Leah Pritchett NEWS
First Top Fuel pole, semifinals finish at last race followed by visit with Dallas Cowboys further motivates Pritchett, Papa John's team
BROWNSBURG, Ind. - Leah Pritchett never lacks for motivation and this weekend won't be any different for the Don Schumacher Racing Top Fuel driver when she begins racing Friday in the NHRA Fallnationals at the Texas Motorplex near Dallas.
Pritchett and her team led by crew chief Todd Okuhara and assistant Joe Barlam produced her two best elapsed times two weeks at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa., when she earned her first No. 1 qualifying position and advanced to the semifinals to move up to seventh in the Countdown to the Championship playoff with three events remaining.
Adding fuel to her fire came Sunday when she and her Papa John's Pizza dragster were guests of the Dallas Cowboys. She watched the Cowboys' win over the Cincinnati Bengals with John Schnatter, founder and chairman of Papa John's Pizza (NASDAQ: PZZA), and Dallas owner Jerry Jones.
"Being at the game with John and the Jones family set the tone for us this week in Dallas. It meant so much to me, our team, Don Schumacher Racing and the sport of NHRA for the Cowboys to invite us and treat us so well. I never imagined I'd be watching a game with John and Jerry."
As inspiring as it was to be part of "America's Team," she has been even more inspired by her Papa John's Pizza racing team.
"We're going back to Dallas with a lot of momentum after a fantastic weekend at Maple Grove," said Pritchett, who won her first NHRA Top Fuel title in this year's second Mello Yello race of the year.
"Maple Grove laid the groundwork for these last three Countdown races. The conditions at Dallas will be a lot different (hotter) at Dallas and I don't expect any career-best elapsed times but we expect to be able to challenge for another No. 1 position with everything our Papa John's team has learned.
"Our confidence level as a team has never been higher."
At Reading, Pritchett earned the No. 1 seed with a run of 3.705 seconds at 327.35 mph in her only qualifying attempt when the three others were cancelled due to rain. She improved on her career best time Sunday with a 3.701 in the quarterfinals before losing in her third semifinals of the year.
"We're in this Countdown sprint going as hard and fast as we can. We haven't run out of breath yet. The way to sustain our momentum and go even higher is to get a race win and keep moving up in the standings."
LEAH PRITCHETT: Papa John's Pizza
Pts Events Wins Rup Semi Qtr 1st rd Poles DNQ W/L
2016 7th 20 1 0 3 5 11 1 0 14-18
CAREER 67 1 1 6 11 42 1 6 29-60
Best Time, Speed: 3.701 sec. (2016, Reading), 329.75 mph (2016, Indy)
BY THE NUMBERS
Last event: Reading (Sept. 30-Oct. 2): Qualified No. 1, lost in semifinals to Brittany Force
A year ago at Dallas: did not race
Career at Dallas: 2016 will be her first Top Fuel start at Dallas
2016 NHRA Countdown to the Championship Top Fuel Standings
(Official after Reading; 3 of 6 playoff races; wins in parenthesis; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. ANTRON BROWN (6) 2377 -----
2. Doug Kalitta (3) 2300 -77
3. Brittany Force (3) 2259 -118
4. SHAWN LANGDON (3) 2258 -119
5. TONY SCHUMACHER (2) 2236 -141
6. Steve Torrence (2) 2214 -163
7. LEAH PRITCHETT (1) 2188 -189
8. JR Todd (1) 2183 -194
9. Richie Crampton 2159 -218
10. Clay Millican 2136 -241
ABOUT DON SCHUMACHER RACING
Don Schumacher Racing, headquartered near Indianapolis in Brownsburg, Ind., fields eight professional NHRA teams in the Drag Racing Series.
In Top Fuel, Leah Pritchett in the FireAde dragster, the U.S. Army dragster driven by eight-time NHRA world champion Tony Schumacher, the 2012 and 2015 Top Fuel world champion Matco Tools/U.S. Army dragster driven by Antron Brown and the Red Fuel/Sandvik Coromant dragster driven by 2013 world champion Shawn Langdon.
In Funny Car, two-time world champion Matt Hagan in the Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots 2016 Dodge Charger R/T, 2012 NHRA world champion Jack Beckman in the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge, the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge of Ron Capps and the Make-A-Wish Dodge driven by Tommy Johnson Jr.
DSR has won 290 NHRA national event titles and 14 world championships.