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Pritchett Snaps Winless Streak with Southern Nationals Triumph

You have to go all the way back to August of 2017 to revisit Team Speed Society Racing’s own Leah Pritchett’s last NHRA top fuel victory, or at least that was the case before this weekend’s NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway. After struggling to find consistency in the young 2018 season, Pritchett’s trio of talented tuners – co-crew chiefs Todd Okuhara and Joe Barlam and car chief Scott Okuhara – finally found the right combination to send her Fireade-sponsored dragster back to the winner’s circle. The win not only ends the drought for Pritchett and her team, but surprisingly was the first win for any of DSR top fuel teams since her last win at Brainerd last season.

Photo credit: Mark Rebilas – Mark J Rebilas Photography

The team kicked off the weekend with a solid run in the first qualifying session to set the pace for a short time. After making great passes in 3 of 4 sessions, Pritchett would roll into raceday from the #4 spot on the ladder, earning her a first round dance with #13 qualifier Pat Dakin, a wily veteran who would have loved to play spoiler in round one. That wasn’t to be, however, as Dakin’s powerplant was down on power from the hit of the throttle while Pritchett laid down a solid 3.90 pass despite hazing the tires on the top end.

There would be no hazing the tires for the Fireade car in round two when Leah faced off with William Litton and laid down a great 3.841 at 322.50 MPH. Litton smoked the tires at the hit, but it likely wouldn’t have mattered as the pair had identical reaction times and Pritchett’s ET matched Steve Torrence’s 3.841 for low ET of the round.

Moving into the semi finals, Pritchett would face off with Mike Salinas, who had to thrash in the pits to make the call and actually suited up at the trailer and towed to staging already strapped in the car. Salinas gave it a solid effort, strapping a sizable holeshot on Leah and actually running quicker through 330 feet before his car drifted out of the groove and began to spin the tires. This opened the door for Leah to storm past and take the win with another solid 3.90 at 312 MPH.

Awaiting Leah in the final round, first time finalist Blake Alexander, who tried to follow Salinas’ lead and jump on the tree as quickly as possible. However, he would prove just a tad too eager, turning on the dreaded red bulb and handing Pritchett the win. Leah made yet another great pass – 3.874 at 322.42 MPH – that would have been tough for Alexander to outrun had he not fouled.

Photo credit: Mark Rebilas – Mark J Rebilas Photography

The win moved Pritchett up to 5th in points, moving her within 13 points of #4 runner and Team Speed Society Racing teammate Clay Millican as the tour heads back out west to Topeka after taking next weekend off. You could feel the confidence building with each passing round as her team gave her a car capable of running one strong pass after another. We saw early last year that this car and team is capable of going on a tear when they hit their stride, so hopefully this will be the beginning of a run of strong showings for Pritchett and Company.