By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher
Leah Pritchett has a Wally in her hands once again. She had to wait thirteen months since her last win.
She defeated Mike Salinas to win the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals on Sunday afternoon at Brainerd International Raceway in Brainerd, Minnesota. The Avon, Indiana native went 3.732 at 321.04 mph to receive the win.
The San Jose, California native went 4.066 at 235.72 mph in the losing effort.
“This feels really good,” Pritchett said. “I was great to see the win light, especially for Don Schumacher Racing. There was a recent story in Autoweek about DSR, and how we’re not going anywhere, and I think we made a statement about that this weekend. Look at our scorecard. We made four incredible runs today and my crew chiefs worked hard to do that. With the Countdown coming up, this is all coming into play at right time.
“I guess you could look at us and not think we’d be [in the championship battle], but look at the Western Swing. We lost close races and we talked a lot about gaining momentum and team morale. If you start to put the pieces of the puzzle together, we could see the potential we have even if not everyone else could.”
Before this win, her last win was at the Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colorado on July 22nd, 2018. She also won the NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Georgia in May 2018.
Prior to this final round race, she had a 2-1 advantage against Salinas in prior events. However, this was the first-time that they faced off in the final round.
Salinas has fallen to 2-2 in final rounds this season with this final round loss. He won at Las Vegas and Bristol, while also losing in the final round to Steve Torrence near Chicago.
This was the fourth-time in Top Fuel that the No. 3 and No. 4 qualifiers faced off against each other in the final round. The No. 4 qualifier, which Pritchett was, has won two of the last three meetings.
Pritchett had the starting line advantage. She was able to hold onto the lead throughout the rest of the race.
Salinas had problems, as he hazed the tires early. He then shut it down after seeing Pritchett with the lead.
This is her eighth Top Fuel win in her career. In addition, this is her second win at Brainerd.
“It feels so good to finally get that win, not only for myself and my team, but for Don Schumacher and Dodge,” Pritchett said. “Proud to be the one to put on that final round Top Fuel win light. This is the perfect time to be able to gain momentum heading into the playoffs. We made four incredible runs (today) and that’s something that (co-crew chiefs) Todd Okuhara and Neal Strausbaugh have worked hard to do consistently, and now it’s coming into play at a perfect time. Putting all of the pieces of the puzzle together, we could see, internally, that we were moving in the right direction, but now everyone could finally see it this weekend. We’re happy we can bring the Wally home for Dodge and Mopar, and are looking forward to more this year.”