Pritchett goes non-stop during two-week break from NHRA tour,
ready to reclaim No. 1 this weekend in Mello Yello race near Houston
BROWNSBURG, Ind. (April 19, 2017) - Leah Pritchett has not driven her Papa John's Pizza Top Fuel dragster down a dragstrip in nearly two weeks, but she hasn't been lounging on a beach since the last race at Las Vegas.
Her return to the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series this weekend for the SpringNationals near Houston will provide somewhat of a respite from a very busy two weeks.
Pritchett, owns two wins and ranks second in points with her Papa John's team led by crew chief Todd Okuhara and assistant Joe Barlam, was as busy as her Don Schumacher Racing team was preparing for Houston.
"I filled the void with a lot of extremely spectacular activities, but having multiple weekends off in a row is not my favorite time," said Pritchett, who started the season by winning the first two Mello Yello titles from the pole that had never been done by a Top Fuel driver.
After topping the standings for the first three races, she fell behind DSR teammate Tony Schumacher by six points after she lost in the Las Vegas semifinals to teammate and event winner Antron Brown while Schumacher advanced to the final round.
"The anticipation has been building to get back in our Papa John's dragster more than it's ever been in my career because I'm not just looking forward to getting back in a racecar but I'm looking forward to getting back in a car we know is always capable of winning and is in championship contention," she said.
Sunday after the Las Vegas event included a night of bracket racing at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis in her Dodge Hellcat before spending the evening at Girls Nite In, a program in nearby Brownsburg devoted to mentoring and empowering teen girls who face life-altering issues and negative cultural influences (GirlsNiteIn.org).
On Monday, she traveled to Chicago for a Pennzoil business conference and that night went to the Chicago Cubs home-opener when their world 2016 championship flag was unfurled.
Then it was on to New York City for Tuesday's unveil of the 2018 Dodge Challenge SRT Demon at the New York International Auto Show. She was back at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis the next day for more bracket racing in her Hellcat and on Thursday back at DSR to work with her Papa John's team.
Her Easter weekend was with husband Gary Pritchett's family in Virginia where she helped wrench one of Bunny Burkett's Alcohol Funny Cars that he drove in a match race at Eastside Raceway in Waynesboro, Va.
"Gary is the most supportive person I've ever had in my life," she said of her husband, who is the clutch specialist for Steve Torrence's Top Fuel dragster. "He gets to see me go fast almost every weekend and Easter his time to shine at the racetrack that's been a lifetime event for him and his family."
Houston is the first of three consecutive race weekends after two weeks off in the 24-race NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. After Houston, the series travels to Charlotte and Atlanta.
LEAH PRITCHETT, Papa John's Pizza Top Fuel dragster - 2X winner in 2017, 2nd in points Pts Events Wins Rup Semi Qtr 1st rd Poles DNQ W/L
2017 2nd 4 2 0 1 1 0 2 0 11-2
CAREER 74 3 1 8 14 42 3 6 45-65
Best Time, Speed: 3.658 sec.-world record (2017, Phoenix 2017); 329.75 (2016, Indy)
Last event (March 31-April 2): Qualified No. 5, lost in semifinals DSR teammate and event winner Antron Brown
A year ago at Houston: (with Bob Vandergriff Racing) Qualified No. 14; lost in semifinals to event winner Doug Kalitta
Career at Houston: Wins 1 (2005/Pro Modified); Runner-ups 5 (1998-00, '02/Pro Modified, 2015/Top Fuel); Poles 2 (2005, 2011/Pro Modified)
2017 NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES TOP FUEL STANDINGS
(Official after Las Vegas 1; 4 of 24 events; wins in parenthesis; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. TONY SCHUMACHER (1) 382 -----
2. LEAH PRITCHETT (2) 376 -6
3. ANTRON BROWN (1) 357 -25
4. Doug Kalitta 301 -81
5. Brittany Force 258 -124
6. Steve Torrence 251 -131
7. Clay Millican 187 -195
8. Troy Coughlin Jr. 176 -206
9. Terry McMillen 164 -218
10. Scott Palmer 148 -236