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Leah Pritchett continues to hold the hot qualifying hand in Top Fuel field

Leah Pritchett, who qualified No. 1 two weeks ago in Las Vegas but had also qualified No. 2 at three of four events prior to that, is the qualifying leader in Top Fuel after two sessions.
15 Nov 2019
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
Race coverage
Leah Pritchett

Look out, Top Fuel, Leah Pritchett may be a bit of a longshot for the Top Fuel championship, but she’s become the field’s worst nightmare. She’s on pace for her second straight pole position after racing to the Friday lead in Pomona with a 3.694. 

Pritchett, who sits sixth in points, more than 130 markers out of the lead, qualified No. 1 two weeks ago in Las Vegas but had also qualified No. 2 at three of four events prior to that, showing that crew chiefs Todd Okuhara and Phil Shuler have a hot hand.

“The pass felt phenomenal; it was extremely smooth,” said Pritchett, who like many drivers had to abort her first-round pass. “I think after getting past that caution zone at 250 feet it pulled really hard. We had to change a clutch lever after we broke one in Las Vegas [in a losing second-round race] and didn’t get a chance to test, so Q1 was our first hit and it changed the [setup] on the clutch management and that it would stick is something I know is true with this team. It felt awesome; I know it’s been a tricky track.”

Mike Salinas, who led the first session with a 3.6999 and Billy Torrence, who was second at 3.708, both got bumped down one spot by Pritchett and neither had an answer in Q2 as they both lost traction. Auto Club Road to the Future award finalist Jordan Vandergriff impressed with a 3.724 for the No. 4 spot in his first event at his Pomona home track.

Points leader Steve Torrence suffered like a lot of the nitro-fueled cars in both classes, failing to make a full run on either pass. He opened with a 3.985 then smoked the tires in the cooler evening session with 6.873. He its 13th in the field of 19 drivers on hand.

Brittany Force, who is chasing Torrence, picked up two bonus points with a 3.726 in Q1 but smoked the tires in Q2 and finished the day in fifth.

Rookie of the year favorite Austin Prock smoked his way to a pair of mid-six-second passes and sits on the bump spot with a 6.636.