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Redlands’ Pritchett makes NHRA history in just her second full-time start | Leah Pritchett

Redlands’ Pritchett makes NHRA history in just her second full-time start

POSTED BY: Leah Pritchett in NEWS

Random thoughts for a Tuesday morning, following a two-week vacation consisting of adventure with grandson Louis Bryan Brewster, wondering whatever happened to Louis Kelly, who scored 1,155 points in one season for Cajon High School in 1996-97.

Well, it didn’t take long for Redlands NHRA Top Fuel dragster driver Leah Pritchett to break through. In just her second race as a full-time competitor on the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series following a three-year period of racing part-time, Pritchett won Sunday’s national event in Chandler, Ariz., by outrunning Brittany Force.

It was Pritchett’s second final in her brief NHRA career in the class. She’s driving for Bob Vandergriff this year after a three-year stint with the Dote family. With her personality, charm and driving ability, she is destined to be a top name for years in a sport that has embraced gender equality for years.

What made it even better for the 28-year-old Cal State San Bernardino graduate was she was able to cheer her husband up a bit. Gary, a crew member for Winternationals Top Fuel winner Steve Torrence, was not on the the grounds but rather in a local hospital recovering after being burned.

“The two Top Fuel Wallys (trophies, of 2016), belong in the Pritchett household,” she said.

Pritchett, who started the sport in Jr. Dragsters, became the 10th different winner in the category. Before taking care of Force, now 0-7 in NHRA finals, she defeated JR Todd, Antron Brown and Clay Millican. It was Brown who beat her in the finals at Atlanta in 2015.

It was just the second all-female Top Fuel finals in NHRA history. The first occurred on June 13, 1982 in Columbus, Ohio, when Shirley Muldowney defeated Lucille Lee

“The monkey is definitely off my back,” the driver of Bob Vandergriff Racing’s Quaker State Dragster said. “It is the happiest day of my life, except for getting married. This is what dreams are made of. It’s also Mike Guger’s first win as a crew chief.

“I’m going to relive this in my mind every single day as long as I can.” …

It was with great sadness to learn of the passing of Max Lofy during my time off. Ed Erjavek put it best in remembering his friend and advocate of his city’s youth: “Max impacted the lives of many Colton young people of all socioeconomic backgrounds by providing them positive recreational outlets. For many years, Lofy was the best-known and most popular person in Colton.”

Totally agree. I was fortunate to work and know the man who, again in Erjavek’s words, “a sports advocate for Colton’s youth for more than 50 years.” Instrumental in the establishment of the Carl Rimbaugh Girls Softball League, Max served as a youth softball and baseball manager, coach for all age groups for 22 years, a certified sports official for 31 years and responsible for numerous coaches, officials and training clinics during that time. Did you know Lofy was an official when Cheryl Miller scored 100 points in a single game for Riverside Poly? Together with Al Jury and the late Dick Smith, Lofy was one of the best officials in the area.

But it was more than athletics for Lofy, although that’s where any of us remember him the most. He was Colton’s Recreation Director for 23 years, instrumental in the establishment of the Hutton and Luque Community Centers, served a term on the Colton City Council and created Student Government Day in the city.

How will Max be remembered? Fondly as we stroll through Max Lofy Park.

Our sincere condolences to his widow, Natalie, and thanks for his service to his city and citizens. …

Couldn’t ask for better timing. At halftime of the CIF-SS Open Division boys basketball final at Honda Center, former Ayala basketball coach Tom Gregory will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. That’s great timing as Ayala will also play later that night for the 2AA championship.

Gregory was always a class act, and the Chino district lost a great mentor to young people when it basically forced him out of the game. He was an instructor at the famed John Wooden camps, and that says quite a bit about Gregory from the man himself.

On a personal note, he donated his time to our Inland Valley High School All-Star basketball games. It wasn’t for his personal satisfaction, but for those he coached, both for and against.

Congratulations for an honor well-deserved. ...

Have to hand it to Bernie Lilavois, who in three years has created quite a furor surrounding the Ontario Fury, the indoor soccer team that has captured the hearts of many in the area. Since the team took residence at Citizens Business Bank Arena three years ago, the average attendance for Major Arena Soccer League games has continued to grow.

The Fury, which ended its season over the weekend with a 12-8 record (half-game behind San Diego for the playoffs), averaged 3,084 in 10 regular season games this season. That’s an increase from last year’s total of 2,503 in 2014-15 and 2.147 (eight games) in the inaugural 2013-14 campaign. That was seventh best in the MASL.

A better number can be traced to viewing parties at the Double tree by Hilton-Claremont. The first one attracted 15 people but 125 attended last week. And if that wasn’t enough, the two Fury jersey auctions raised more than $10,000, including $1,000 for the National Community Core jacket worn by Lilavois. …

Want to make a difference in the East Mojave like 31 volunteers did last weekend? According to outdoor columnist Jim Matthews, they completely restored three guzzlers in the East Mojave, filling them with 300 gallons of water in just 341 hours of work.

The Water for Wildlife crew has three projects scheduled (March 18-20 in the Goff area; April 8-10 in the Clark Mountain; and May 13-15 in the Kingston Mountains). Additional information is available at www.waterforwildlifeemd.com/ or by contacting Cliff McDonald at bigmc@citlink.net. …

It’s time for the auto racing scene in Southern California to officially start.

Perris Auto Speedway will open its 21st season Saturday with the annual Sokola Shootout, which will feature the Amsoil USAC/CRA, PAS Senior and Young Gun Sprint Cars. Gates open at 5 p.m. for the green flag at 7.

On March 20, Auto Club Speedway in Fontana will be the site for the annual Auto Club 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race. Sheila Bightman of Redlands will be a special guest, thanks to student Felicia Na. While at Cooley Ranch Elementary School in Colton, Felicia submitted the winning design for Joey Logano’s helmet and won tickets to the NASCAR race at Phoenix.



Louis Brewster | sbsun.com | February 29, 2016




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