Last Sunday Redlands native Leah Pritchett and Yorba Linda’s Brittany Force became the first all-woman, NHRA Nitro Top Fuel event final in 34 years.
Not since Shirley Muldowney defeated Lucille Lee in Columbus, Ohio in 1982 have drag race fans got to see just the fairer sex compete for a Wally in top fuel.
The feat is just the latest in a career that has seen Pritchett, 27, race and win in everything from junior dragsters, nostalgia eliminator one and funny car to pro mod and now in NHRA Nitro Top Fuel.
Pritchett’s win last Sunday also gave her the great start to the season, showing sponsors her development with Vandergriff Racing and possibly attracting more potential sponsors to the drag racer, marketer and business woman.
Pritchett’s quicker reaction time helped her make a pass of 3.775 seconds at 323.12 mph to defeat Force for her first career Nitro Top Fuel event win. Good enough for fifth in points after just two races.
Last’s Sunday’s performance at the Car Quest NHRA Nationals in Phoenix was just another rung Pritchett has climbed on the ladder of success in the sport she loves.
After losing her ride with Dote Racing after last season, Pritchett used her business acumen to land on her feet with the Bob Vandergriff Racing/Quaker State dragster.
“Things happen for a reason and our success has come very soon,” said Pritchett, who grew up drag racing with her dad Ron Pruett, a veteran land-speed racer. “To go from a team that was only running 15 races to a full-time scheduled team ... absolutely its been a very good move for me.
“This is uncharted territory and something incredible that I’m very honored and happy to be a part of.”
Although parting from Dote Racing was tough, Pritchett said the reception she’s received from her race team and crew chiefs Mike Guger and Joe Barlam has made her transition to Vandergriff Racing much easier.
“People say that team chemistry is very important,” said Pritchett. “From what I’m experiencing early in this new partnership I couldn’t agree more.
“Right now I’m just marveling at how entirely cool that is.”
Now, two races into the 2016 schedule, Pritchett is excited to get into the grind of a full-time racing schedule and everything that comes with it.
“I’ve actually been preparing for this my whole life,” Pritchett said. “I’m prepared and excited for being on the road full-time and being able to focus one round at a time.”
But, just in case she starts to get home sick, Pritchett said she’ll just remember what’s at the end of the 2016 NHRA season schedule – the NHRA World Finals in Pomona.
David Zink | pe.com | March 3, 2016