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Pritchett Leads Top Fuel Field Into Mile High Eliminations

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, July 23 2017

Leah Pritchett collect her fourth pole position of the season Saturday at Bandimere Speedway near Denver. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA)


Leah Pritchett has been to the top of “The Mountain” and conquered it Saturday, when the Don Schumacher Racing/Mopar Top Fuel dragster driver claimed her fourth pole of the season as time trials concluded for the 38th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals in Morrison, Colo.

Pritchett’s 1,000-foot run of 3.733-seconds at 326.74 mph shattered Bandimere Speedway’s elapsed time record by thirty-four thousandths of a second.

“The wheels were up from the start,” said Pritchett, whose Todd Okuhara-tuned car will go for its fourth Mello Yello Drag Racing Series national event title in 14 events in pursuit of point-leader Steve Torrence on Sunday. “We were definitely swinging for the fence and definitely did not expect a 3.733 but we stayed centered and we were able to get it right. We know what works for this car, and we just need to stay consistent like we were earlier in the season.”

Courtney Force (Funny Car), Drew Skillman (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also emerged as No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the event near Denver.

Pritchett’s record-setting pole added to the hoopla of the Mile-High Nationals where Mopar, which has sponsored the race for 19 straight years, had another reason to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the brand.

“Nothing would be better than to blow out those 80 candles in the winner’s circle (Sunday),” said Pritchett, who set the world E.T. record of 3.658-seconds at this year’s second event at sea level _ not in the challenging thin air of Bandimere.

“Eliminations will be totally different from today; it will be hotter when we start first round,” Pritchett said. “But we know what this race car can do now. Our fab shop back home (near Indianapolis) put a new front half (on our chassis) and this showed what it can do. Todd and (assistant Joe Barlam) thought we could run in the mid to low 3.70s, and we did.”

Pritchett will go for her fourth win of the year and fifth of her career in the first race of NHRA’s annual summertime three-week Western Swing opposite rookie Troy Coughlin Jr.

Doug Kalitta is second on the ladder via a run of 3.767-seconds at 323.97 mph set during his second pass on Friday. Torrence sits third after a 3.775-second run at 323.97 mph in his Capco Contractors dragster, also from his second pass Friday.

Courtney Force set both ends of the track record in Funny Car after a 1,000-foot pass in 3.889-seconds and 328.30 mph in her Chevy Camaro SS during Friday’s first session. She locked down her sixth pole of the season in pursuit of her first win of 2017.

“It feels great being in the No. 1 qualifying spot; it’s pretty impressive what my team can do in these difficult conditions,” Force said. “We’re looking for a long race day to pick up some points and climb up the standings a bit.”

Sixteen-time world champion John Force, Courtney’s father, landed second at 3.899-seconds and 301.87 mp. Teammate Robert Hight, the 2009 world champ, rounded out the top three at 3.905/318.17.

In Pro Stock, Skillman held onto the top spot after covering the quarter-mile in 6.924-seconds at 198.29 mph during his second and final pass of the day. Skillman earned his first pole of the season following his first victory of 2017 in the most recent series event at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill.

“Denver is always very consistent, and our testing proved to be good so we know we have a great race car for Sunday,” Skillman said. “We’re definitely confident after three strong runs; we all feel good and are ready to get going.”

Two-time world champion Erica Enders is second at 6.930-seconds and 198.85 mph in her Elite Motorsports Camaro. Vincent Nobile is in the third spot at 6.939/199.05 in his Camaro.

Krawiec finished atop the Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying order with a quarter-mile run of 7.178-seconds at 187.29 mp aboard his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson V-Rod in his lone pass on Friday. Krawiec notched his 35th career pole and the second of this season.

“We came out strong this morning, and this last session we had better air and a better track but we weren’t able to improve on our time,” said Krawiec, a three-time world champion. “We know where we need to go, and we can definitely turn things around before tomorrow so we make sure to maintain this level of success.”

Hector Arana Jr. qualified second at 7.179-seconds and 186.28 mph aboard his Lucas Oil Buell, while two-time world champ Matt Smith sits third at 7.183/186.20 on his Magnum Victory Gunner.

The FOX network will air three hours of live coverage Sunday starting at 3 p.m. (EDT).


Sunday’s first-round pairings for eliminations at the38th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colo., the 14th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.  Pairings based upon results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings:

Top Fuel _1. Leah Pritchett, 3.733-seconds, 326.24 mph  vs. 16. Troy Coughlin Jr., 5.695, 115.26; 2. Doug Kalitta, 3.767, 324.28  vs. 15. Greg Carrillo, 5.248, 143.00; 3. Steve Torrence, 3.775, 325.30  vs. 14. Rob Passey, 4.950, 158.91; 4. Tony Schumacher, 3.776, 326.63  vs. 13. Steven Chrisman, 4.811, 169.76; 5. Shawn Langdon, 3.781, 322.96  vs. 12. Terry Haddock, 4.224, 275.56; 6. Brittany Force, 3.782, 320.43  vs. 11. Terry McMillen, 4.022, 293.92; 7. Antron Brown, 3.793, 317.79  vs. 10. Scott Palmer, 3.903, 291.63; 8. Clay Millican, 3.795, 316.82  vs. 9. Bob Vandergriff Jr., 3.858, 316.45.

Funny Car _ 1. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.889, 328.30  vs. 16. Jim Campbell, Dodge Charger, 5.316, 133.38; 2. John Force, Camaro, 3.899, 301.87  vs. 15. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.942, 160.10; 3. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.905, 318.17  vs. 14. Todd Simpson, Charger, 4.342, 248.07; 4. Jonnie Lindberg, Toyota Camry, 3.946, 319.98  vs. 13. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 4.252, 301.40; 5. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.965, 313.73  vs. 12. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.058, 304.87; 6. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.978, 319.60  vs. 11. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.010, 322.65; 7. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.981, 301.00  vs. 10. Del Worsham, Camry, 3.997, 312.71; 8. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.986, 319.60  vs. 9. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.989, 319.82.

Pro Stock _ 1. Drew Skillman, Chevy Camaro, 6.924, 198.29  vs. 14. Richie Stevens, Dodge Dart, 7.070, 194.49; 2. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.930, 198.85  vs. 13. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, 7.024, 196.53; 3. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.939, 199.05  vs. 12. Deric Kramer, Dart, 7.013, 196.90; 4. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.945, 197.97  vs. 11. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.988, 198.09; 5. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.951, 198.88  vs. 10. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.977, 198.26; 6. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.959, 198.35  vs. 9. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.975, 197.86; 7. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.968, 196.53  vs. 8. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.972, 197.02.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 7.178, 187.29  vs. 16. David Hope, Buell, 7.372, 180.81; 2. Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 7.179, 186.98  vs. 15. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.362, 180.36; 3. Matt Smith, Victory, 7.183, 186.33  vs. 14. Angie Smith, Buell, 7.303, 183.00; 4. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 7.187, 185.13  vs. 13. Melissa Surber, Buell, 7.285, 183.79; 5. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 7.187, 184.25  vs. 12. Mike Berry, Buell, 7.282, 182.70; 6. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.193, 188.15  vs. 11. Angelle Sampey, Victory, 7.278, 182.16; 7. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 7.206, 183.37  vs. 10. Cory Reed, Victory, 7.275, 181.37; 8. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 7.223, 184.90  vs. 9. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.262, 183.69.

Did Not Qualify _ 17. Lance Bonham, 7.477, 178.87; 18. Andie Rawlings, 8.105, 165.56.


| , RacinToday.com Sunday, July 23 2017
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