Leah Pritchett Records 3.84-second run at 320 MPH moving into Sunday’s runs BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Sept. 5, 2015) – The pretty “Lady in Red” Gumout Top Fuel dragster, with Leah Pritchett at the controls, debuted the red chrome livery Saturday afternoon at Lucas Oil Raceway for the opening qualifying rounds in the 61st annual NHRA U.S. Nationals, the world’s biggest drag racing event. Pritchett, the California native who now lives just ten minutes of the Brownsburg, Ind., racing facility in Avon, Ind., made two Top Fuel qualifying attempts in very hot and humid conditions (93 degrees) Saturday.
On the first pass, Pritchett left the starting line well but the car hazed the rear Goodyear tires at the 400-foot mark and shut down her nitro-burning engine at 4.33 seconds at only 196.07 m.p.h. clocking. In the evening, Leah made a strong effort with a 3.840 seconds at 320.66 m.p.h.
The 3.84-second mark left the 27-year-old veteran racer in the 11th qualifying position after the first day of action, as 22 drivers made qualifying attempts Saturday. Sunday’s time trials will also determine the 16-driver field for Monday’s final eliminations.
“The conditions were extremely hot this afternoon and the car left the line well,” said Pritchett. “But the track was very tricky with the hotter surface and we hazed the tires as many did in the heat. I felt the car was hooked up well until then. “In the evening, the Gumout machine was strong off the line and I thought we were on a 3.70s (second) pass. I was surprised we only ran a 3.84. ‘The Lady in Red’ can run better on Sunday and I’m excited how the car and the Dote Racing team are coming together.”
Pritchett knows the U.S. Nationals is the biggest race of the year and brings pressure just attempting to make the 16-driver field. “This race is the biggest one for us,” she explained. “It’s tough to just make the starting lineup here. But we are in the top 12 for the first day and that is important. I’m sure it will be hot and humid again on Sunday but our team has a good setup now for the next two days.”
Three-time NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon was the quickest of the 22 Top Fuel drivers Saturday at 3.74 seconds. Top Fuel qualifying for Sunday is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and 4:20 p.m. EDT.