Leah Pritchett NEWS
TOP FUEL RACER LEAH PRITCHETT GREW UP WATCHING HER HEROES, NOW SERVES AS ROLE MODEL TO YOUNG GIRLS WHO WANT TO RACE
Pritchett Brings Gumout “Lady in Red” Dragster to Charlotte Seeking Top Fuel Win
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Sept. 17, 2015) – As a youngster, Leah Pritchett was sitting in the grandstands, watching drag racing’s biggest stars competing at over 300 miles per hour.
The Redlands, Calif., native would then run to the pit area and witness the magic of the pit crews tearing down the nitro-burning engines and preparing for the next round. Pritchett dreamed of racing in Junior Dragsters and making it to the ultimate, the Top Fuel dragsters.
“Even though I was a young girl, I wanted to be a race car driver and the fact that I was a female didn’t matter,” said Pritchett, who’ll drive the Gumout Top Fuel dragster for Dote Racing this weekend at zMAX Dragway in the NHRA Carolina Nationals drag races. “I wanted a chance and I believed I could do it.”
Leah began her racing career at age eight and progressed through the Junior ranks before competing in Heritage Funny Cars and Pro Mods. She remained optimistic that a pro racing career was in her future.
Now, at 27, Pritchett serves as a role model to many of the young girls who watch her in the pit area and on the race track in hopes of following her footsteps in the drag racing elite.
“I can remember watching the Snake (Don Prudhomme), Shirley Muldowney, John Force, Tony Schumacher and Larry Dixon and wishing I could drive a nitro car someday,” said Leah, in her third season in the Top Fuel ranks. “Now, I talk to young fans, boys and girls, about reaching their dreams if that means driving a race car. I was right where they are now. I tell them to not give up on their dreams. I wanted to do this (pro racing) since I was 12.”
Pritchett enjoys signing autographs for the young fans as well as talking with them about their future.
“When I was 12, I decided I wanted to become a racing driver and my parents helped me in Junior Dragsters,” explains Pritchett. “I also went to college and got my degree too (communications graduate at Cal State University). That was extremely important and I tell the youngsters that as well. Drag racing is a tough sport and not everyone can make it as a pro. You need something to fall back on for your future.”
The future for Pritchett is the zMAX Dragway this weekend in her quest for her first Top Fuel national event win. She has won at Charlotte twice before, in the ProMods in 2011 and 2012.
“The Charlotte track is a very special place for me,” said Leah. “I won my first pro ‘Wally’ (NHRA trophy) there in 2011 in the ProMod division and then came back and won again in 2012. It would be the perfect place for me to win my first Top Fuel ‘Wally’ too.”
Pritchett has been close to victory lane in Top Fuel including a runner-up earlier this year at the Southern Nationals in the Gumout dragster for Dote Racing. In addition, Leah has qualified third, fourth and fifth in 2015.
“Our Dote team has really improved throughout the season and I feel good about our chances at Charlotte,” Pritchett said. “At Indy (U.S. Nationals two weeks ago), we ran a 3.81 in the first race of the day and Morgan Lucas ran low elapsed time of the entire day at 3.78 and we lost by a small margin. Of course, Morgan went on to win the U.S. Nationals. Tough luck for us in that matchup in the first round at Indy. But I’m confident for this weekend.”
Pritchett’s Gumout dragster has been a fan favorite this year with two unique paint schemes including the “Solid Gold” machine at Bristol (voted Best Appearing Car) and red chrome “Lady in Red” paint debuted at Indy.
“It’s fun to watch the fans’ reaction to the different paint for our Gumout car,” said Leah. “It is something different for NHRA fans to watch for and comment on at the races. It’s funny to get their opinions. And most have been very favorable.”
Pritchett has been busy between the U.S. Nationals and the Carolina Nationals when she took a ride with the U.S. Air Force THUNDERBIRDS in an F-16 fighter jet last Friday in Kentucky.
“It was an incredible experience,” said Pritchett after her F-16 ride. “We were doing different maneuvers including arlon rolls and flying upside down. They got some launch video footage as we fly straight up pulling 4.5 G forces. Most notably, we were able to make multiple 6-7 G force pulls and two pulls at over 9 G forces. We were in flight for just over an hour, and I can proudly say that I did not get sick or pass out at any time.There are different G loads than in the Top Fuel dragster. But it was awesome.”
Top Fuel qualifying for the NHRA Carolina Nationals begins Friday at 4 p.m. EDT with a second session at 6 p.m. Saturday’s qualifications are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. EDT with final eliminations set forSunday at noon EDT.