Although it has been more than a year than Don Schumacher Racing driver Leah Pritchett won a race, the end of a rather frustrating summer found this queen of speed back on top at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals in Brainerd. After an almost perfect season in 2017, Pritchett and her Mopar dragster team have had to struggle to keep their heads above water, which has left this once shining star feeling less than confident. That is, until she broke a 26-race winless streak and earned her eighth-career Top Fuel title after taking down Mike Salinas in Sunday’s final round at Brainerd International Raceway.
After starting from the No. 4 spot, Pritchett drove her way back up the proverbial ladder on Sunday after earning victories over Kyle Wurtzel, Billy Torrence – father of Steve Torrence – and red-hot rookie Austin Prock in Sunday’s semi-final round. Despite not running in the 3.6s like Billy Torrence and her final nemesis Mike Salinas earlier in the weekend, her runs in the low 3.7s proved to be enough to prove that she and her Mopar dragster could race their way to the top.
In fact, in Sunday’s final elimination round Pritchett left the starting line slightly ahead of Salinas, and a 3.732-second pass over her competitor’s 4.06-second attempt scored her first Top Fuel win for Schumacher Racing in more than a year.
“It was so great to see the win light, especially for Don Schumacher Racing,” said Pritchett. “There was a recent story in Autoweek about DSR, and how we are not going anywhere, and I think we proved that we still have some mojo that can put us back in championship contention.”
Thanks to this victory, Pritchett has moved into the top 10 in the points battle, and if she continues on this route she’s sure to be in championship contention going into the final half of the 2019 season.
Pritchett wasn’t the only Don Schumacher Racing driver to earn a victory at Brainerd International Raceway. After feeling like he let one slip away two weeks ago when he was on the receiving end of John Force’s landmark 150th victory in Seattle, six-time champion Ron Capps was able to race his way back to the win column after taking down teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. in Sunday’s final elimination round.
Despite not having the fastest Funny Car at Brainerd, the No. 7 qualifier faced one of the toughest opponents imaginable in reigning Funny Car champion J.R. Todd in Sunday’s first round. After a surprising run to take down Todd, Capps raced his way to his first teammate Jack Beckman. In a great 3.918-second run in the quarterfinals, Capps moved on to face Shawn Langdon’s Global Electronic Technology Toyota in Sunday’s semifinals.
After taking down Langdon, Capps would have to prove that facing another teammate in Sunday’s final round wouldn’t stop him from earning his sixth win at Brainerd. Although Johnson, Jr. and Capps lined up head to head at the start, Capps left the line first and never looked back for his sixth win at Brainerd International Raceway and 63rd career win.
“We came in this weekend a little under-gunned because we didn’t qualify as well as we wanted,” said Capps. “I ran a 3.93 in qualifying, which was only good for seventh, which was odd. We didn’t have lane choice a handful of times but both lanes were great. After our team started to improve on Sunday, we finally got to duke it back out with my buddy TJ. I knew that Tommy doesn’t play any games because he lets his car do the talking. He must have gotten distracted, because the light was very unlike Tommy, but I appreciate him doing that at the right time to allow me to win the final.”
Thanks to his latest win, Capps moves into the top-four in the points battle behind teammate Johnson and John Force Racing teammates John Force and Robert Hight going into Lucas Oil Raceway.
Although Don Schumacher Racing was all the rage throughout both the Top Fuel and Funny Car Series, the Pro Stock Series would give a hometown boy a win in front of his family and friends. After kicking off his weekend with four outstanding qualifying runs, Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro driver Jason Line continued his weekend with victories against Wally Stroupe, Alex Laughlin and Deric Kramer before taking on Erica Enders in Sunday’s final round.
As Line lined up against the driver he aimed to beat for what fans call one of the best Pro Stock finals of the year, he and Erica Enders both proved that they had something to prove. After being separated by two-thousandths of a second at the start, Line’s Summit Racing Equipment Camaro nosed ahead at the finish for a close 6.597-second to a 6.604-second victory.
“This win feels so special,” said Line. “I am super-excited, at least as excited as I get anyway. My dad is a big numbers guy, and he likes streaks. He makes a big deal out of the fact that I have won a race every year that I have been in Pro Stock. So, he puts a lot of pressure on me to make sure that I continue to win, so to do it here in front of him in my hometown is very cool.”
Thanks to this win, Line also sits in the top five going into the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.
The stars of the NHRA will compete in the final regular season race of the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season at the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S Nationals August 28-Sept. 2 at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. Stay tuned to RacingJunk.com for all your NHRA coverage!