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Pritchett goes wire-to-wire at Indy for first SAM Tech NHRA Factory Stock title

Top Fuel star Leah Pritchett drives to first victory in School of Automotive Machinists and Technology NHRA Factory Stock Showdown; defeats teammate Mark Pawuk in all-Dodge final round.
03 Sep 2018
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor
Leah Pritchett

Already a winner in Nostalgia Funny Car, Pro Mod, and Top Fuel, Leah Pritchett added a new chapter to her diversified resumé when she drove her DSR Dodge Challenger Drag Pak to a win in the School of Automotive Machinists and Technology NHRA Factory Stock Showdown at Indy. Pritchett began the weekend as the low qualifier in the huge 27-car field and finished the job with a win over her teammate, former Pro Stock driver Mark Pawuk, in an all-Dodge final round. Pritchett gave up a slight lead at the start but quickly made up the difference to win with an 8.108, 170.26 to Pawuk’s 8.191, 167.51.

“Are we going to Disneyland yet? I woke up this morning thinking I had two incredibly solid shots of winning the U.S. Nationals, one obviously in Top Fuel and the other in Factory Stock with this Dodge for Don Schumacher Racing,” said Pritchett. “This has been just incredible. Tally it up; we have had low E.T. of every single round. I get to drive this car and work with incredible people. I raced our buddy, [DSR teammate] Mark Pawuk in the final and it doesn’t get any better for DSR. This was the goal when Don [Schumacher] created this team; to develop the fastest factory cars in the world and I think we’re doing a good job of it. This is Detroit at it’s very best.

leah-win.jpg“I’m new to the sportsman side of this but I want to thank everyone at Mopar, Dodge, and DSR who made it possible,” said Pritchett. “We even had guys from our fuel team out here to line me up. This will forever go down as my first U.S. Nationals win.”

Pritchett, who lost in the opening round of Top Fuel, was the top qualifier in Factory Stock with an 8.002, the quickest official pass in the history of the class. The bump spot was a very competitive 8.189 by Carl Tasca, the uncle of current Funny Car racer Bob Tasca III. Upsets took out several of the favorites early in eliminations, but Pritchett was steady with an 8.11 in her round one win against Aaron Stanfield and an 8.077, 170.23 in the quarterfinals to stop Kevin Skinner, who spun the tires in his Cobra Jet Mustang. In both round’s Pritchett’s Challenger, tuned by four-time Stock national champion Kevin Helms, was the quickest car in the field. Pritchett moved into the final round when she powered to another 8.11 run to stop Stephen Bell, who also spun the tires and slowed to an 8.539.

The Factory Stock Showdown was not without its share of controversy. Joe Welch, the winner of the two most recent events in Bristol and Norwalk, was disqualified from the event on Sunday night due to a technical infraction discovered after each of the eight round one winners was sent to the Tech Barn for an extended inspection. As a result, Pawuk was reinstated and went on to reach the final with wins against Leonard Libersher and Charlotte champion Arthur Kohn. Pawuk spun the tires while Libersher fouled. Given another chance, Pawuk made the most of it with an 8.11 to 8.59 victory over Stephen Bell, the Gainesville champion.