Silence Before the Storm; Gatornationals are Next
At the 33rd annual NHRA Arizona Nationals last weekend, Leah Pritchett and Matt Hagan garnered their second win in as many races. Race fans couldn't have asked for a more exciting final round in Top Fuel, as Pritchett and Brittany Force made it an all woman race for the second consecutive year. Pritchett also defeated Force at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in 2016. However, this time around she backed up her win in the season opener to make it two in a row for 2017. Having scored 245 points out of a possible 260, she maintains a 92 point lead over Ron Schumacher and leaves the desert 94 points ahead of Brittany Force
Matt Hagan also saw victory lane for the second race in a row by laying down a .057 reaction time in the Funny Car final. Both Hagan and runner-up Ron Capps posted an identical top speed of 330.88. Hagan joins the legendary Don "The Snake" Prudhomme as the only Funny Car drivers in NHRA history to win consecutive Nationals to start a season. The win gives Hagan a 62-point lead over Capps and an even 100 points lead over Courtney Force. The race was a rematch of the 2013 Phoenix National, which Capps won.
Top Fuel crew chief Todd Okuhara praised Pritchett's reaction time and gave her full credit for the win. Leah's 328.22 ET was over two miles per hour slower than Force who had a .081 RT. In the Pro Stock final, Drew Skillman pulled his second holeshot of the day but Greg Anderson's 6.547 second final bettered Skillman by a foot and half at the finish line. It was Anderson's 87th career win leaving him 10 behind boss Warren Johnson. In the new Top Fuel Harley class, both riders had problems in the final when Bob Malloy left the line a fraction early on his 1000-horsepower nitro-powered drag bike. Rickey House on the Nitro Shark machine almost threw away an easy win as officials had to take a second look at the tire marks he left on centerline before deciding he stayed in bounds.
Drivers and teams head to the Sunshine State for the third round of the 2017 NHRA season. Next up is the prestigious Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida. E3 Spark Plugs racing fans can join them on Thursday, March 16th through Sunday, March 18th for what is expected to be one of the top events of the year. See you there!