Typically, drag racers can only go home with one winner’s trophy from a NHRA national event.
But not Top Fuel driver Leah Pritchett. She plans on taking two winner’s trophies – and bragging rights from a third race – back to her Indiana home from this weekend’s Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida.
Pritchett, both the quickest (3.640 seconds at Brainerd, Minn., in 2017) and fastest (334.15 mph last month in Phoenix) woman in NHRA history, came into this weekend’s event ranked seventh in the Top Fuel standings. So there’s one race to win.
Next, she will compete in the Factory Stock Showdown, seeking another “Wally” (winner’s trophy), behind the wheel of a Hoonigan-designed Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak. There’s No. 2 race to win.
And last but not least, Pritchett will challenge Papa John’s Pizza founder John Schnatter in the Papa John’s Charity Challenge on Saturday to benefit the Infinite Hero Foundation and Overcome Academy. There’s No. 3 to win.
“I always dig doing things differently, and to their maximum capabilities,” said Pritchett, a five-time Top Fuel event champion. “This weekend is more about three cars and three events.
“It represents three important aspects of my passion for drag racing: Top Fuel competition, grassroots racing, and charity involvement.”
Pritchett, who grew up drag racing in her native Southern California, has competed in several different classes as she climbed the performance and competition ladder.
Now that she’s one of the stars of the sport’s quickest and fastest racing class, Pritchett talked about why she hopes to go 3-for-3 this weekend, particularly since the Gatornationals are one of the sport’s biggest races of the 24-race national event schedule.
“The Top Fuel competition is a passion to be the quickest and the fastest at the ultimate level,” Pritchett said. “Factory Stock Showdown has brought me back to my Sportsman roots.
“The program is ‘heads up’ and delivers the opportunity to make the combination of what is available from the factory faster than anyone else through tuning and ingenuity within set limitations. It’s all about who can make their hot rod faster, which is something everyone can be a part of without having to be at the Top Fuel level.
“The Charity Challenge, for me, represents growth and integration of a partner who loves this sport and can face off for a great cause while telling an All American story and raising money for returning military heroes and their families.”
All told, Pritchett has the potential of making well over a dozen runs through the weekend:
* In Top Fuel, she’ll have two qualifying rounds each on Friday and Saturday, plus up to four elimination rounds on Sunday.
* Then there’s two qualifying rounds Friday and one other qualifying run Saturday for the Factory Stock Showdown. If she gets past that, there’s the potential of a first-round elimination later in the day. If she wins that, there’s two more elimination rounds on Sunday to potentially win the Challenge.
* And if she beats her boss – Papa John’s is her primary sponsor for the Don Schumacher Racing Top Fuel team – that’s one more run. She’s also expected to have one test run.
Add all those rounds up – and in a perfect weekend if she captures all three events – Pritchett has the potential to make either 15 or 16 different runs over the three days.
“I believe my bandwidth of focus has grown to compartmentalize these opportunities at their maximum without robbing from one another,” Pritchett said. “But I can guarantee you, enjoyment will be at an all-time high.
“The constant variable is always the mindset of being the baddest and fastest no matter what; whether it’s a car I dedicate my life and all hours to, or one that I haven’t even touched before.”
In her second full-time season with DSR, Pritchett seeks her fifth Top Fuel win with the team and sixth overall career Top Fuel win.
“I’m a proud Gemini, whereby nature, I’m good at doing multiple things to the max, and this weekend, it’s all about the trifecta.”