock, scrambling for rides.

MORE: NHRA stunner: Bob Vandergriff retires, closes team effective immediately

Fortunately for both drivers, they have new rides heading into this weekend’s NHRA 4-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway.

Pritchett took to her web site to reveal the news that she will drive the Nitro Ninja Top Fuel dragster owned by the Lagana family in what for now is a one-time effort.

“It has been a whirlwind of a week, but continuation of my pursuit to compete in Top Fuel has been made possible by FireAde 2000 (primary sponsor), with joint efforts of longtime partners Boninfante Friction, Aerodine Composites (both associate sponsors), and of course the Lagana family.

“Having partners able to come in clutch at the last minute enables me to enter one more race at this time and will help me stay relevant in the NHRA Mello Yello Series Championship Point Standings.

“This will also buy me a bit more time to work on sufficient funding for the rest of the season to compete with a readily available team.

“Beyond working alongside and being close friends with the Laganas, I feel fortunate to bring the proper resources to their operation to compete at this event. Experiencing this portion of my journey with people I know, respect, and trust, makes this quick turnaround of a time, that much more rewarding.”

2016_Dave_Connolly_Action

As for Connolly (photo above), he will return to his Sportsman roots and drive a Top Sportsman dragster in this weekend’s 4-Wide Nationals, as well.

“If it has a steering wheel, the class title doesn’t matter to me,” Connolly told Bobby Bennett of CompetitionPlus.com. “It’s a real good car that I turned into a Big Block Chevy. I was building this car to have as a bracket car toward the end of the year and with the turn of events I get to hit the ignition key on it a little bit sooner than I expected, but that’s how it goes.”

Connolly holds no grudge against Vandergriff for pulling the plug so abruptly.

“Every racer out there has dealt with difficult situations, and I’ve dealt with issues like this before pretty much from 2007 on,” Connolly told Bennett. “I completely understand Bob’s position and the choices that he has made. The guy has done a lot for me, so there are no hard feelings in regards to him at all. He gave me a great opportunity.”

Like Pritchett, Connolly is racing his Sportsman car as a kind of fill-in while looking for a new full-time ride in Top Fuel or potentially any other class if an offer surfaces.

“Racing is what I have done the last 16 years of my life,” Connolly told Bennett. “It’s all I have known and done. I plan on staying involved whether it is tuning a car or driving a car, it doesn’t matter to me.

“You never know what the future holds, and I’m just keeping all doors open at the moment. There’s definitely a few irons in the fire, and we will see if any of them spark.”

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Max Verstappen is PointsBet favorite to score sixth staight in 2022 Singapore Grand Prix

PointsBet 2022 Singapore odds
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Max Verstappen is the PointsBet Sportsbook odds favorite to win the 2022 Singapore Grand Prix on the Marina Bay Street course to stretch his current win streak to six consecutive. He shows odds of -200 this week.

Formula 1 did not compete in Singapore in 2020 or 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Verstappen has podium finishes in his last two attempts on this track. he was second in 2018 and third in 2019. In the first 15 races of this season, he has failed to stand on the podium only twice and has an average finish of 2.73.

With minus odds, the way to determine a payout is by subtraction. In order for a bettor to earn $100, he must wager $200 this week; with that wager, he will get back his initial stake and winnings of $100.

For bettors more comfortable with fractional odds, a bet of +300 is the same as 3/1.

Charles Leclerc is ranked second this week with +400 odds. He has two previous Singapore GP starts to his credit with a best of second in 2019. He is coming off back-to-back podium finishes with a third in the Dutch GP and a second at Monza.

Ranked third is Carlos Sainz, Jr. with a line of +1100. He has top-five finishes in four of his last five starts, but only one of these, a third in the Belgian GP, was on the podium. Sainz is one of four winners other than Verstappen this season. His victory came in the British GP.

Lewis Hamilton shows a line of +1200. His last win came last fall in the Saudi Arabian GP and the Mercedes team has struggled to contend for victory in 2022. They are improving, however, with eight top-fives in the last nine races. Hamilton has two wins in his last three Singapore starts, which came in 2017 and 2018.

Rounding out the top five is Hamilton’s teammate George Russell at +1800. He has not won, but has shown remarkable consistency with top-fives in all but one race. Notably, his only bad finish came in his home GP in England. Russell has one previous start at Marina Bay; he finished last in the 2019 race. He finished fourth in 2019 as part of a four-race streak of top-fives.

The most recent Singapore GP winner from 2019, Sebastian Vettel is a longshot at +50000.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner, and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links.

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