Hot Rod|February 2020
The NHRA Top Fuel Driver Tells HOT ROD How Persistence Paid Off and that You’re Never too Good to Stop Learning

Leah Pritchett has made a name for herself with a hard-knock, but a fun-loving perspective on drag racing. The day she turned 8 years old, she began racing Jr. Dragsters with her older sister under the watchful eye of her father (a Bonneville 200 MPH Club Member), before claiming Division 7 championships in 2000 and 2001. She eventually moved into a family-built, 7-second altered Bantam. The family sold it and built their own Nostalgia Funny Car in which Leah earned her fuel license before stumbling into Steve Plueger’s 1972 Mustang Mach I; a wild and nitro-thirsty vintage Funny Car that gave the Redlands, California native an addiction she couldn’t shake until she had found a seat in NHRA Top Fuel. That chance would come from Don Schumacher himself, who signed off on her nitro Funny Car license a decade prior to piloting the NHRA’s purest and most maniacal machines. Since then, she’s set records in several nitro-burners, claimed world championships in NHRA Factory Stock, and has laid it all on the line to make ends meet. - Phillip Thomas

HRM] The background that a lot of people don’t know is that your family was prevalent at Bonneville Salt Flats. What were some of the memories that hooked you on racing with your time out there on the salt?

LP] One of my very first memories is being around 2 years old and having saltwater up to my knees. I’m like scratching and itching it, and there’s nowhere to go. I mean, when it rains— it’s the salt flats, right? You know that it’s not going anywhere. Watching my dad work a whole year for one event, Speed Week—the dedication, it was almost like the Olympics. We couldn’t go to both events, Speed Week and the World Finals because my parents owned an automotive repair shop and needed to run that. I would drive with him, 16 hours one-way, to go race for that one run—a five-mile run. Then the car needed to go to impound and turn around and make that backup run to get the record. That’s what we spent that week doing. Then you have another whole year to prepare for that very week next year. To me, that’s like an extended version of drag racing. People don’t understand how you can have so much work into 3.6 seconds. I look at it and I’m thinking, “I see the most important man in my life work an entire year for one week. I think we get the better end of the deal.” So yes, my daddy’s a 13-time land-speed world record holder, a world’s fastest Ford-powered Thunderbird, naturally aspirated.

HRM] You have an awesome relationship with your crew, but you’re also one of the most hands-on drivers we’ve seen in any motorsport. Where does that come from with you?

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