Leah Pritchett Bio

Birthplace Redlands, California
Birthday 5/26/88
Residence Avon, Indiana
Racing Goals Win an NHRA Mello Yello Series national event and Championship
Inspirational Figures Antron Brown & Ronda Rousey

 

California native Leah Pritchett’s passion for drag racing began at a very early age. She started driving Jr Dragsters at 8 years old, with 37 career wins in 8 years of competition, she knew that she wanted to become a professional drag racer and put her mind to it.
As soon as she was old enough Leah got behind the wheel of a full size drag race car, and continued to light-up the scoreboard in the 190mph sportsman division. At just 18 years old she built a Nostalgia Nitro Funny car with her father Ron, and became the first woman to run 5 seconds in a Nostalgia Funny Car. She also set the world record for the fastest Nostalgia Nitro Funny Car, being the first person to break 250 mph. In 2010 Leah branched off from her family's racing operation and began driving for Steve Plueger, where she became the Hot Rod Heritage Series Champion, winning multiple prestigious races and setting records. It wasn't long before Leah's success was noticed by professional Funny Car and Pro Mod team owner Roger Burgess. In 2011 Leah made the move to Atlanta to begin driving Pro Modified cars for R2B2 racing, where she won three national events in just two short seasons. In 2013 Leah joined Dote Racing in the ranks of Top Fuel Dragster, ending up 15th in points overall after competing at only 12 national events, and was an NHRA Road To The Future nominee. Leah was the highest finishing Top Fuel driver during the 2014 and 2015 season that did not complete in the full 24-race schedule.

'The 2016 season was to mark Leah's first scheduled full season of competition in the Top Fuel category for Bob Vandergriff Racing, winning her first Top Fuel title at the second race of the season in Phoenix, before the untimely and unexpected dissolve of BVR. Leah’s ambitious personality resulted in her relentless pursuit to not let the dismemberment of her team and sponsors dissolve her dream of making the countdown and chasing a championship. She quickly found funding to team with the outstanding yet independent Lagana Racing team to enter a handful of races, in which she qualified and went rounds to maintain her standings in the Top Ten. In June 2016, Leah secured further funding and began driving for DSR, solidified her spot in the coveted Top Ten, and continued her Championship ambitions with NHRA's premier team. It was mid-season when Leah and Papa John connected and realized how closely their independent journeys of failure to triumph mirrored each other. Just as the selling of John’s 71’ gold Camaro in 1981 became the pivotal point of what was to be Papa John’s Pizza, the last minute sponsorship of Papa John’s to help keep Leah in pursuit of Championship goals became the pivotal point of the 2016 season, which is why her Top Fuel car resembles that of John’s Camaro. Although her 2016 season has had been anything but streamlined, she has been able to keep a core of her team together, maintain her eyes on the ultimate goal, and ultimately finished 7th in the NHRA’s Top Fuel world Championship with what is undeniably the most decorated roster of partners that helped her do so.

Leah Pritchett never could have imagined how the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season would end after starting the year with the promise of her first full-time season competing in the Top Fuel category.

After a high point of winning her first Mello Yello Top Fuel title in the season’s second event, her Bob Vandergriff Racing team folded after the Las Vegas event in April when the team’s primary sponsor died unexpectedly at a young age.

The Southern California native who lives in the Indianapolis suburb of Avon worked to find ways to compete in the next few races to keep her drive alive of qualifying for the six-race Countdown to the Champion playoff at the end of the year.

There were many ups and downs after she won the title at Phoenix and miraculously qualified for the Countdown when her Don Schumacher Racing led by Todd Okuhara was one of the two hottest in the playoff and they finished the season ranked 7th in championship standings.

Her 13-race tenure with DSR began with support of Ron Thames and the FireAde 2000 Personal Fire Suppression System that supported her for four events. Pennzoil and Mopar stepped in with support for three others and Albrecht’s Fast Track motorcycle shop backed her at Chicago.

A major jolt to her career happened in August at Seattle when Papa John’s Pizza (NASDAQ: PZZA) and its founder/chairman John Schnatter joined her and DSR for its first foray into professional motorsports with a five-race sponsorship that helped to fulfill her dream of competing in the Countdown.

And that relationship will continue throughout 2017 as Papa John’s adds NHRA drag racing to its “official pizza’ portfolio that includes the National Football League and Major League Baseball.

Joining DSR brought her nitro career full circle. The 28-year-old earned her nitro Funny Car license with DSR 10 years ago.

“I am thrilled to finally have Leah in the seat of a DSR racecar,” DSR owner and drag racing pioneer Don Schumacher said of the University of California San Bernardino graduate.

“She showed me a lot when she tested with us and earned her NHRA license. But she is much more than a very good driver; she is an excellent marketer and outstanding representative of our sport.”

Because of the opportunity with Pritchett, Schumacher decided it was time to bring out a fourth Top Fueler in May, initially as a part-time program, and make Pritchett his fourth female driver since opening DSR in 1998. Two of the previous women to drive for DSR went on to win multiple NHRA world championships: Erica Enders in Pro Stock and Angelle Sampey in Pro Stock Motorcycle. Melanie Troxel won two Top Fuel titles for DSR.

“It’s been nonstop since Don put a team together for us to get to Atlanta in May,” she said. “We started that race because FireAde owner Ron Thames committed to sponsor us for four races.”

Her journey to the pinnacle of drag racing began when she and her family joined the NHRA Jr. Dragster youth racing program where she won 37 trophies between the ages of 8 and 16.

As soon as she was old enough Leah got behind the wheel of a full size drag race car, and continued to light-up the scoreboard in 190-mph NHRA Sportsman categories. At 18, she built a Nostalgia Nitro Funny car with her father Ron, a former Bonneville Salt Flats record holder, and became the first woman to run 5 seconds in a Nostalgia Funny Car.

She also set the record for fastest Nostalgia Nitro Funny Car, being the first to exceed 250 mph. In 2010, she branched off from her family’s racing operation and began driving for Steve Plueger, where she became the Hot Rod Heritage Series Champion, winning multiple prestigious races and setting records.

It wasn’t too long before her success was noticed by professional Funny Car and Pro Mod team owner Roger Burgess. In 2011, she moved to Atlanta to begin driving Pro Modified cars for his R2B2 racing, where she won three national events in two seasons.

Two years later, she joined Dote Racing in the ranks of Top Fuel and finished the year ranked 15th despite competing in only half of the 24-race schedule. She was a finalist for NHRA Road To The Future rookie award.

At the start of the 2017 season. Leah  won the season-opening Circle K NHRA Winternationals, setting the tone for the rest of the season. After winning the NHRA opener she went on to set the record for the quickest pass at the wild horse track in Arizona, and would further go on to win her second Top Fuel victory in Pomona. Leah also earned her third career win for the Wally against Brittany Force in breaking the top fuel time in Arizona. Leah has continued her partnership with Papa John’s through the 2017, winning in Phoenix, Houston, and Pomona as well as setting the NHRA Top Fuel world record at 3.658 seconds, which is the quickest run in history.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS

2016 Finished 7th in overall NHRA Mello Yello Series Championship Series - Top Fuel 
2016 Clenched position in the top ten standings of the NHRA Mello Yello Series for the Countdown to the Championship
2016 Became official partners of FireAde, MOPAR, Pennzoil and Papa John’s 
2016 Joined Don Schumacher Racing - largest and winningest team in NHRA history
2016 Won first Top Fuel National event (Carquest Nationals, Phoenix, AZ)
2016 Joined Bob Vandergriff Racing to start the 2016 season
2015 First final round appearance - Top Fuel - Atlanta, GA
2015 Best qualifying position (3rd) - Top Fuel
2015 Began partnership with Sparkling ICE
2014 Semi final round appearance - Top Fuel - Las Vegas
2014 Began partnership with Gumout
2013 Road to the future Nominee
2013 Joined Dote Racing as a rookie Top Fuel Driver
2012 O’Reilly Auto Parts Nationals Winner - Pro Mod
2012 Began Licensing in Top Fuel - St. Louis
2012 zMAX 4-Wide Nationals Runner Up - Pro Mod
2011 Las Vegas Big O Tires Winner - Pro Mod
2011 Qualified for first NHRA FC National event- Reading, PA 2011 O’Reilly Auto Parts Nationals Winner - Pro Mod
2010 NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series Champion - FC
2010 52nd March Meet Funny Car Champion - (32 car field) 2010 NHRA Hot Rod Reunion Winner - Funny Car
2010 Div. 6 Event Winner - Nostalgia Funny Car (Spokane, WA) 2009 Nostalgia Funny Car record - First person to 250 MPH 2008 Earned NHRA Professional Funny Car License
2008 First woman to run a 5 second e.t. in a nostalgia funny car

 

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