Drag Racing: Record-setting day at BIR
A little over a year after making her debut in the Papa John's Top Fuel dragster, Leah Pritchett made a record-breaking run to end the first day qualifying with a bang at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.
Running in the second round of qualifying, Pritchett set the national record with an elapsed time of 3.640 seconds running at 331.53 mph.
"It was absolutely incredible," Pritchett said of her run. "We have been looking forward to this evening run all year long knowing that this track at Brainerd with the surface and the conditions lays down the groundwork for us to put out the most power possible and that is what we did."
Pritchett was in first place after the first round of qualifying but she knew something was wrong with her car.
"I have never experienced a pass like that before," she said. "I knew something was wrong on the burnout and I said, this run is going to be something else. I thought we were going to implode but I stuck with. It ended up being a tire issue. We fixed that and I couldn't be more happy for this team."
She was also following the record-setting run by Funny Car driver Robert Hight, and she knew something special was there.
"I made sure that I borderline watched that pass. When he ran 3.79, I got in the car and strapped down extra tight. That's what is cool about Friday night is when Funny Cars put down that kind of time it lets us know that it is there."
Last year's Lucas Oil Champion, Brittany Force, put down a time of 3.685 in her second qualifying run, which placed her in second place just behind Pritchett.
Antron Brown entered the weekend with a 13-point lead over Steve Torrence, and Brown finished in seventh place with Torrence getting the sixth spot.
2016 was a year for breaking BIR records in the Funny Car class, but Matt Hagan and Robert Hight set the bar even higher for 2017.
Running in the second round of qualifying, Hight set the national record for fast time with an ET of 3.793. Hagan was just behind him with a 3.863 and the two drivers also ran the quickest side-by-side run in NHRA history.
Hight drove at a speed of 338 mph, while Hagan finished at 336.57. They are also locked in a battle for the second position in points behind leader Ron Capps.
"I knew in staging that I was either going to run fast or smoke the tires," Hight said of his run. "The clutch was just boiling and that is the way Jimmy (Prock) likes to run it. It was hard to see, but I did see the 3.79 on the scoreboard.
"It's something that you dream about. There are so many things that have to happen and work together for it to happen. It is not that easy.
"This is a big milestone. It is going to be a long time before we go in the 3.60s. I have been on John (Force's) teams when he has cracked barriers, but never done it as driver so as a team we are just ecstatic. But I did call that this was going to happen today."
The two drivers are also sitting in the No. 2 and the No. 3 spots in points behind Capps in the "Countdown to the Championship." Hagan is currently in second place with Hight in third.
In the first round of qualifying, Hight's teammate Courtney Force set the track record for speed with a run of 335.98 mph, and an ET of 3.863. That record stood until it was broken in the next round by Hight.
Hagan and Hight passed her to sit in the top two spots and their positions didn't change in the second round after their record-breaking run.
Top qualifier Tanner Gray is the youngest pro driver in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, having just turned 18 this summer.
You wouldn't know it by the way he rescued his car and with the humility he showed in not taking the credit.
Gray's run of 6.607 seconds, running at 208.17 mph, moved him into the top qualifying spot over first-round top qualifier and point's leader Bo Butner.
"It was my crew that made this happen," Gray said. "I am just fortunate to be able to drive this car and it is really going well right now."
Gray is also a big fan of dirt track racing and it served him well when his car pitched off line early in his run.
"It kind of took me back to my dirt track days," Gray said. "I let the clutch out and the front end went up, and when I landed it was pretty far left and I kind of started driving it back in. I had a lot of fun with that."
Pro Stock Motorcycle
Hector Arana Jr. came back to somewhat familiar territory, qualifying in the top spot with an elapsed time of 6.879 seconds, running at 194.24 mph in the second round of qualifying.
Arana Jr. was a second place qualifier in his last race in Sonoma before losing in the third round to eventual champion LE Tonglet.
"It feels good to be up here, it has been a while," said Arana Jr. on getting the top spot. "I am familiar with being here but it has been a while for me. It's about time. We are really working hard and we have the biking working well, it just seems like someone always just narrowly gets by us."
Angie Smith was the first-round leader with an ET of 6.947, which put her in the top spot over Arana Jr.
Angie Smith dropped from first to sixth place in the second round.
Matt Smith made the biggest jump, moving from sixth place to second place with a run of 6.887 seconds at 195.22 mph.