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Pritchett, Wilkerson And Line Claim Wins At Wild Horse Pass
Taking a turn in the Winners Circle at the NHRA event in Arizona this past weekend were, from left, Leah Pritchett, Top Fuel; Jason Line, Pro Stock; and Tim Wilkerson, Funny Car. Photo By Mike Burghardt


The second event of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series came into the Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park for the 32nd annual Carquest Auto Parts NHRA Nationals in Arizona over the weekend. Top Fuel featured six cars running under 3.80 seconds, with Doug Kalitta and his MAC Tools team nailing down the top qualifying spot with a strong 3.741 at 320.74 mph. Ron Capps and his NAPA Auto Parts team looked to continue their winning ways in Funny Car, garnering the top spot with 3.925 at 320.05 mph. As with the season opener in Pomona, Pro Stock looked to be dominated by the Summit Racing team, as they captured the three top qualifying spots. Bo Butner held the top spot with a strong 6.618 at 208.88 mph effort.

During eliminations, Kalitta had the quickest car every round until the semi-finals. But, he was not the only one with a strong car. Brittany Force and her Monster Energy Drink dragster team, seeking their first career win, were very close in performance and on the same side of the eliminations ladder. The other side of the ladder featured two multiple season champions (Tony Schumacher and Antron Brown) and two up and coming performers, looking for their first career event wins (Leah Pritchett with her Quaker State Motor Oil dragster team and Clay Milligan with his Great Clips/Parts Plus dragster team). In the semifinal round, Brittany Force took out Doug Kalitta with a strong 3.760 at 319.67 mph to 3.794 at 322.50 mph run during the hottest part of the day to advance to the final round. Pritchett then took out Milligan with a 3.832 at 317.05 mph to 3.878 at 299.86 mph, when Milligan’s car lost power near the finish line. This set up the second all female Top Fuel final round match up in NHRA history. In addition, it was a battle between two drivers vying for their first career event wins in Top Fuel. The capacity crowd was brought to its feet, as Pritchett took a slight starting line advantage and held on to claim her first win by a nose, 3.775 at 323.12 mph to (a slightly quicker) 3.774 at 321.35 mph.

In Funny Car, John Force, Robert Hight and Courtney Force all stepped up with strong performances to advance into the semi-finals, along with Tim Wilkerson and his Levi/Ray and Shoup Mustang. Wilkerson ended recent Winter Nationals winner, Ron Capps’ chance to win two in a row in a tire smoking second round pedal-fest. The 16-time champion, Force, took out his daughter (Courtney Force, who married Indy Car driver Graham Rahal during the off-season) with a 4.006 at 318.02 to advance to the final round. Wilkerson then took out a tire smoking Hight with a 3.994 at 317.19 mph. In the final, Force gained a 0.048 to 0.085 second starting line advantage and looked to have the win at hand. But, as he neared the finish line, the supercharger on Force’s Peak Republic Chevy Camaro exploded, handing the win to Wilkerson, 3.937 at 320.43 mph to 4.016 at 275.34 mph.

In Pro Stock, all the teams were still struggling to get a handle on the new fuel injection system and 2016 rule changes. All the teams, except the Summit Racing team of Greg Anderson, Jason Line and Bo Butner. But, Chris McGaha was able to catch Bo Butner in an off performance run, as he took a 0.020 to 0.082 starting line advantage and held on for a 6.692 at 208.07 mph to 6.690 at 208.10 mph effort. Butner had run low elapse time of the event at 6.590 in the opening round of eliminations. In a battle of the two other Summit Performance teammates, Line took out Anderson with a 6.650 at 207.53 mph. in the final round, Line left first (0.021 to 0.041) on McGaha and drove away to a 6.666 at 205.16 mph to 6.671 at 208.75 mph event win.