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Tue, 16 Jul 2019, 16:52 PM

Top Fuel's Leah Pritchett has Plenty of Excitement, Motivation
Courtesy of NHRA Communications
Photo copyright 2019 Auto Imagery, Inc.

Heading to Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil


Leah Pritchett celebrates the win last year.
After winning at Bandimere Speedway a year ago at her sponsor's race, Leah Pritchett was already excited to return to Denver to kick off the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series' famed Western Swing at this weekend's the Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil. But after missing a race to open the month, consider that excitement even greater.

After a three-week break, Pritchett will return to her 11,000-horsepower Dodge MOPAR 1320 Angry Bee dragster, intent on keeping her success going on the mountain. Her talented team has been building towards its first win of the year, and there's no denying that Pritchett's excitement level is off the charts heading to one of the biggest races of the year on her personal scale.

"I don't think there is another human that can parallel how I feel about getting back in the car at Denver right now, or getting the team back on the track," Pritchett said. "I'm beyond motivated. It doesn't take missing a race, or Denver being the mother flagship event to get my motor running, but it most definitely has kicked it into overdrive. It will have been 25 days since being behind the wheel of a nitro car, or since my team has been in race pace, but I can promise, everyone is as prepared as ever to defend what I consider a U.S. Nationals-caliber event."

Pritchett (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year's winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 and FOX, including live final eliminations on FOX at 3 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, July 21. It is the 14th of 24 events in the 2019 NHRA season and is the traditional starting point of the challenging and iconic three-race Western Swing, which includes stops in Sonoma and Seattle. Racing at Bandimere Speedway means performing at an elevation of more than 5,800 feet, but Pritchett thrived in those conditions a year ago, beating Doug Kalitta in the final round.

Sensing how special the weekend is, Pritchett, who is currently seventh in points, is motivated for more success. The team, led by crew chief Todd Okuhara, has a winning formula on the mountain, advancing to back-to-back finals at the scenic facility. But Pritchett also feeds off a memorable atmosphere that starts with the Mopar Big Block Party, continues with night qualifying on both Friday and Saturday, and concludes with what she hopes are four great runs on Sunday.

Leah Pritchett
"The energy is off the charts," Pritchett said. "The incredible experience Dodge and MOPAR provide for the fans the entire week is unparalleled and undoubtedly contributes to the upbeat atmosphere. But, the fuel comes from the fans. They are the ones bringing the energy that will ultimately give our team that extra something special."

Pritchett and her team appear back on the right path, advancing to the semifinals in Norwalk after a string of four straight first-round losses. She believes the team is ready to continue that momentum in Denver, even as Pritchett squares off with a loaded Top Fuel class that includes points leader and defending world champ Steve Torrence, who has won seven of the past eight races, Brittany Force, Antron Brown, Terry McMillen, Richie Crampton and Clay Millican.

"It had been a moment since we linked six full clean pulls together back-to-back, which is great not only for the data it provides, but team confidence," said Pritchett, who has seven career wins. "Combine that with isolated momentum on the Denver mountain where we have reached the final round two years in a row, and we are prepared more than ever to connect our strengths and hoist the Wally on the mountain again in the 1320 Angry Bee Top Fueler."

After winning last year in Funny Car, the legendary John Force will try for his 150th career win, facing off with stars like points leader Robert Hight, defending champ J.R. Todd and Matt Hagan.

Anderson picked up his first Pro Stock win in Denver in a decade in 2018, looking for a repeat win while he faces off with points leader Bo Butner, Chris McGaha, Alex Laughlin and Deric Kramer.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hector Arana Jr. aims for a second win in Denver, though it won't be easy squaring off with points leader Andrew Hines, defending world champ Matt Smith and Ryan Oehler.

The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport. Fans will want to be sure to catch the Dodge Pennzoil celebrity race on Friday as well as a No-Prep exhibition on Saturday.

Leah Pritchett
After Nitro qualifying on both Friday and Saturday, fans can watch a pair of spectacular Muy Caliente jet cars. Jet cars are thrust driven propelled by jet engines with exciting pre-run flame shows. Friday and Saturday conclude with a spectacular pyrotechnic display.

Along with the exciting on-track action, the Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil will honor first responders with NHRA's "Salute to First Responders" celebration. Actress and model Carmen Electra, who has graced the side of Jim Campbell's Cattleman's Cut Funny Car this season, will serve as the Grand Marshal for the event on Sunday.

NHRA fans can take part in the Mello Yello Walking Tour to see the cars and teams hard at work in the pits. Fans can also attend Nitro School to learn how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds. Bandimere Speedway will host a Mello Yello autograph session and allow fans to meet their favorite drivers as well as the Cruising with Castello Sealmaster Track Walk hosted by NHRA announcer Joe Castello. Another can't-miss experience is the winner's circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes. NHRA fans are invited to congratulate the winners of the event as they celebrate their Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil victories.

As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they're granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.

Fans also will want to visit NHRA's popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.

The 18th annual Mopar Big Block Party Presented by Pennzoil will return on Thursday, July 18, from 6-10 p.m. in downtown Golden. The event includes an autographing signing with NHRA stars, as well as the chance to check out Dodge//SRT Mopar drag cars and FCA US production vehicles. The free-admission fan event includes live music from the Steve Thomas Band, the chance to grab seat time in Dodge Demon race simulators and Pennzoil virtual simulators, food and drink stations and much more. Fans can also share their Block Party experience on social media by using #MoparBP19 or #MoParty. For more information, visit the blog section at

Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:15 and 7:15 p.m. on Friday, July 19, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, July 20, at 4:15 and 7:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 21.

To purchase general admission or reserved seats, call 800-664-UWIN (8946). Tickets also are available online at To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate.

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