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Pritchett sets record in cooler temps at Brainerd

by Bill Cawthon on

Leah Pritchett has been rocking at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals in Brainerd, Minnesota.

In her second qualifying run on Friday night, Pritchett drove the Papa John’s/Mopar Top Fuel dragster on the quickest pass in NHRA history, going from zero to 330.63 miles per hour in just 3.640 seconds. Pritchett shattered the new track ET record set by Brittany Force in the run just prior to hers. Force was faster, hitting 333.16 mph, but was 0.045 seconds slower.

Leah Pritchett set a new national-elapsed time record of 3.640 seconds at 330.63 mph at the 36th annual NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.

Pritchett’s record stood through Saturday’s two rounds of qualifying, securing the top spot in the qualifying order going into today’s elimination rounds and cutting into Steve Torrence’s margin for second place in the standings. Antron Brown, Pritchett’s Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) teammate, currently holds the top spot in the points race.

Tony Schumacher, driver of the Mopar-powered U.S. Army dragster, qualified fourth. Schumacher, the third DSR driver in Top Fuel, remains fourth in the standings.

Cooler temperatures helped Robert Hight set a new ET record in his Auto Club Camaro, posting the first sub-3.8-second pass in Funny Car history. Hight’s second-round pass of 3.793 seconds at 338.00 mph came in his matchup with Matt Hagan’s Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T. Hagan was just 0.014 seconds, slower at 3.807 seconds, the fourth-quickest pass in Funny Car competition, and qualified in the No. 2 spot.

Matt Hagan made one of the quickest passes in NHRA Funny Car history as he qualified second at the Lucas Oil Nationals.

All of Hagan’s DSR teammates made the cut, as did two other Dodge drivers.

Tommy Johnson Jr. qualified in the No. 5 position, one ahead of Jack Beckman. Ron Capps, who still leads in the points race, qualified in the No. 8 spot. Jim Campbell, who drives the Jim Dunne Racing/7-11/Oberto’s Charger, finished 14th in the order, followed by Dale Creasy’s Tek Pak/Beaver Shredding 2014 Dodge Avenger.

A seventh Dodge, the Arbee Plastic Bags 2014 Charger driven by Bob Bode Jr., didn’t make the cut.

Allen Johnson’s Marathon Oil Dodge Dart has had some of its best runs of the 2017 Mello Yello season in Brainerd. His second-round pass Friday night put him in the No. 3 spot in the Pro Stock order and was good enough to keep him there. If AJ can parlay that performance into some round wins today, he could clinch his own spot in the Countdown to the Championship series. Alan Prusiensky, who qualified in the No. 12 spot, needs some major good fortune to make the Countdown.

After today’s eliminations, there is only one event left in the regular season, the U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, Indiana, which kicks off on August 30 and runs through the Labor Day weekend.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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