Gumout Top Fuel dragster driver now excited to get that next NHRA “Wally” Trophy
TOPEKA, Kan. (May 20, 2015) – In NHRA Mello Yello drag racing, the goal is to capture the coveted “Wally” trophy named after NHRA founder Wally Parks. The “Wally” denotes a victory and the top honor at an NHRA national drag racing event.
Leah Pritchett has three pro division “Wallies” to her credit, all three in the ProMod sedan class.
The 26-year-old California native hasn’t scored a national event win in her three years at the wheel of the 10,000-horsepower, nitro-burning Gumout Top Fuel dragster. But, last week at Atlanta Dragway, the attractive blond was close. So close she could taste victory.
Making her first Top Fuel round appearance, Pritchett fell to former NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel World Champion Antron Brown on a tricky track surface.
This weekend, Pritchett seeks to improve last week’s showing and collect her first NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel “Wally” at the NHRA Kansas Nationals at Heartland Park in Topeka May 22-24.
“The Atlanta event was really a driver’s race,” said Pritchett, who holds four NHRA pro class licenses. “With the high heat and humidity, traction was very difficult with such a high-horsepower car. There is such a fine line between a good run and smoking the tires. I cannot say enough about my Dote Racing team as they had the engine and clutch combination just right in the Gumout dragster.”
Pritchett also made her best Top Fuel qualifying performance (3rd) at Atlanta and upset some drag racing legends to take on Brown in her first Top Fuel final.
“To be honest, it took our Dote team a little bit to adjust to our new Hadman chassis,” admitted Leah, the Cal State University communications graduate. “We ran pretty well in qualifying earlier this year but we just couldn’t get the race wins until last week at Atlanta. Our team’s ‘hot temperature’ setup has been outstanding and I believe we might need it again at Topeka.”
The Heartland Park drag strip has produced some spectacular racing dating back to the track’s opening in 1989. But Pritchett knows that the summer heat can make for a wild racing weekend too.
“With a nitro-burning engine, the car just makes so much horsepower and it’s easy to overpower the racing surface,” Pritchett said. “The crew chiefs can be the key to a victory in hot track conditions. They read their computer data from each run and determine what is needed for the next round. I trust Doug Kuch and Rob Flynn (crew chiefs and tuners) to give me an excellent car when I get to the starting line. Then, it’s up to me to react at the starting lights and get the car down the track.”
Pritchett knows that in hot conditions a tricky track surface means she must be ready for the rear tires of her machine to spin and lose traction. She needs to react on the throttle pedal and get down the track as quickly as possible.
“We call that ‘pedaling’ the race car when a driver is off and on the throttle pedal,” he explains. “A good driver can feel the power of the engine overpowering the track and needs to step off the throttle and then gather the car and regain the power. It’s a tough act but you need to be ready to do it instantly to get the ‘win light’ at the finish line.”
Another strong suit for the Dote Racing squad is their quickness in rebuilding an engine between rounds of a race.
“At Atlanta, the crew did an engine prep in 37 minutes after one run and 41 minutes after another,” said Pritchett. “That takes great teamwork to make those kind of turnarounds with a supercharged, nitro-burning engine. That engine produced 10,000 horsepower too.”
And Pritchett knows the experience and knowledge of her crew will be the difference in her gaining her next NHRA “Wally” trophy. After a near miss at Atlanta, she is hoping to score that initial Top Fuel triumph this weekend at Topeka.
Qualifying for the NHRA Kansas Nationals begins at 5 p.m. CDT this Friday (May 22). Qualifying continues Saturday at 2 p.m. CDT. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. CDT Sunday (May 24).
The NHRA Kansas Nationals will be televised on Saturday and Sunday on ESPN2. Qualifying will air at 6 p.m. EDT Saturday with final eliminations set for 10 p.m. EDT.
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Contacts: Tom Blattler, Sport Dimensions, Inc., 317-525-5692
Kinnon Marshall, Sport Dimensions, Inc., 805-701-1216