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Pritchett Clinches NHRA Factory Stock Showdown Title

Captures Third Consecutive Win
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

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Leah Pritchett
Leah Pritchett
Leah Pritchett clinched the 2018 NHRA Factory Stock Showdown championship in her Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals near Dallas, racing to her third consecutive win of the season and earning her first championship in her first full year in the class.
 
The NHRA Factory Stock Showdown title is the third for Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) driver Pritchett, who also captured 2000-2001 Jr. Dragster Division 7 championships and the 2010 NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Racing Series Championship in the Nostalgia Funny Car class.
 
Pritchett’s event win at Dallas was the fifth in the seven-event NHRA Factory Stock Showdown season for the Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak, the brand’s modern-day “package” car, and also the fifth in a row for a Mopar Dodge Drag Pak driver. The crown was the second earned in less than a month by a Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak driver, following the championship claimed by Geoff Turk in the National Muscle Car Association (NMCA) Factory Super Cars class on September 23.
 
Pritchett entered competition at the Texas Motorplex facility coming off victories at the NHRA U.S. Nationals in early September and at the NHRA Midwest Nationals two weeks ago, where she became the first NHRA driver in the Factory Stock Showdown class to make a pass in the seven-second range. She qualified No. 10 and posted her quickest pass of the weekend, an 8.079-second elapsed time (ET) at 169.64 mph, to defeat Aaron Stanfield in the opening round of eliminations on Sunday.
 
After advancing past Randy Taylor in the quarterfinals, Pritchett moved on to a dramatic semifinals grouping that also featured co-points leaders Stephen Bell and Arthur Kohn, with Pritchett trailing each by a single point. She squared off against Bell with her season on the line, leaving first with a clutch .038-second reaction time and recording a winning 8.107/169.00 mark. Kohn was up next, needing to win his semifinals match against Kevin Skinner to extend the championship battle to the final round. Skinner took the win, crowning Pritchett as the 2018 NHRA Factory Stock Showdown Champion. She would add the cherry on top by taking out No. 1 qualifier Skinner in the final with an arrow-straight 8.106/169.02 pass down the track to earn her third consecutive win.
 
In Top Fuel, Pritchett overcame a No. 9 qualifying spot outside of the top half of the field to defeat the higher-qualified Kebin Kinsley, posting a 3.831/324.20 run en route to leading from start to finish. In the quarterfinals against Clay Millican, the Mopar Dodge Top Fuel driver matched her opponent’s .072 reaction but dropped a cylinder right at launch, ending any chance at a deep Dallas run. Pritchett is fourth in the Top Fuel standings with her hopes for two titles still alive heading into the all-important final three-race stretch.
 
Tommy Johnson Jr. unleashed a 3.918-second run in the fourth and final qualifying session in his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car to claim the sixteenth No. 1 qualifier spot of his career, his first of 2018 and first at Texas Motorplex. The DSR driver had a big advantage off the starting line in scoring a round one defeat of Terry Haddock, and posted a 3.937 ET -- the quickest pass of the quarterfinals -- to take out Cruz Pedregon.
 
Leah Pritchett collects her hardware
Leah Pritchett collects her hardware
In Johnson’s sixth semifinal appearance of the last seven events he recorded a clean, solid 3.964/321.58 run but was behind from the start against opponent J.R. Todd and was unable to make up any ground, ending his day. Johnson moved up to fourth in the Countdown playoff standings with his Dallas performance.
 
After a stellar final qualifying run late Saturday vaulted Tony Schumacher to the No. 3 spot on the elimination ladder, “The Sarge” laid down a smooth and steady opening-round win over No. 14 qualifier Shawn Reed. The Mopar-powered U.S. Army Top Fuel car crossed the finish line in 3.747-seconds at 325.69-mph to Reed’s 3.900-second pass. That set up a meeting with teammate Antron Brown. Schumacher was solid and steady once again with a run of 3.817-seconds at 323.89-mph while Brown smoked the tires midway down the track.
 
Trailing Steve Torrence by 125 points at the start of the day, Schumacher and the U.S. Army team were hoping to turn his playoff momentum in their favor with the chance to leave Texas Motorplex having significantly downsized that deficit. But it was not meant to be as Schumacher hazed the tires at halftrack and had to settle for a run of 4.917-seconds to Torrence’s 3.779 seconds pass.
 
“Fast” Jack Beckman, a two-time runner-up at Dallas, qualified strong in his Infinite Hero Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car, collecting the No. 5 spot on his final qualifying attempt. A powerhouse matchup against Courtney Force awaited him in the opening round. The elite pair entered the race deadlocked at 10-10 in previous matchups, and were appropriately enough dead even off the starting tree with identical .082 reaction times, but Beckman was able to claim the early lead and hold off Force in a tight drag race with a winning 3.969/317.27 pass.
 
In the quarterfinals, the DSR driver faced J.R. Todd. Beckman trailed off the start but quickly reclaimed the lead before putting out a cylinder and veering toward the centerline, forcing him to back off as Todd went down the strip for the win. Beckman, the 2012 NHRA Funny Car champ, leaves Dallas eighth in the standings.
 
Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car driver Matt Hagan will look to put his weekend at the NHRA FallNationals in the rearview mirror. The two-time Texas Motorplex winner struggled to make a full pass during qualifying, placing Hagan in an uncharacteristic spot -- the 15th position -- heading into eliminations on Sunday. Hagan, owner of three Funny Car wins in 2018, was able to put together a full 4.058-run in round one, but it was not enough to beat Bob Tasca III to the win stripe. Despite the early exit, two-time NHRA Funny Car World Champion Hagan remains seventh in the Countdown rankings.
 
Ron Capps placed his Mopar-powered NAPA Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car in the top half of the field, uncorking a 3.986/317.12 to earn the No. 7 spot in in the final qualifying session. He faced John Force in a marquee first-round matchup and in the 97th meeting of the two winningest Funny Car drivers. Capps was quicker off the start in his Dodge Charger R/T and held the lead up to the 600-foot mark, when Force began to pull away for the round win. Capps is sixth in the Funny Car standings.

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