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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.”

IndyCar: Ed Carpenter Racing signs Ed Jones for road, street course races in 2019

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2017 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Ed Jones has signed on to compete in IndyCar road and street course races in 2019 for Ed Carpenter Racing, the team announced Wednesday.

Jones replaces Jordan King at ECR, whose contract was not renewed for 2019.

“Joining Ed Carpenter Racing and Scuderia Corsa for the 2019 IndyCar Series is a fantastic opportunity to be a part of,” Jones said in a media release.

Jones will also drive a third car for ECR in the 2019 Indianapolis 500, making it 13 races of the 17-race IndyCar schedule that he’s due to compete in.

“Ed Carpenter Racing has shown amazing speed the last few years at the Indianapolis 500,” Jones said. “You can always expect the ECR cars to be at the front. I am really grateful for this chance and will do everything I can to make sure we, as a team, make the most of it.”

In addition, Las Vegas-based Scuderia Corsa will become a partner with ECR on Jones’ No. 20 Chevrolet (as well as the No. 64 Chevy he’ll drive in the Indy 500).

“Both ECR and Scuderia Corsa have been successful in their respective series and I feel the combination of forces will be greatly beneficial,” Jones said. “I’m extremely excited to get underway.”

Jones will yield driving duties in the No. 20 Chevy for four races to team owner Ed Carpenter on oval tracks, while Spencer Pigot returns as the team’s full-time driver in the No. 21 Chevrolet.

“I am very excited to welcome Ed Jones to the ECR family, as well as Scuderia Corsa and Giacomo (Scuderia Corsa co-founder Giacomo Mattioli),” Carpenter said. “I was very surprised when Ed became available at the end of the season. I look forward to working together to get ECR back in Victory Lane.”

The 23-year-old Jones, who hails from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, previously drove for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2018 (finished 13th in the final season standings) and Dale Coyne Racing in 2017 (finished 14th). He won the Indy Lights championship in 2016, as did new teammate Pigot in 2015.

During the 2018 season, Jones had two podium finishes (Long Beach and Belle Isle II) and eight top-10 finishes in the 17-race campaign.

Since forming in 2012, Scuderia Corsa has earned more than 100 wins over numerous racing platforms, primarily sports-car based. However, it made its first foray into IndyCar racing by backing Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and driver Oriol Servia’s effort in the 2018 Indy 500.

Jones began his new job with ECR immediately, watching new boss Carpenter take part today (Wednesday) in a closed Firestone tire test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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