VIDEO FEATURE - LEAH'S OTHER CAR
At select events, Top Fuel frontrunner Leah Pritchett has a diversion from her Papa John's Pizza sponsored dragster. She also races the Factory Stock Showdown behind the wheel of a Dodge Challenger Drag Pak.
"I think I'm starting to get a feel for this car," Pritchett said. "It certainly isn't as fast as a Top Fuel dragster, but it's a very different car to drive. It does big wheelstands, and with a small (nine-inch wide) tire, you have to be very careful in the way you drive it.
"I have a very limited number of passes with this car. We’ve been all over the place trying to find our baseline. And even going into the U.S. Nationals, we had new a new motor, we got new shocks, so we’re still testing so to speak."
Pritchett was seventh quickest with an 8.304 elapsed time at 162.82 miles per hour.
"The biggest challenge about driving this car is trying not to fall in love with it," Pritchett said. "I’m in love with the class; I’m in love with this car, I’m in love with it. I haven’t even been able to compete in it yet."
Pritchett has learned how to compartmentalize the difference between 1,000 and 10,000 horsepower drag race vehicles.
"Things are slowed down for me I would say compared to a Top Fuel Dragster, so I feel like I’m able to process exactly what’s happening from how the launch is at," Pritchett explained. "Being able to feel in a car that I’ve really never been able, never really drove and give data back to my guys at Mopar, and for it to be spot on, and then I get to learn more about what I felt it’s super cool. It’s awesome."
Getting to race in the Lucas Oil Racing Series has enabled Pritchett to experience a part of the sport she missed as an up and coming driver.
"I went from Jr. Dragster to Nostalgia Eliminator 1, which is a 7.60 index," Pritchett said. "So I had trans-brake. And then we went 7.0 Pro racing, swapping out Funny Car bodies on that."
And, no disrespect to her fueler, this Challenger is a special kind of car.
"This thing is a race car," Pritchett said. "It’s a cool feeling. You can’t even really put them in the same universe from Top Fuel to what we’re doing over here. But the coolness factor and the drivability factor. I mean, it’s still competition, and it’s still hitting a light, and it’s still banging gears, and it’s still tuning it when you get back. That’s what drag racing is."