By Lee Elder
COMMERCE, Ga. (May 6, 2018) – Leah Pritchett won her first Top Fuel victory of the season when she beat Blake Alexander in the final round of the NHRA Southern Nationals powered by Mello Yello at Atlanta Dragway.
Courtney Force won in Funny Car, Vincent Nobile was the Pro Stock winner and Eddie Krawiec won in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Pritchett’s victory was also the first of the season in Top Fuel for Don Schumacher Racing. It was her sixth career Top Fuel victory.
“This year is about strategy,” Pritchett said over the public-address system. “We got it together, that’s all that counts.”
Pritchett was the only DSR driver to advance out of the first round in Top Fuel. It was a topsy-turvy opening round that saw DSR stars Tony Schumacher and Antron Brown get beat. Clay Millican, the top qualifier, won in the first round and then was eliminated in the second round.
Pritchett’s final round numbers were 3.874 seconds and 322.42 mph. Her reaction time was outstanding, .075 of a second. Blake Alexander, Pritchett’s opponent in the final, fouled out with red light at the starting line.
Force’s victory was her tenth Funny Car victory. She beat Matt Hagan in the final round. Force, who was the top qualifier, was timed at 4.046 seconds and 313.73 mph in the final. She beat Hagan despite Hagan’s quicker reaction time. Force won with a 4.046-second, 313.73 mph pass. Hagan’s time was 4.148 seconds.
“It feels good,” Force said. “I love putting this yellow hat on for the weekend.”
She completed the weekend with the Funny Car lead in the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship standings.
“It was a tricky race track,” she admitted. “In the first round we had lane choice, not in the second or third. I made it through the ski jump. We call it the ski jump lane.”
Nobile beat Tanner Gray in the Pro Stock final. Nobile said, “I looked over and Tanner was not there and I thought, ‘I’m done.’ Then my win light came on.”
Gray had a better start than Nobile with a reaction time of .010 of a second to Nobile’s .015. But Nobile’s car was faster, winning with an elapsed time of 6.599 seconds and a speed of 209.72 mph. Gray’s elapsed time was 6.614 seconds. Nobile admitted that he had a secret weapon.
Without elaboration, he said, “I got lucky cookies that nobody else can have. I’ve won every time I’ve had these cookies.”
Krawiec became the second-winningest PSM rider in NHRA history with the win, his 45th. He beat Scott Pollacheck in the final. It was Pollacheck’s 11th final round appearance and he hasn’t won yet. Krawiec said that, if he weren’t in the final, he might have been happy for Pollacheck to win.
“I wouldn’t feel so bad,” Krawiec said. “But I want to win, too.”
The NHRA announced that sportsman driver Randy Alexander passed away at a local hospital following his crash at Atlanta Dragway Saturday. Alexander had completed his quarter-mile race in the right lane of the strip when the car suddenly cut left at about 160 mph. His car was t-boned by Bob Mandell’s racer, after which Alexander’s car flipped. Alexander and Mandell raced in the Top Sportsman category.
NOTES: Billy Litton became the 10th driver to earn their first career Top Fuel round win against Tony Schumacher when he beat Schumacher in the first round one Sunday … When Doug Kalitta beat Richie Crampton in round one Sunday it was the sixth time in seven events that the two have raced one another … When Ron Capps beat John Force in round one, it was the 92nd time the two have met in eliminations … Bo Butner’s round one win over Alex Laughlin was so close that the finish line photograph appeared to show Laughlin won.