It didn’t take long for Redlands Top Fuel dragster driver Leah Pritchett to secure a ride in the 2016 NHRA Yello Mello Drag Racing Series.
Less than two months after Pritchett was sidelined when Dote Racing announced it was taking 2016 off, Bob Vandergriff Racing announced Thursday the Cal State San Bernardino graduate will join it as part of a two-car team.
Pritchett, who finished 14th in the 2015 points standings in a part-time role, will be sponsored by Quaker State.
With BVR, Pritchett will team with Dave Connolly, who finished 10th in points in his rookie season in the class. Larry Dixon, who competed in the class in 2015 under the BVR banner, has not announced what his role will be in 2016.
“The opportunity to run a complete NHRA Top Fuel season has been a goal that I have worked toward for a very long time,” Pritchett said. “I am beyond excited for the opportunity to focus on making the Countdown next season, competing for a championship, working alongside Bob Vandergriff Jr., and re-introducing the Quaker State brand back into the NHRA.
“This dream is now a reality, thanks in large part to the vision of Bob Vandergriff Jr., as well as the support of great companies and people along my way to this personal and professional milestone, and, of course, my fans.”
Pritchett, who started racing as an 8-year-old in Jr. Dragsters, has been racing Top Fuel dragsters since 2013 when she was selected by Dote Racing. She was a runner-up at Atlanta in 2015 and also qualified as high as third. Her best elapsed time for Dote was 3.73 at Englishtown, N.J.
“Working with the Dote Racing team was a great experience for me, and I am beyond thankful to the Dote family for believing in me,” the 27-year-old Pritchett said. “Mike and Connie (Dote), Doug (Kuch, crew chief), Rob (Flynn, tuner) and the entire team were outstanding with me as a newcomer to Top Fuel three years ago.
“Beyond driving, I believe my responsibilities within Dote Racing have equipped me with an expanded skill set that will enable me to continue success on and off the track. This experience has been invaluable, and I wish them the best in the future.”
According to team officials, Quaker State will be the primary sponsor of five NHRA national events, in addition to associate sponsorships on both BVR Top Fuel entries. Vandergriff is spending the off-season working to secure additional sponsors.
The company has been active in NHRA since the 1980s.
“Bob Vandergriff Racing has presented Quaker State with an opportunity to get back into the NHRA, and we couldn’t be more excited for the 2016 season,” said Gita Gidwani, Quaker State global brand manager. “Quaker State is a hardworking motor oil that has great synergies for working with a hardworking and dedicated driver like Leah and we look forward to backing her as she continues her impressive NHRA career.”
Connolly will be driving the C&J Energy Services dragster for a second season. In 2015, he advanced to the finals three times.
“I think this team continued to grow as the year progressed, and even though we didn’t get that first win this year for Bob as a team owner, I know it’s coming in ’16,” said Connolly, who made the jump from Pro Stock. “February can’t get here soon enough.”
Vandergriff, who stepped out from behind the driver’s seat in 2015, is anxious for the Winternationals to start the season at Pomona in February.
“We have two young drivers with extensive racing backgrounds, so 2016 should be an exciting year for BVR,” Vandergriff said. “Our goal is to put both Dave and Leah in the top 10 and take home the championship this year.”
Louis Brewster | dailybulletin.com | December 10, 2015