Western Swing Kicks Off With Pritchett Win and Capps Runner Up in Denver
There was a tangible feeling of excitement for Leah Pritchett and her crew heading into the Mile High Nationals this weekend. Pritchett’s 11,000 horsepower dragster was freshly wrapped in a new-look livery to coincide with the launch of the all new Challenger R/T Drag Pack 1320, plus Dodge is the title sponsor for the race, which kicks off the grueling annual Western Swing. On Sunday afternoon, the excitement turned to jubilation for the team as Leah capped the afternoon with a win over veteran Doug Kalitta to take home her second Wally of the season.
The weekend had started well for Pritchett as she blasted to the provisional #1 qualifying spot on Friday night with the only sub-3.80 second pass of the event. Her 3.799 at 327 MPH put her a hundredth ahead of reigning series champion Brittany Force, while current points leader Steve Torrence sat third and Speed Society Racing teammate Clay Millican locked down 4th. She took out #16 qualifier Terry Totten in round one with a solid-but-safe 3.85 over Totten’s slowing 4.15. Moving to round 2, the competition stiffened considerably when Scott Palmer laid down a 3.89, but had nothing for LP’s 3.806, the quickest run of eliminations. That moved her to the semifinals, where she would face off with Millican, who currently sits second in points. In what was one of the closest races of the weekend, Pritchett just managed to hold on to her starting line advantage to win over a hard-charging Millican. Their elapsed times were identical at 3.826 seconds, but Leah left first by .04 and kept her nose in front of Millican despite losing a cylinder late in the run.
The finals will go down as one of the tightest final rounds in Top Fuel history and certainly became and instant-classic for the 2018 highlight reel. Kalitta took a .019 starting line advantage to put his Mac Tools digger ahead for the first 300 feet or so. However, Pritchett’s Todd Okuhara/Joe Barlam-tuned hotrod had just enough power to drive around and take the win by a scant .0024 seconds, or approximately 14 inches.
In Funny Car, Ron Capps fought valiantly but came up just short to John Force in a final round featuring the two winningest drivers in class history. After taking out JR Todd in the opening round with a 4.101 to Todd’s solid but just short 4.13 effort, Capps and his NAPA-sponsored Dodge Charger took out DSR teammate Jack Beckman with a 4.08 to Beckman’s slowing 4.52 after Beckman lost a cylinder early in the run. This set up a semifinal dance with Robert Hight, one of three John Force Racing Funny Cars in the semifinals.
Capps earned this round win with his right foot when he strapped a .044 second holeshot on Hight and used a 4.052 to hold of Hight’s quicker 4.035 elapsed time. In the finals, however, the wily veteran Force turned the holeshot tables on Capps and used a .037 reaction time and 4.075 elapsed time to take the win over Capps’ .057 light and quicker 4.067 ET. The final marked the 94th time the two had faced off with Force now holding a 57-38 tally.
The tour rolls on westward to Northern California where the picturesque Sonoma Raceway awaits. Pritchett qualified #1 and reset the track record there last year, so hopefully her momentum will carry on westward and result in another strong showing!
They mastered the mountain at Bandimere Speedway!11 out of 12 qualifying bonus points ✅No.1 qualifiers ✅Event winners ✅Congratulations to Leah Pritchett and the Mopar Dodge 1320 dragster team on their second win of the season!
Posted by Don Schumacher Racing on Sunday, July 22, 2018