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.”