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Pritchett runs NHRA’s first 7-second pass; takes charge with second-straight Factory Stock title

Top Fuel star Leah Pritchett drives Don Schumacher Racing Dodge to a second-straight win in the SAM Tech NHRA Factory Stock Showdown at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals
23 Sep 2018
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor
News
LEAH

After winning the last two races in the School of Automotive Machinists and Technology NHRA Factory Stock Showdown, Leah Pritchett is now in a prime position to be crowned the series champ in the special event, which features factory-built races cars from Dodge, Ford, and Chevrolet. After driving to a semifinal finish in her Papa John’s Pizza Top fuel dragster, Pritchett quickly buckled into the seat of her Kevin Helms-tuned Drag Pak Challenger to take on fellow championship contender Stephen Bell in the final round. Pritchett turned on the win light with an 8.00, 172.36 after Bell’s COPO Camaro stalled on the starting line.

“This El Bandido kicked it off in awesome fashion,” said Pritchett. “We ran that first seven and then backed it up in the first round. We had low [elapsed time] of every single run. So far, this has been incredible. [The NHRA Technical Dept.] added 25-pounds to us and that showed that we have a lot of Mopar power. We have one race left in the season and I think I’m going into it in second place. I don’t’ think I’d rather be in any other position or be racing with any other group of guys than these people.”

Pritchett opened qualifying with an impressive 7.93-second blast, the first official seven-second elapsed time, a run that was quickly bettered by her teammate, Mark Pawuk with a 7.92. Earlier this season, fellow Mopar racer Geoff Turk ran in the sevens at an NMCA event in Bradenton, Fla., but there handn't been an official seven second run until Pritchett ran during Saturday's qualifying rounds. Pritchett maintained a steady pace during eliminations. The prime conditions that allowed three Factory Stock drivers to make enough horsepower run in the sevens also made it difficult to some drivers negotiate the Gateway Motorsports Park track surface. Tire spin decided several rounds, but Pritchett was solid throughout the event. The former NHRA Heritage Series champion opened eliminations with an impressive 7.94 against former Pro Stock driver Allen Johnson, who was one of the racers who spun the tires on the starting line. On Sunday, Pritchett rolled past Pete Gasko Jr. and Charlotte winner Arthur Kohn with runs of 8.031 and 8.011.

Bell, who won the season-opener in Gainesville, was also rock-solid with his COPO Camaro, which is powered by engines built by Greg Stanfield, the St. Louis Super Stock winner. Bell qualified in the fifth spot with an 8.03, drove to race-day wins against Doug Hamp, Indy runner-up Mark Pawuk, and his own teammate, Aaron Stanfield in the semifinals. Bell’s 8.02 to 8.04 win over Pawuk’s Dodge was one of the best side-by-side races of the weekend in the Factory Stock class.

With one event remaining in Dallas, the battle for the Factory Stock championship is intense with Bell and Arthur Kohn tied for first place at 328-points while Pritchett is third just one point back. The points system counts a racer’s best six of seven finishes towards the season title.