This weekend at the NHRA Gatornationals Leah Pritchett will wear many hats, literally.
With two Wally trophies and a charity challenge on the line, the quickest woman in NHRA history will go for a three-in-one at the Gainesville, Fla. event, competing in the Top Fuel category, the Factory Stock Showdown and the Papa John’s Charity Challenge.
“I always dig doing things differently, and to their maximum capabilities,” said Pritchett, a five-time Top Fuel event champion.
At this weekend’s event, Pritchett will fly the colors of Papa John’s Pizza and FireAde on her 11,000-horsepower Top Fuel entry. In the Factory Stock Showdown, she will line up against her competitors in a Hoonigan-designed Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak, and in the Papa John’s Charity Challenge, Pritchett will duke it out with Papa John’s Pizza founder ‘Papa’ John Schnatter in a side-by-side winner takes all race to benefit the Infinite Hero Foundation and Overcome Academy.
“This weekend is more about three cars and three events. It represents three important aspects of my passion for drag racing- Top Fuel competition, grassroots racing, and charity involvement,” said Pritchett.
“The Top Fuel competition is a passion to be the quickest and the fastest at the ultimate level. Factory Stock Showdown has brought me back to my Sportsman roots. The program is ‘heads up’ and delivers the opportunity to make the combination of what is available from the factory faster than anyone else through tuning and ingenuity within set limitations. It’s all about who can make their hot rod faster, which is something everyone can be a part of without having to be at the Top Fuel level. The Charity Challenge, for me, represents growth and integration of a partner who loves this sport and can face off for a great cause while telling an All American story and raising money for returning military heroes and their families.”
Both Top Fuel and Factory Stock Showdown competitions span the entirety of the three-day Gatornationals event.
Saturday will be especially busy for Pritchett when the Papa John’s Charity Challenge enters the mix. In fact, Pritchett is scheduled to make six runs down the historic Gainesville Raceway stretch that day. By the time Top Fuel fields have been set, she’ll have staged a car at least eight times over the course of Friday and Saturday, doubling that of her nitro competitors who will make a maximum of four passes.
“I believe my bandwidth of focus has grown to compartmentalize these opportunities at their maximum without robbing from one another, but I can guarantee you, enjoyment will be at an all-time high.”
“The constant variable is always the mindset of being the baddest and fastest no matter what; whether it’s a car I dedicate my life and all hours to, or one that I haven’t even touched before.
“I’m a proud Gemini, whereby nature, I’m good at doing multiple things to the max, and this weekend, it’s all about the trifecta.”
So for those keeping count, that’s a Papa John’s hat, a Mopar/Dodge hat, and a FireAde hat, all in Pritchett’s signature flat-bill style, of course. If she can add a green Mello Yello hat, a Factory Stock trophy and the bragging rights of Charity Challenge victor to the mix, it’s safe to say the busiest woman at the Gatornationals will leave as the happiest.
2018 Gatornationals Leah Pritchett Event Breakdown:
- NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series (Top Fuel)
2018 marks Pritchett’s second full-time season competing under the Don Schumacher Racing umbrella. Since joining the NHRA powerhouse, Pritchett has earned four wins in six final rounds and has claimed six No. 1 qualifiers. She became the quickest woman in NHRA history when she ran a 3.640-second pass at Brainerd in 2017. She is the fastest female Top Fuel pilot with her 334.15-mph run from the previous event in Phoenix.
Pritchett enters the 2018 Gatornationals looking for her first win of the season, and sixth of her Top Fuel career. During the 2017 event, she qualified in the top half of the field and beat Scott Palmer in the first round of eliminations but fell to Doug Kalitta in the quarterfinals.
- SAM Tech NHRA Factory Stock Showdown
It was announced last month that in addition to her Top Fuel duties, Pritchett would also steer a supercharged Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak in the full slate of the 2018 SAM Tech NHRA Factory Stock Showdown. The Gatornationals marks the first of seven Factory Stock Showdown events.
Pritchett’s 354-cubic-inch HEMI® engine-powered Drag Pak is prepped and maintained by DSR, and led by crew chief Kevin Helms. Helms brings years of experience driving and tuning a Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak, including a 2015 NHRA Stock Eliminator World Championship and 2017 NHRA Stock and Super Stock runner-up finishes.
Pritchett first tasted Factory Stock Showdown competition last year, racing at two events in the popular NHRA Sportsman category. That exposure stoked her competitive fires to embark on a full 2018 schedule.
Ahead of the Gatornationals, Pritchett made several test passes before competing in the NMCA Muscle Car Mayhem event at Bradenton Motorsports Park in Bradenton, Fla.
- Papa John’s Charity Challenge
For the second year in a row, Papa John’s and Leah Pritchett will face off in a series of ‘charity challenge’ races to benefit the Infinite Hero Foundation and Overcome Academy. In 2017, the Charity Challenge Series resulted in a $100,000 donation for the Infinite Hero Foundation. Papa John’s will continue to host this series and looks forward to continuing to support the returning heroes that have served in the armed forces.
Infinite Hero Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that provides resources to help the mental and physical issues that returning military heroes and their families may face. A portion of the funds donated to Infinite Hero Foundation will benefit Overcome Academy, which helps returning heroes identify their passions and turn those passions into careers and business opportunities.