Female drag racing sensation Leah Pritchett earned her 4th career win in Top Fuel during NHRA’s Spring Nationals….

Defending NHRA World Champion Ron Capps won in Funny Car and Chevrolet driver Bo Butner scored a first career win in Pro Stock during the 30th annual event held at Houston’s Royal Purple Raceway.

Leah Pritchett piloted her Papa John’s-sponsored dragster to the Top Fuel victory when she raced a 3.781-second pass at 321.96 mph to defeat Steve Torrence who ran a 3.787 at 322.11 in his Capco Contractors dragster. This is Pritchett’s fourth career victory and third of the season.

Leah Pritchett beat Steve Torrance to the finish line stripe in the TF final – to win for the 4th time in her young career.

“Our goal was to leave as the points leader and that was not easy at all,” said Pritchett, who takes over the points lead with the victory. “Going into the final we said this is our bounce back and we’re going to keep it interesting. Never been in a position to really be counting points and I know it is early in the season, but I’m definitely enjoying that.”

Pritchett out ran Scott Palmer, Doug Kalitta and defending champion Antron Brown en route to the victory. Torrence faced Shawn Reed, Troy Coughlin Jr. and No. 1 qualifier Clay Millican before seeing Pritchett in the final round. With the win – Leah is now the #1 seed in NHRA Mello Yello World Championship points after the 5th of 24 races scheduled.

Clay Millican had one of his best finishes in NHRA Top Fuel – going to the semi final round.

Georgia’s Bob Vandergriff was a surprise entry – making his first TF class appearance in three years.

Defending Funny Car champion, Ron Capps, claimed his first victory of the season when he outran Robert Hight with a 4.004 pass at 284.33 in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T. Hight pushed his AAA Texas Chevy Camaro to a 4.107 at 202.88 in his first runner-up effort this season. It is Capps’ 51st career win and third at Houston.

“These things become so hard to win these days,” Capps said. “But you take things for granted where I felt like we should’ve won at any of those first three races of the season. NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car division has to be the most competitive thing in the world right now; its cut-throat.”

Defending World Champ Ron Capps scored in fuel FC with the DSR/Napa Dodge

Hight experienced engine problems and crossed the center line before the finish line while Capps’ engine violently exploded as he reached the finish.

Capps pushed past Todd Simpson, 16-time world champion John Force and teammate Jack Beckman before facing Hight in the finals. Hight defeated Jim Campbell, J.R. Todd and fellow John Force Racing teammate Courtney Force before falling to Capps.

Courtney Force set low ET of the event while qualifying #1 with a track record 3.851 secs

Butner obtained the first Pro Stock win of his career when he raced his Jim Butner’s Auto Chevy Camaro to a 6.550 pass at 212.26 to defeat No. 1 qualifier Jeg Coughlin Jr. Coughlin Jr. raced his JEGS.com / Elite Performance Chevy Camaro to a 6.562 at 212.03 in his first final round appearance since Seattle in 2015. This was Butner’s seventh final round appearance.

“Any win that you stand on that stage, Super Stock, Super Street or whatever it is (the feeling) never gets old. It’s a great feeling and you can’t explain it unless you experience it,” Butner stated. “To make four consecutive win lights is very tough and a lot harder than I expected.”

Sportsman racing crossover and Chevy pilot Bo Butner won his first career Pro Stock event!

Butner defeated Allen Johnson and Greg Anderson before facing Coughlin Jr. in the finals. Coughlin Jr. lined up against Chris McGaha and Tanner Gray en route to his finals appearance.

Jeg Coughlin Jr had his best finish since crossing back to Chevrolet – he qualified #1 and went to the final round.

Feature Pro wins at Houston also went to Steve Matusek in J&A Services Pro Mod and to Jay Turner in Top Fuel Harley.

Matusek, who is a driver for Danny Rowe’s Aeromotive Fuel Systems 2-car team won a very spirited victory over a tough field of Pro Mod class cars. In the final round he ran a shut off time of 8.985 secs at 124.96 mph to defeat first time NHRA Pro Mod finalist Shane Molinari who’s Pacific Northwest based turbocharged Firebird rolled the beams during the staging process.

Steve Matesuk won over a very spirited Pro Mod class program.

For Matusek (who is from Kansas) the win was the first of his career within the J&A Services-presented Pro Mod class category. After qualifying #5 – he out ran Steven Whitely, Danny Rowe and Mike Castellana during earlier rounds.

The Pro Mod class produced some significant moments at Houston not the least of which was Mike Castellana recording the quickest ET ever in history at a national record setting 5.685 secs while winning his round two. The first round of racing produced a harrowing incident involving Michigan’s Bob Rahaim who crashed hard into the guard wall and did significant damage to his nitrous-injected C7 Corvette. Thankfully Rahaim was not injured. Runner-up Shane Molinari set top speed of the meet overall racing his new machine to a swift 257.24 mph terminal speed.

Shane Molinari (from the Pacific NW) had an outstanding final round placing with his RAD Torque Systems-sponsored Firebird. He also set top speed at 257.24 mph!

For North Carolina’s Jay Turner a Top Fuel Harley win kept him undefeated 3-0 for NHRA season races so far this year. Turner unloaded the quickest time of the event in the final round at a spectacular 6.219 secs at 222.47 mph to beat low qualifier Bob Malloy who ran 6.312 secs at 208.88 mph.

Canadian TFH riders Mike Scott (Calgary) had a semi final finish while Mike Pelrine (Fort Saskatchewan) set top speed of the meet at 227.50 mph.

Jay Turner remained undefeated in NHRA Top Fuel Harley competition with a 3rd straight circuit win.

The 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season will continue (next weekend) at the Eighth annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals April 28-30 at zMax Dragway in North Carolina.

The Lucas Oil Lowdown

Sportsman racing final results from the 30th annual NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway

Joey Severance, Woodburn, Ore., and Doug Gordon, Paso Robles, Calif., led the winner’s circle for the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series with major wins in the Top Alcohol categories.

Doug Weaver raced his Chevy Camaro to the TAFC title.

Fans in attendance were treated to a special champions battle in the Top Alcohol Dragster final round. 2016 Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series World Champions, Joey Severance and Mia Tedesco, Murrysville, Pa., clashed in the final rounds. Tedesco took home the 2016 LODRS Super Gas crown, Severance the Top Alcohol Dragster title. Severance had the better reaction time at .014 and never let up earning the win light at 5.203 seconds, 275.39 mph. Tedesco, tripped the clocks at 5.445 seconds, 264.70 mph.

Joey Severance and Mia Tedesco faced off in the TAD title round with Severance (near lane) prevailing.

California drivers, Doug Gordon and Jay Payne, Claremont, Calif., squared off in the Top Alcohol Funny Car final round. Gordon grabbed the starting line advantage, as Payne had issues from the start. Gordon recorded his career quickest and fastest pass, along with the quickest and fastest pass of the weekend for the win; 5.428 seconds, 272.12 mph. Jay Payne finished at 11.171 seconds, 66.34 mph.

Kevin Helms. Schriver, La., nearly doubled up, winning the Stock Eliminator final round against Austin Ford, Spring, Texas; running 10.096, 121.74. But fell short in Super Stock against Norvell Bowers, Sulphur Springs, Texas. Bowers recorded his winning pass at 10.587, 124.18, Helms came in at 9.383, 130.15.

Kevin Helms’ Dragpak held off the Cobra Jet of Austin Ford in the Stock eliminator final round.

Alan Savage, Mexia, Texas, and Britt Cummings, Hammond, La., collided in the final round of Super Comp. Savage took the better light, taking home the national event Wally trophy, running 8.888, 182.01. Cummings finished at 8.876, 166.23.

The Top Dragster presented by RacingRVs final round featured a battle for Texas bragging rights. J.R. Baxter, Waxahachie, and William Kruse of Alvin, took the starting lines. Kruse went red at the line, getting off too early by just .004 seconds giving the Baxter the win and third in-a-row in Top Dragster at the SpringNationals. Baxter finished at 6.130, 227.31. Keith Raftery, Lake Charles, La., grabbed the lead and the winning pass at 6.479, 195.68, to defeat Vince Hoda, D’Iberville, Miss., 6.851, 198.93; in the Top Sportsman presented by RacingRVs championship round.

The all Texas TD final featured J.R. Baxter and William Kruse

Louisiana’s Keith Raftery won in TS with his nitrous-injected Camaro

Posted with files by NHRA Communications, Eric Lotz and Bruce Biegler

All photos by Randy Anderson

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