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Pritchett’s Fastest-Ever Pass Highlights NHRA Test

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 4 2018

Leah Pritchett recorded the fastest 1,000-foot pass ever during testing in Arizona.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Top Fuel driver Leah Pritchett unofficially posted the fastest speed in NHRA history Saturday during Day 4 of Nitro Spring Training at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Ariz.

Pritchett powered her Mopar Dodge dragster down the 1,000-foot distance in 3.664-seconds at 334.73 mph. Because the lap was completed during testing, it was not officially recognized by the sanctioning body. But the team fielded by Don Schumacher Racing welcomed the extra boost of confidence heading into the start of the 24-race Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

Pritchett, in fact, will return as defending event champion at the season-opening 58th annual NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif., Feb. 8-11.

“It’s incredibly huge,” said Pritchett, who closed-out her first full year at DSR with a career-best four wins and a top-five point finish in 2017. “I had a smile from ear-to-ear. At 250-feet into the run it had a nice little chatter to it. That’s the first real indication that it’s going to be on a full-pull from the tune-up standpoint.

“We struggled a little bit when we first came out of the box. It took us three days to be able to formulate a new tune-up for the additional amount of power this Mopar Dodge team was able to find in the offseason. On our fourth day of testing, we were able to lay it down, and man we needed that. What was crazy about that run was how smooth it was. That run right there was what we needed as a team to go into Pomona hot.”

While improving elapsed time (E.T.) is the team’s goal, assistant crew chief Joe Barlam shared Pritchett’s confidence-boosting sentiment.

“It’s always good to run fastest,” said Barlam, who assisted crew chief Todd Okuhara in tuning Pritchett to the second-quickest E.T. (3.640-seconds) in NHRA history in 2017. “Of course it’s just testing, but it’s good to go into Pomona knowing we’re able to run those numbers. Hopefully, it’ll go faster yet.”

Pritchett’s 332.75-mph pass from the 2017 event at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Ill., near St. Louis, remains her career-best lap and rounds-out “NHRA’s Top-10 Fastest Top Fuel Speeds” list.

The national tour will return to the facility near Phoenix for the 34th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals Feb. 23 -25, the second event on the schedule. 

Reigning world champion Brittany Force of John Force Racing ran the second-quickest pass of the day at 3.692-seconds and 327.43 mph in her Monster Energy dragster. Mike Salinas rounded-out the top three with a pass of 3.733 at 325.53.

Two-time world champion Matt Hagan led the Funny Car class with a 1,000-foot pass of 3.843-seconds at 332.84 mph in his Mopar Express Dodge Charger R/T fielded by DSR. Two-time/reigning Funny Car world champion Robert Hight ran 3.880-seconds at 332.02 mph in his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS fielded by arch-rival JFR.

In Pro Stock, two-time world champion Erica Enders covered the quarter-mile in 6.572-seconds at 208.97 mph in her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. Four-time world champ Greg Anderson, who finished seven points behind Ken Black Racing teammate/reigning champ Bo Butner in 2017, cranked out a pass of 6.595-seconds at 209.20 mph in his Summit Racing Camaro.

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John Force Racing heads into the 2018 season with a crew chief lineup consisting of familiar faces but significant changes in the Top Fuel and Funny Car ranks.

Brittany Force’s world championship Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster once again will be tuned by Brian Husen, with Ronnie Thompson as assistant crew chief. Veteran tuner Alan Johnson returns as Top Fuel consultant on a team that reached six final rounds, scored four event wins and set the national speed record (333.67 mph) in 2017.

Robert Hight’s 2017 Funny Car world championship tuning tandem of Jimmy Prock and Chris Cunningham will continue to oversee the Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS. The pair won four races and reached seven final rounds in addition to setting both the speed (339.87 mph) and elapsed time (3.793-seconds) national records.

Additionally, Brian Corradi has joined Dan Hood as co-crew chief of Courtney Force’s Advance Auto Parts Camaro SS Funny Car for the 2018 season. Corradi has been a part of three NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel world championships but was eager to get back to his Funny Car roots and rejoin former teammate Hood.

“This move was a great opportunity for me and the timing just worked out,” Corradi said. “Danny and I have a long history both on the track and with our families. I’m excited to get back to Funny Car. This Advance Auto Parts team was very successful last year and I think we can be even better this season.” Courtney Force finished third in the final 2017 standings, 45 points behind runnerup and 2016 world champion Ron Capps of Don Schumacher Racing.

Meanwhile, team-owner John Force’s PEAK Antifreeze & Coolant Camaro SS Funny Car will be managed by co-crew chiefs Jon Schaffer and Jason McCulloch.

“We have a lot of talent top to bottom with our crew chiefs,” said Force, a 16-time world champion. “With that talent, hard work and a little luck we were able to come away from the 2017 season with the Top Fuel and Funny Car championships.

“We’re welcoming Brian Corradi to the team and back into the Funny Car world with Danny Hood. Now we’re all going to work together, just like we always have, to put all four of these hot rods in as many winner’s circles as possible. I’m excited to see where we stand. All these guys have been working hard all offseason and now it’s time to go racing.” 

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NHRA’s revised 2018 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule with starting times for FOX and FOX Sports 1 and 2’s television broadcasts. (All times ET and subject to change):

Feb. 11 _ Lucas Oil Winternationals, Pomona, Calif. (5 p.m. live on FS1)

Feb. 25 _ NHRA Arizona Nationals, Chandler, Ariz. (6:30 p.m., FS1)

March 18 _Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, Gainesville, Fla. (7 p.m., FS1)

April 8 _ DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals, Las Vegas (6 p.m., FS1)

April 22 _ NHRA SpringNationals, Baytown, Texas (2 p.m., Live on FS1)

April 29 _NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, Concord, N.C. (6 p.m., FS1)

May 6 _NHRA Southern Nationals, Commerce, Ga. (6 p.m., FS1)

May 20 _Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals, Topeka, Kan. (2 p.m., Live on FS1)

June 3 _Route 66 NHRA Nationals, Joliet, Ill. (5:30 p.m., FS1)

June 8 _ NHRA Virginia Nationals, Richmond, Va., (television TBD)

June 17 _NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, Bristol, Tenn. (7:30 p.m., FS1)

June 24 _Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, Norwalk, Ohio (6:30 p.m., FS1)

July 8 _NHRA New England Nationals, Epping, N.H. (1 p.m., Live on FS1)

July 22 _Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, Morrison, Colo. (3 p.m., Live on FOX)

July 29 _Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals, Sonoma, Calif. (4 p.m. Live on FOX)

Aug. 5 _NHRA Northwest Nationals, Kent, Wash. (4 p.m., Live on FOX)

Aug. 19 _Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, Brainerd, Minn. (2 p.m., Live on FS1)

Sept. 3 _Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, Clermont, Ind. (11 a.m. Live on FS1)

Sept. 3 _ Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, Clermont, Ind. (1 p.m., Live on FOX)

NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship

Sept. 16 _ Dodge NHRA Nationals, Reading, Pa. (7:30 p.m., FS1)

Sept. 23 _AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, Madison, Ill. (8:30 p.m., FS1)

Oct. 7 _AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals, Ennis, Texas (12 p.m., Live on FS2)

Oct. 14 _NHRA Carolina Nationals, Concord, N.C. (2 p.m., Live on FS1)

Oct. 28_ NHRA Toyota Nationals, Las Vegas (7:30 p.m., Live on FS1)

Nov. 11 _Auto Club NHRA Nationals, Pomona, Calif. (4 p.m., Live on FS1) of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force. 

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 4 2018
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