Fresh from setting the second-quickest time and speed in Top Fuel qualifying for last weekend’s NHRA Keystone Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, Leah Pritchett is turning left and right this weekend.
She will tackle vintage auto racing at Spring Mountain Motorsports Resort Ranch and Country Club outside Las Vegas, Neveda.
I’m getting acclimated to the road racing aspect. With the Top Fuel car, you have brute power and you have to control it. With the Formula Ford you have to get a rhythm with the corners and power comes on slowly
Pritchett, the 27-year-old driver of Dote Racing’s “Gumout Lady in Red” dragster in NHRA’s Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, made some impressive initial laps in the VARA Racing “Shootout at the Ranch” vintage contest in a Formula Ford. She’ll attack the 3.4-mile, 30-turn racing complex outside Las Vegas in Saturday’s vintage Formula Ford main event.
A new opportunity
In anticipation of this new challenge, Pritchett had some practice time at Willow Springs Raceway outside Los Angeles prior to racing this weekend. “I have been extremely excited for this opportunity in the Formula Ford,” she said. “Obviously it’s much different from the Top Fuel dragster. I worked with the Willow Springs instructors on the proper apexes and lines through the corners and it was very enlightening for me.”
While she’s run shifter karts in the past, this is her first foray on a road racing track in a full-size competitive racecar. “I have received a lot of assistance from the team,” Pritchett noted. “It’s a different type of racing but it still takes a lot of concentration and commitment to do well. I couldn’t wait to get started.”
Pritchett recorded the fifth-quickest practice time Friday in the Formula Ford division of VARA’s diverse classes; she turned a lap of 2:50.202-sec in the 1979 Van Dieman machine and she qualifies Saturday morning for the 30-minute feature set to take the green flags at 1:10PM PDT.
“I’m getting acclimated to the road racing aspect. With the Top Fuel car, you have brute power (as much as 330 mph) and you have to control it,” Pritchett admits. “With the Formula Ford you have to get a rhythm with the corners and power comes on slowly. It’s much different from what I’m used to but I”m really enjoying it. Plus,” she adds, “racing with a pack of drivers is much different than the one-on-one drag racing competition.”
Getting tips from her competitors and others that are racing the VARA event this weekend, Leah Pritchett is grateful for the help she’s been getting. “Several drivers have given me tips in my first road racing experience.
“If The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is the Bellagio of drag racing, then Spring Mountain is the Bellagio of road racing,” she contends. “It’s just a spectacular facility to compete in the Formula Fords. I couldn’t ask for a better way to make my road racing debut. I’m improving with each session and I’m very anxious for the race now.”