Leah Pritchett put the cherry on top of a dream weekend at the Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals Powered by Mopar, flying her Mopar Dodge 1320 “Angry Bee” Top Fuel dragster from the No. 1 spot to her first win at historic Bandimere Speedway. Her victory came in the first year with Dodge//SRT as headline sponsor and in the 30th consecutive season of FCA US event title sponsorship at the track near Denver.
The victory was Pritchett’s second of the year in three final rounds this season, the seventh overall of her career, and moved the Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) driver to third in the point standings. The Wally trophy was also the eighth of the season for a DSR Mopar Dodge driver in the NHRA Nitro classes.
Pritchett also carried a special 1320-themed livery on her Mopar Dodge Top Fuel dragster to help mark the unveiling of the new Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 1320, geared for grassroots Sportsman racers, and revealed with help from Pritchett during a press conference on Thursday, July 19.
Pritchett’s Denver domination began in qualifying, where she knocked out a 3.799-second elapsed time (ET) at 327.19 mph, the fastest ever at Bandimere Speedway, to lock down the pole, her second straight of the season and second consecutive at Bandimere. Pritchett also collected 11 out of 12 possible qualifying points.
The Mopar Dodge 1320 driver opened eliminations with a steady 3.857/322.81 to outrun Terry Totten, and then unleashed the “Angry Bee” to the tune of 3.806/321.96, the quickest of the round, to send home Scott Palmer. Pritchett ran a 3.826/312.93 in the semifinals, matched by her opponent Clay Millican’s identical 3.826 ET, but Pritchett’s sharper .043 reaction time earned her the starting line advantage and the round win.
In her second consecutive final-round appearance at Denver and 11th overall of her career, Pritchett trailed briefly against Doug Kalitta but quickly put her Mopar Dodge 1320 in the lead and never looked back, laying down a HEMI®-powered 3.831/316.45 pass to Kalitta’s losing 3.852/319.82 effort.
Ron Capps, winner in 2009 on “Thunder Mountain,” started race day in the seventh position. The DSR driver took his Mopar-powered NAPA Dodge to a first round win over J.R. Todd, leading off the starting line and carrying it to the finish. An all-Mopar Dodge matchup against DSR teammate Jack Beckman awaited Capps in the quarterfinals. The 2016 Funny Car champion had the advantage off the starting tree with a .072 reaction, and his 4.082/309.70 pass was more than plenty to beat Beckman, who lost a cylinder early.
In the semifinals, Capps earned the victory on the starting tree, taking the holeshot win thanks to a .036 reaction time compared to opponent Robert Hight’s slower .080. In the 115th final round of his career and third of the season, Capps and John Force, the two winningest Funny Car drivers in NHRA history, battled it out. Capps had won all three of their previous 2018 race day matchups, but despite a solid pass of 4.067-seconds, Force was able to snag the holeshot win with his 4.075 E.T. With his runner-up appearance, Capps moved to third in the Funny Car standings.
No. 12 qualifier Matt Hagan gave it his best shot at taking the new Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car body to its first round win on Sunday. Coming into Denver off back-to-back wins, Hagan left first against John Force with a quick-trigger .033 reaction time to Force’s slower .050. Both drivers dropped cylinders, with Force managing to beat Hagan and the HELLCAT to the finish line. Hagan leaves the event second in the standings.
DSR driver Tommy Johnson Jr. has come oh-so-close to the winner’s circle at Bandimere Speedway, racing to the final round four times in four separate classes, including a Funny Car runner-up last year. Johnson qualified No. 6 and wheeled his Mopar-fueled Make-A-Wish Dodge down the track to defeat Bob Tasca in the opening round. Johnson and reigning world champion Hight both made clean runs in the quarterfinals, but Johnson’s 4.117-second pass wasn’t enough to overcome Hight’s quicker 4.052 run.
Three-time event winner and Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T driver Jack Beckman opened eliminations with a solo run after Todd Simpson was unable to make the call due to body damage. In the second round against DSR stablemate Capps, a dropped cylinder dashed “Fast” Jack’s hopes for a fourth Denver triumph.
Tony Schumacher squared off in his Mopar-powered U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster with Doug Kalitta in a monster opening round matchup. The veteran drivers were nearly identical leaving the starting line and were neck-and-neck the entire 1,000-foot stretch, but Kalitta surged ahead and took the win, ending the U.S. Army team’s day by a mere one inch.