CHANDLER, Ariz. (February 26, 2017) Despite only being the second race on a twenty-four event calendar, the NHRA Arizona Nationals was filled with record times, career bests, big upsets, rematches, and per usual, fantastic racing.
Leah Pritchett is now 2-0 on the 2017 season. In a rematch of the final round from last year’s Phoenix event, Pritchett took down Brittany Force with a 3.705 second run at 328.22 mph. Force tried her hardest to make her final round record against Pritchett 1-1, but couldn’t get off the starting line fast enough to make her 3.704 second pass at 330.39 mph get the job done. Pritchett also won the Circle K Winternationals two weeks ago in Pomona, Calif. This is her third career victory. Leah wasn’t shy about thanking her team but also acknowledged that she is working on keeping up her end of the deal, “At the end of the day, we got four round wins, but I stumbled a little bit today and am learning what it takes to get into the extreme severe mindset of what it takes to do what we’re doing. Honestly I’m just trying keep up with my team and how well they’re doing and make them proud of me as a driver and do the job that is expected of a Don Schumacher Racing team. I think we’re doing pretty ok with that. We’re blessed with the equipment and the talent capabilities of the people and everyone it takes to make it. I’m happy that I could hold up my end of the bargain.”Shockingly, Kalitta Motorsports teammates Doug Kalitta and Troy Coughlin Jr. saw early exits during the first round of competition. This opened the door for Shawn Reed and Scott Palmer to make unexpected appearances in the subsequent rounds.
Like his Don Schumacher Racing teammate, Matt Hagan is also 2-0 on the season thus far. Hagan took out his fellow teammate, Ron Capps in the final round. Hague’s 3.878 second lap was just a tick faster than Capps’ 3.883 second run. This is Hagan’s twenty-fourth career victory. “We’ve got us a hot rod right now, the car’s running strong,” Hagan said simply. “The car’s just going down the racetrack every lap. How much more could you ask for? We may as well put a 3.85 on this thing and bracket race it. It’s just a great feeling to crawl in the car and have the confidence that it’s gonna go down the racetrack and it’s gonna run strong. And when your lights are good it’s a real hard combination to beat.” Uncharacteristically, John Force and his daughter Courtney Force went out in the first round of competition. Jack Beckman had a clutch issue which kept him from completing his first round matchup against Gary Densham. J.R. Todd also had his issues during the second round of competition when he was plagued with a throttle cable problem just before his crew fired up the engine.
Keeping up KB Racing’s dominant streak, Greg Anderson picked up the trophy in a final round match up against Drew Skillman. The two were nearly identical off the starting line, but Anderson’s 6.547 second run at 211.43 mph surpassed Skillman’s 210.50 mph, 6.565 second effort. This is Anderson’s 87th career win. “It’s just a 100% team effort. You can’t win a Pro Stock race without having everything go perfectly over the weekend, ” Greg said. “We’ve just found a way to make less mistakes than the rest and that’s just a hat off to the entire crew. It starts at the top, it starts with Ken Black, he hired all these people, handpicked them, he’s got the best. He’s done a great job,” he continued. Number one qualifier, Jason Line suffered a second round loss to the race runner up, Drew Skillman. Notably, 17-year-old Pro Stock rookie, Tanner Gray made it to his first semifinal round, but fell to the eventual race winner Greg Anderson.
In three weeks’ time, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will head to Gainesville, Florida for the Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals, March 16th-19th. That event will also mark the start of the NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle season.