NHRA drag racing’s 2nd national event of the season produced an all-female Top Fuel finale….
Rising sensation driver Leah Pritchett raced to her first career Top Fuel victory Sunday at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals while Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car) and Jason Line (Pro Stock) also picked up victories at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park near Phoenix.
Pritchett used a quicker reaction time and a performance of 3.775 seconds at 323.12 mph in her Quaker State dragster to finish in front of Brittany Force’s 3.774 at 321.35 in her Monster Energy dragster. It was the first all-female Top Fuel final since Shirley Muldowney defeated Lucille Lee in 1982 in Columbus, Ohio.
It is only the fourth time two women have decided a pro class victory in the Mello Yello Series. Angelle Sampey and Karen Stoffer have met twice in finals in Pro Stock Motorcycle, most recently at Norwalk last season.
Pritchett outran J.R. Todd, Clay Millican and Antron Brown in the first three rounds before defeating Force in the final. She is the 16th woman to win a Mello Yello Series race and the eighth female to win in the Top Fuel category.
“It is the happiest day of my life, besides getting married of course,” said Pritchett, who posted a runner-up finish in her only other Top Fuel final, last season at Atlanta. “This is what dreams are made of.
“I feel like I just won the Super Bowl, even though it’s only the second race and it’s not the U.S. Nationals, for me it’s an incredible personal and professional victory to be able to compete with the team that I’m with.”
Pritchett moved to fifth in the points standings with the win. Event top qualifier Doug Kalitta, who lost a close race to Force in the semis, is the points leader, eight ahead of Winternationals winner Steve Torrence, who was upset in the opening round.
In Funny Car, Wilkerson earned his 19th career victory and first at Phoenix, taking out longtime rival John Force with a run of 3.937 at 320.43 in his Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang. Force trailed with a 4.016 at 275.34 in his Peak Chevy Camaro.
Wilkerson made it past Robert Hight in semis and also knocked off Chad Head in the opening round and took out series points leader and event top qualifier Ron Capps in the second round.
“I am just happy to be here,” said Wilkerson, who moves to fifth in the points order with the win. “We’re very excited about what happened here today. That’s the best run we had all weekend [in the final].”
Line beat Chris McGaha for the Pro Stock victory with a 6.666 at 205.16 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro, while McGaha’s Camaro posted a 6.671 at 208.75 in the runner-up effort. It was Line’s second consecutive final round appearance of the season and the two-time world champ takes over the series points lead.
Line defeated Matt Hartford and Jeg Coughlin in the first two rounds and then was able to gain back team bragging rights by outrunning teammate Greg Anderson in the semis. Line lost to Anderson in the Pomona final two weeks ago.
“It was a fun day, a great way to start the year,” said Line of his second Phoenix victory in four final round appearances at this event. “We are off to a much better start this year.”
Photos courtesy of Gary Nastase and NHRA
Posted by NHRA Communcations.
The Lucas Oil Lowdown
Competitors in eight classes raced to Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series wins at the 32nd annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals held at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park outside of Phoenix.
Eighteen-year-old Chandler Meziere battled to his first national event Wally trophy by defeating veteran racer Steve Williams in the Super Comp final. The two-time NHRA Jr. Drag Racing Western Conference Finals champion used a nice reaction time to jump out in front of Williams as he clocked in with a 8.956 second, 155.85 mph pass to take the win. Williams opened the season with a big win two weeks ago at the Circle K NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, Calif.
Local racer Clint Fishel came into eliminations as the Super Gas No.1 qualifier and took it all the way into the final against Brad Pierce. Pierce had a slight advantage off the tree and held on for the win with a pass of 10.100 seconds at 121.68 mph. Frank Kohutek picked up his 11th career win as he powered his Chevy Vega to a 10.917 second, 137.93 mph pass by knocking out Joe Greco, the event’s No. 1 qualifier in the Super Street final round.
Gary McGlasson and Bernie Cunningham got off the line with identical reaction times in the Super Stock final, but Cunningham broke out on the other end which handed McGlasson his third national event win of his career. Randi Lyn Shipp picked up her second win at this event, the fourth of her career, as she laid down a 10.349 second, 120.09 mph lap to defeat Jerry Hatch and his 10.717 second, 110.31 mph pass in the Stock Eliminator final.
Chris Newman became a first time national event champion as he raced his Chevy Cobalt to the Winner’s Circle with a pass of 6.878 seconds at 194.94 mph. Jeff Gillette fell behind at the starting line and his 6.986 second, 200.32 mph pass wasn’t enough to take the win light. Bobby Ray McMahan chased down Phil Unruh to take the title in Top Dragster, the third of his career. McMahan pieced together a 6.551 second, 206.95 mph run to defeat Unruh’s 6.362 second, 215.41 mph runner up finish.
It was a battle of Jay Turner Racing two-wheeled machines as Tii Tharpe and Jay Turner squared off in the final of Top Fuel Harley. Tharpe got off the line first and crossed the finish line at 6.496 seconds at 219.83 mph, but it wasn’t enough to overthrow Turner as he flipped on the win light with a 6.295 second, 228.96 mph lap.
Many of these racers will be back next week at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park for the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series regional event March 4-6, 2016.
The following are the final results from the 32nd annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park:
Super Stock — Gary McGlasson, Chevy Camaro, 9.825, 129.53 def. Bernie Cunningham, Pontiac Firebird, 10.867, 120.77.
Stock Eliminator — Randi Lyn Shipp, Pontiac Firebird, 10.349, 120.09 def. Jerry Hatch, Plymouth Duster, 10.717, 110.31.
Super Comp — Chandler Meziere, Dragster, 8.956, 155.85 def. Steve Williams, Dragster, 9.424, 165.15.
Super Gas — Brad Pierce, Chevy Corvette, 10.100, 121.68 def. Clint Fishel, Chevy Beretta, 10.282, 145.00.
Super Street — Frank Kohutek, Chevy Vega, 10.917, 137.93 def. Joe Greco, AMX, 10.929, 146.54.
Top Dragster — Bobby Ray McMahan, Dragster, 6.551, 206.95 def. Phil Unruh, Dragster, 6.362, 215.41.
Top Sportsman — Chris Newman, Chevy Cobalt, 6.878, 194.94 def. Jeff Gillette, Pontiac GTO, 6.986, 200.32.
Top Fuel Harley — Jay Turner, Dixie, 6.295, 228.96 def. Tii Tharpe, Dixie, 6.496, 219.83.
Post by Brett Lyons – Photos by Bob Johnson