Leah Pritchett is leading a star-studded group of Dodge//SRT Mopar drivers into one of the marquee events of the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing season, this weekend’s 50th annual NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville (Florida) Raceway. Pritchett pulled double duty, chasing both her first Top Fuel Gatornationals triumph as well as making her first start as reigning SAM Tech NHRA Factory Stock Showdown (FSS) world champion.
Pritchett raced her 354-cubic-inch Hemi-powered Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak to last year’s overall FSS championship with three consecutive season-ending wins to put an exclamation point on her campaign. The turning point in her title run came during the prestigious U.S. Nationals in Indy where she defeated her Don Schumacher Motorsports (DSM) teammate Mark Pawuk in the final. It was all win lights from there in the class for the Redlands, California, driver.
She defends her title driving a Drag Pak carrying unique Mopar and Dodge//SRT “Angry Bee”-themed livery, designed by motorsports lifestyle brand Hoonigan and chosen by a fan vote on the brand’s website. Pritchett carries a 12-round winning streak into action against an extremely deep field that will not only include Pawuk in a Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak, but also 2012 NHRA Pro Stock world champion and two-time Gatornationals champion Allen Johnson campaigning in a Drag Pak with additional vehicle preparation and support provided by DSM and Dodge//SRT Mopar engineers.
The goal is for Pritchett to make the maximum passes in Gainesville, not only in her Drag Pak with specially-designed Hoonigan livery, but also in her Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) Mopar Dodge Top Fuel dragster. She reached her 14th career final in the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Motorsports Pass near Phoenix on February 24 and currently ranks third in the Top Fuel championship standings. Pritchett would like to add a Gatornationals Wally to her trophy case and join Shirley Muldowney and Brittany Force as female Top Fuel winners in Gainesville.
“Competing at the Gatornationals alone is always prestigious, no less gunning for two Wallys at the 50th anniversary,” said Pritchett. “I remember attending the 50th anniversary of the Pomona Finals and Winternationals as a fan, and to now be a strong contender at the Gators in its golden hour is something that excites my soul. We have a great race car and team that I know is excited about putting on an incredible show for a sell-out crowd, as well as bringing home two truly golden wins to DSR. History will be made there, and we intend on giving it everything we’ve got to be the fastest part of it.”
Back-to-Back Theme for Beckman, Hagan in NHRA Funny Car
Winning NHRA Funny Car event titles is extremely difficult and the ratio for winning consecutive events is tough to match, but for Mopar-powered Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat DSR drivers Jack Beckman and Matt Hagan, the odds are in their favor.
Beckman raced his DSR Dodge Funny Car to his first Gatornationals triumph over Hagan last March. Hagan, driver of the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, is coming off the first-ever victory for the Hellcat body at the NHRA Arizona Nationals and is chasing his first Gatornationals victory.
Ron Capps, pilot of the DSR NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, will pursue a fourth Gatornationals win. Tommy Johnson Jr. will join his DSR teammates, as well as 1998 Gatornationals winner Cruz Pedregon and Jim Campbell, as six Mopar-powered Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Cars battle for spots in the eliminations field on Sunday.
Prudhomme, Lewis and Schumacher Honored
Lynn Prudhomme were honored the 2019 Pat Garlits Memorial Award Presented by Mopar during the 28th Annual banquet and induction ceremony for the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame. Lynn, wife of drag racing superstar Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, has been at the forefront of efforts to help racing families in need. She was one of the driving forces behind the formation of DRAW (Drag Racing Association of Women), an organization that has supported families of drag racers who have been injured in racing accidents, helping to defray some expenses, since 1985.
The award is named for longtime Dodge and Mopar driver Don Garlits’ late wife, Pat. Garlits is a four-time Gatornationals winner and one of the sport’s most iconic personalities. The Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing and International Drag Racing Hall of Fame is located in Ocala.
Don Schumacher Racing’s Senior Vice President, Mike Lewis, will be part of the 2019 class inducted to the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame during the Thursday night ceremony. Lewis’ honor comes just two days after team owner Don Schumacher’s induction into the prestigious Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in Daytona Beach, Florida.