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Pritchett ready to take final Bristol step

Jeff Birchfield • Jun 16, 2018 at 7:59 PM

BRISTOL — Leah Pritchett was right on the cusp of her first Bristol victory last season.

The driver of the Papa John's Top Fuel dragster beat Clay Millican off the starting line at the 2017 NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals with a .058 reaction time to Millican's .095 start.

However, she barely lost at the finish with her time of 3.881 seconds and 307.09 miles per hour, not quite as quick as the 3.825-second pass at 316.38 mph that Millican posted.

After coming that close the 30-year-old California driver, a five-time national event winner and Papa John's spokesperson, is now ready to get that first Bristol win.

"It's Bristol, baby. I always look forward to running at Thunder Valley," Pritchett said. "We've got some good track history and data there, with a runner-up finish last year. We have a fair amount of momentum happening right now, and even though Bristol presents a unique and difficult atmosphere for tuners."

Her team struggled getting down the track during Friday's qualifying sessions, as did many others. Her second pass down the track at 4.129 seconds and 221.52 mph was the 10th fastest time on Friday. She improved her position by one spot with a Saturday run of 4.001 seconds and 296.31 mph.

She has 14 round wins heading into today's eliminations, and she currently ranks fifth in the Mello Yello point standings. The record includes last weekend in Richmond, where she beat Millican in the first round of eliminations before losing to Doug Kalitta in the quarterfinal round.

In addition, Pritchett raced a Dodge Challenger in the Factory Stock Showdown class. She advanced in Saturday's eliminations, going down the 1,000 feet in 7.045 seconds with a speed of 165.33 mph after her first-round opponent red-lighted.

ALSO LOOKING FOR FIRST WINS

Antron Brown and J.R. Todd are two other drivers looking for their first Bristol wins.

Brown, a three-time Top Fuel champion and teammate of Pritchett, had a 3.832-second pass at 319.67 mph for the third-best qualifying effort. After reaching the semifinals last week in Richmond, Brown will be going for a milestone 50th Top Fuel victory. He will face Richie Crampton in the first round of eliminations.

Todd qualified No. 2 in Funny Car with a lap of 4.072 seconds (313.15 mph) in his Toyota Camry. The fast pass, however, didn't equate to an easy first-round opponent. In fact, he will face Del Worsham, the former driver of his Kalitta Motorsports Funny Car, in Sunday's opening round.

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