Leah Pritchett BLOG
Great to be back in 909 and racing at Winternationals
Feels great to be back home in the 909 and even better because I’m here racing my new Papa John’s Pizza Top Fuel dragster to open the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello season with Don Schumacher Racing at the Fairplex in Pomona.
The 909 is more than my old area code, that is how I am today.
I have golden memories of Pomona, and 20 years after I raced here for the first time when I was 8 I get to do it in a golden dragster, just like “Papa” John Schnatter’s classic 1971 Camaro Z28.
So much has happened to my career since I drove my family’s NHRA Jr. Dragster at Pomona that it seems like a lifetime ago when my little Jr. Dragster with a pink ribbon on it opened my eyes to want I wanted to do with my life.
I grew up in a racing family with my older sister Lindsey starting in a half-scale dragster four or five years before I was old enough to join her. My dad, Ron Pruett, was taking us to the salt flats where he was a 13-time record-holder. I wish I can remember more about those times. Who knows, one day soon I might shoot for a land speed record on the salt flats. Keep following me on social media to see if that happens.
That would be completing the circle for our family, for sure, just like being back at Pomona driving for the biggest and baddest team in DSR. Some of the most iconic American brands supporting me with Papa John’s Pizza are Mopar, Dodge, Pennzoil and FireAde.
Sometime today I’ll probably have to walk behind our trailers and see the giant decal of me created from a Mark Rebilas photo to believe this is all real. It’s a long way from when I would max out on my sick days at Redlands High School to go racing. But I did graduate in 2006 and even made it all the way through to get my degree from Cal State San Bernardino.
I’ve raced at Pomona before in Top Fuel with the Dote Racing and a year ago with Bob Vandergriff Racing. We didn’t make it too far into the season before Vandergriff retired from racing and had to park the team.
Ron Thames of FireAde provide the funding to that got me to convince Don Schumacher to start a fourth Top Fuel team for me midway through the season and, remarkably, we were able to qualify for the Countdown to the Championship playoff. What a crazy year, from winning my first and only (so far) NHRA title with Vandergriff at the season’s second race and then my first No. 1 qualifying spot ever for DSR in the Countdown.
And it keeps getting better.
We finished seventh in championship points, created basically a new crew led again by Todd Okuhara and Joe Barlam. So how does our 2017 start for us? Well, we went to Phoenix a week ago and made the quickest-ever run in drag racing history. Our Papa John’s crew prepared our Hemi powered by Pennzoil to a time of 3.654 seconds. Did I say the quickest EVER?
Yeah, it may have only been testing, but we know what this Papa John’s dragster is capable of. We only made one qualifying hit Friday because of rain. That run was, well let’s say, less than spectacular because we didn’t have enough “sauce” so to speak, and shook the tires.
But we’re ready for today and a long day Sunday in eliminations.