Pritchett with Papa John’s Pizza, Hagan with Mopar Express Lane give DSR sweep of nitro poles, titles to start 2017 NHRA season
And this mouth-watering double-double had nothing to do a stop for a two-patty burger at In-N-Out, the iconic West Coast restaurant chain.
The first double was on Sunday when Don Schumacher Racing’s Leah Pritchett in the Papa John’s Pizza Top Fuel dragster and teammate Matt Hagan in the Mopar Express Lane 2017 Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car swept the nitro poles at the Fairplex near Los Angeles.
The second part of drag racing’s double-double came Sunday when Pritchett and Hagan won their respective titles in championship eliminations to push DSR’s total to 295 event titles.
And Hagan with crew chief Dickie Venables and assistant Michael Knudsen added some special sauce when they won their pole with an astonishing elapsed time of 3.822 seconds at 335.57 mph to match the NHRA world records the team set last year.
It is the second time in the past five Mello Yello events – dating to the event in Reading, Pa. last October – that Pritchett and Hagan started race day in the No. 1 qualifying positions.
It was Hagan’s 23rd Funny Car victory with a 3.875 at 330.07 to beat Courtney Force’s 3.901 in the final round.
“It’s a real special race for me, a lot of stuff happened over the off season, with losing my brother,” said Hagan, who came into eliminations as the No. 1 qualifier. “We came out motivated. My lights have been great, the car has been great and my team has been great. We just have got a real powerhouse team right now. We just have to keep some of this momentum going.”
Hagan powered past teammates Jack Beckman and Ron Capps, the defending world champion, to reach the final.
“Anytime we can put those Forces on the trailer that’s what we need to do. We’re here to win and Don expects us to win.”
“There’s a line of drivers that would sit in that car and take my job tomorrow. But he keeps me in the car and I just try to do a good job for him. We’ve got a great team around us right now. I’m just excited. This is the first race of the year and you chalk it up to, ‘okay, yeah that’s great, but there’s a long season ahead of us.’ We’ve just got to keep some of this momentum going.”
Pritchett with crew chief Todd Okuhara and assistant Joe Barlam are starting her first full season with DSR after joining the juggernaut midway through last year and driving in 15 of 24 events. It was quite a homecoming for the 28-year-old who grew up in nearby Redlands, Calif., and graduated from Cal State San Bernardino.
“This definitely is taking delivery from the momentum from last year,” Pritchett said. “What just happened is the best thing that has ever happened for me in my career. In my opinion, right now, we have the perfect group of people, partners, sponsors and a car that is reacting. This thing is A-plus, Grade A, perfect kid in school type of situation and we’re taking advantage of it right now.”
Pritchett defeated Steve Torrence and eight-time champion Tony Schumacher en route to the finals where she beat Doug Kalitta. “You’ve got to have confidence if you’re going to run one of these beasts and confidence is contagious,” said Pritchett, who won her second NHRA Wally Trophy in less than a year. “Todd and Joe have confidence in the car and that’s contagious to me as a driver and our whole Papa John’s team. That’s how we’re jelling so well.”