It’s been a topsy-turvy two-month stretch for NHRA Top Fuel driver Leah Pritchett.
Pritchett has gone from the high point of her racing career to the lowest, having her race team close down less than two weeks before one of the biggest events on the National Hot Rod Association tour.
However, that hasn’t stopped Pritchett, who scrambled for more than a week to secure funding to compete at this weekend’s NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway.
“It’s made for a few sleepless nights, that’s for sure,” said Pritchett, 27. “I’ve worked so hard the past 10 days to get here, and all of this is about driving that race car.
“At the end of the day, those few, short seconds of driving the race car and being a professional car driver is what everything is all about. But the situation takes away from what this is all about.”
Pritchett’s story begins when she landed a fully-funded ride with team owner Bob Vandergriff Jr., as a teammate to Dave Connolly for the 2016 NHRA season.
She was successful right off the bat. Pritchett won her first career Top Fuel title at Phoenix on Feb. 28, beating Brittany Force in the final round, and was fifth in points through four events.
But six weeks later, on April 11, Vandergriff announced he was immediately shutting down his team, putting Pritchett, Connolly and more than two dozen crewmen out of work.
“There was a lot of disbelief, like, ‘did that just happen?’ ” Pritchett said. “It took a long time for it to settle in, but I started moving forward before I even let it sink in.”
Getting the ride with Lagana Racing was the easy part (co-owner Bobby Lagana works with her husband, Steve, at Steve Torrence Racing). It wasn’t until earlier this week that Pritchett secured the funding to race at zMax Dragway.
Pritchett is already thinking ahead, working on funding to race in the next NHRA event at Houston, Texas, next week, and for the rest of the season.
Her only break from that effort comes when she gets behind the wheel of her Top Fuel car.
“I’m here now, and I’m racing,” Pritchett said. “I’m focused on doing the very best job that I can, safely and competitively, with this car.”
Fields set for Four-Wide
Alexis DeJoria, Steve Torrence, Greg Anderson and Eddie Krawiec claimed the No. 1 qualifier spots for the Four-Wide Nationals after Saturday’s final two rounds.
DeJoria broke Matt Hagan’s day-old track Funny Car qualifying time record with a pass of 3.934 seconds at 321.04 mph for her first top qualifier award this season, and the fourth of her career. Hagan had set the record Friday at 3.941 seconds at 323.50 mph.
Torrence made his pass of 3.736 seconds at 326.48 mph from Friday’s rain-shortened Top Fuel qualifying round stand up for his third top qualifier award this season, and the eighth of his career.
Anderson, whose KB Racing team is based in Mooresville, earned his second Pro Stock top qualifier award of 2016 and the 82nd of his career with a pass of 6.576 seconds at 210.41 mph.
Krawiec made it two-for-two in Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying this season, with his Friday pass of 6.818 seconds at 192.85 mph standing up for his 29th career top qualifier award.
Want to go?
Where: zMax Dragway, Concord.
Sunday’s schedule: Gates open at 9 a.m., with eliminations starting at noon.