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Pritchett Facing Hard Work On, Off The Track

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 22 2016
Leah Pritchett is working the pedals and the phone this weekend at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

Leah Pritchett is working the pedals and the phone this weekend at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CONCORD, N.C. – Leah Pritchett’s enthusiasm provides no indication to the dire situation the Top Fuel competitor faces as she attempts to continue her bid for a NHRA championship.

Initially without a ride for this weekend’s NHRA Four Wide Nationals presented by Lowes Foods at nhra logozMAX Dragway, Pritchett had a deal come together at the 11th hour with the Lagana family. It keeps her title hopes alive, but it affords little comfort when she thinks about the NHRA Spring Nationals next weekend at Houston.

“I’m literally on the phone, working on Houston right now,” says Pritchett, who’s 10th in the NHRA Top Fuel standings but currently isn’t entered in the event. “That would not be with the Lagana family. I’m not really sure who it would be.

“I am probably going to have to skip a lot of races. I personally cannot continue to do one race deals for the next 19 races. My efforts are in finding a partnership and sponsors that can come on board with me and go for the ultimate goal of the championship. ”

Pritchett earned her first-ever Top Fuel victory earlier this year, defeating Brittany Force at Phoenix. All indications were a new rivalry was developing between point leader Force and the 27-year-old Pritchett. Then, on April 11, the parachute was pulled on the Indianapolis resident’s Top Fuel career. That day team owner Bob Vandergriff Jr. said he was closing the operation. Vandergriff’s decision also left Dave Connolly without a ride.

“The team knew when Josh Comstock’s (founder of C&J Energy Services) passing happened just over a month ago that, that would potentially cause issues because there was so much funding … that not only funded Dave’s car, but it had a large, positive impact on my car,” Pritchett said. “However, there were long-term commitments there. We were told we would be fine, especially Dave’s car, until the end of 2017. When that conference call came that Monday morning, I didn’t think it would be to that extent. I know how hard Bob tried to sew up deals to keep things going, but nobody was really fully in the loop.

“The biggest let down is not being able to finish what we had started with our group of people. I felt so awesome with our entire team. I’m not going through this alone. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and God only gives you obstacles in life that He knows you can overcome. That’s kinda of the mentality that I’ve had. It gets to me, but … I have to realize a pity party isn’t going to get me to the next step.”

Now, just as in all forms of racing, Pritchett’s future rests on finding the financing needed to proceed.

“There are opportunities … they just need the funding,” Pritchett said. “I think the biggest misconception is that I have the partners and I could take some funds and insert them somewhere else with another team. Those funds are unavailable to me at this moment. That’s why I’m in the situation that I’m in. I have a lot of people that are helping me.”

Pritchett’s funding this weekend is from FireAde 2000, Boninfante Friction and Aerodine Composites, but everything came together because “we are a small family in drag racing.”

“I’m in a very competitive car that beat me in the first round at Gainesville,” Pritchett noted.

The energetic Pritchett isn’t opposed to racing in another class should a sponsor have that request, but she would like to remain in Top Fuel.

“I would entertain anything, but I’m not blind to the fact that these opportunities out here don’t come cheap,” Pritchett said. “They take money and when I find the right partners and the right companies that want to go race with me, my focus at the current moment is Top Fuel.”

In first-round qualifying Friday afternoon, Pritchett was sixth quickest with an E.T. of 3.880 seconds. Steve Torrence led the qualifying round with an E.T. of 3.736. He also posted the top speed of 326.48 mph.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 22 2016
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