SAM TECH FACTORY STOCK SHOWDOWN
From Top Fuel to Factory Stock, Leah Pritchett can do it all
As a rising star in the Top Fuel class, Leah Pritchett is very much the face of NHRA but at her core, she’s a die-hard racer who will, and has, driven just about everything so it’s no surprise that her U.S. Nationals in in the SAM Tech Factory Stock Showdown class already ranks as one of the highlights of her career. Pritchett began the weekend as the low qualifier in the huge 27-car field and finished the job with a win over her teammate, former Pro Stock driver Mark Pawuk, in an all-Dodge final round. Pritchett gave up a slight lead at the start but quickly made up the difference to win with an 8.108, 170.26 to Pawuk’s 8.191, 167.51. It was Pritchett’s 11th national event victory counting three in Pro Mod and seven in Top Fuel.
“Absolutely overwhelmed and impressed,” said Pritchett.” The developmental work by Mopar and Dodge to not only be fast, but to make more power than anybody else, to stick it to the ground and do it time and time again, reliably, is so impressive. For one, I love having fun when I race, and this is the epitome of having fun and racing. Tuning to the track and constantly always working on being faster, and to be low of every single session of the U.S. Nationals, that’s eight rounds. It is a testament to this team – Kevin Helms, Terry Snyder and all of DSR and the people back in Detroit.
“The expectations are high. Don Schumacher wants us to be No. 1 qualifier, low of every round and win the race, and there’s no better time to do that than the U.S. Nationals,” said Pritchett. “We know how to do it now, we’re not going to let that get too far ahead of us. The season is coming to a close, and we are going to make a run at this as hard and as fast as possible just like these Drag Paks do.”
Pritchett, who lost in the opening round of Top Fuel, was the top qualifier in Factory Stock with an 8.002, the quickest official pass in the history of the class. The bump spot was a very competitive 8.189 by Carl Tasca, the uncle of current Funny Car racer Bob Tasca III. Upsets took out several of the favorites early in eliminations, but Pritchett was steady with an 8.11 in her round one win against Aaron Stanfield and an 8.077, 170.23 in the quarterfinals to stop Kevin Skinner, who spun the tires in his Cobra Jet Mustang. In both rounds, Pritchett’s Challenger, which is tuned by four-time Stock national champion Kevin Helms, was the quickest car in the field. Pritchett moved into the final round when she powered to another 8.11 run to stop Gatornationals champion Stephen Bell, who also spun the tires and slowed to an 8.539.
The Factory Stock Showdown at Indy was not without its share of controversy. Joe Welch, the winner of the two most recent events in Bristol and Norwalk, was disqualified from the event on Sunday night due to a technical infraction discovered after each of the eight round one winners was sent to the Tech Barn for an extended inspection. As a result, Pawuk was reinstated and went on to reach the final with wins against Leonard Libersher and Charlotte champion Arthur Kohn. Pawuk spun the tires while Libersher fouled. Given a second chance, Pawuk made the most of it with an 8.11 to 8.59 victory over Stephen Bell, the Gainesville champion.
The next SAM Tech Factory Stock Showdown event will be held in St. Louis, Sept. 21-23. After five of seven events, Kohn leads the standings with Bell, Welch, Pritchett, Stanfield, and Skinner all very much in championship contention.