Leah Pritchett claimed the provisional No. 1 spot at the Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals Powered by Mopar in dramatic fashion on Friday night, racing her Mopar Dodge 1320 Top Fuel dragster to the top spot in the final pair of qualifying at Bandimere Speedway near Denver.
Pritchett 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 unveiled with help from Pritchett during a press conference on Thursday, July 19.
With vehicle graphics that also included a new interpretation of the legendary Dodge Super Bee logo, the “Angry Bee,” Pritchett buzzed to the provisional top spot with a 3.806 elapsed time at 317.19 mph in the final pass of qualifying before a packed crowd at Bandimere Speedway.
“This is a huge weekend for us, you might as well put it up there with the U.S. Nationals,” said Pritchett, who qualified No. 1 at the most recent NHRA event in New Hampshire. “For all of Don Schumacher Racing, Dodge and Mopar, all the bigwigs in the house today, it’s been incredible. What’s exciting is, coming here to Bandimere, kicking it off with the (Mopar Big Block) Party, and the fans, this vibe is like none other.
“The crew did an awesome job. We felt real confident. It goes back to strategy; we were able to run late in the night and it was so cool, they made last minute changes and that’s what we saw on the track. They went for it, and that’s what this team is about. That’s what I love about (crew chiefs) Todd (Okuhara) and Joe (Barlam) is that when it’s time, they can put it down and they’re not afraid.
“Overall, man, that ‘Angry Bee,’ she stuck, she was going down that run, it felt amazing. I knew all the way that we had all eight (cylinders) lit. I got to the finish line, and it was definitely hunting for some more juice for sure. There’s more to be had tomorrow night, and I’m excited for it.
“This is Mopar nation, and we’re glad to be No. 1 tonight in Denver.”
Matt Hagan made history on Friday, steering the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat NHRA Funny Car to its competition debut after a media reveal on Thursday. Coming off two consecutive race wins, Hagan ended Friday qualified in the No.15 spot and will look to move up the charts in the final two qualifying sessions tomorrow.
Hagan’s DSR teammates, Ron Capps and Tommy Johnson Jr., qualified their Mopar-powered Dodge Charger R/T Funny Cars in the top five on Friday. Capps was fourth with a 4.007 ET, while Johnson raced his Make-A-Wish Dodge to the fifth position with a 4.031 ET.
Prior to the first round of qualifying, Hagan and Pritchett also renewed their series of grudge match races in Dodge Challenger SRT Demon vehicles. Pritchett was 2-0 against her teammate last year in the battle of the most powerful muscle cars ever, and she kept her record perfect by leaving first and beating Hagan to the stripe. Hagan will have a chance for revenge in a second and final match race tomorrow.
Qualifying coverage of the Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals Powered by Mopar will air live on Fox Sports 1 (FS1) from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, July 21. Three hours of eliminations coverage will air live on the national Fox Network starting at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 22.