BROWNSBURG, Indiana (Jan. 30, 2018) – U.S. Army Racing has bolstered its 11-time championship-winning Top Fuel driver lineup of Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher and Antron Brown with the addition of fellow Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) driver Leah Pritchett and her team for the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, it was announced Tuesday in preparation for this weekend’s annual NHRA Nitro Preseason Test Days at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park on the outskirts of Phoenix.
Pritchett and the Mopar/Papa John’s/U.S. Army Dragster team for DSR will join eight-time champion Schumacher and three-time champion Brown when the Army Racing heritage marches into its 18th full season of NHRA competition since “The Sarge” debuted the U.S. Army colors on his DSR Dragster at the prestigious U.S. Nationals just outside Indianapolis in September 2000.
“Tony Schumacher, Antron Brown and their respective teams have been the ultimate representatives of our more than 1 million U.S. Army Soldiers around the world. And today, we are extremely proud to welcome Leah Pritchett to the Army Racing family and look forward to the addition of a third championship-contending driver and team to the lineup,” said Elizabeth Wilson, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for marketing.
In addition to representing the U.S. Army on the racetrack during the 24-event NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series campaign, Pritchett will join Schumacher and Brown in the Army’s initiatives away from the track, including local high school programs at each track on the circuit, the Army’s Centers of Influence (COI) and the NHRA’s Youth & Education Services (YES) events during race weekends throughout the season.
“This is one of the most prestigious partnerships of my career and for our team, and we look forward to joining this very successful Army duo of Tony and Antron, creating the U.S. Army trifecta,” said Pritchett, who is coming off a powerful 2017 season that included four event titles in six final-round appearances. “This is a tremendous opportunity for us, to represent the Soldiers who serve and enable us to do what we love. Tony and Antron have had an insurmountable impact on my life. I am humbled and honored to join them in representing the U.S. Army, and our team is inspired not just rise to our expectations for next year, but to elevate our training even further. On a personal note, Tony was my first favorite driver in the NHRA. I met him even before the U.S. Army partnership began for him and watched him from the other side of the ropes. I’ve always seen Antron as a role model since his switch to Top Fuel. As every year becomes slightly more surreal, this is yet another new chapter, one that carries the prestige and the honor with my two teammates of representing Soldiers around the world. Our goal is to win on the track for my team, win for the Army in the communities we visit, and represent the U.S. Army with our entire heart and soul.”
In her first full season with DSR, Pritchett kicked off 2017 with a victory at the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California, her first of four event titles and six final-round appearances on the year. She added six No. 1 qualifying efforts and also set national elapsed time records twice – 3.658 seconds in February at Phoenix, and 3.640 seconds in August at Brainerd, Minnesota. She finished fifth in the final Top Fuel standings after qualifying for the Countdown to the Championship playoffs for the second year in a row.
Schumacher and Brown entered the 2017 season having combined for four Top Fuel world titles in the previous five years. Schumacher and his U.S. Army Dragster for DSR scored an early season victory at the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida among his four final-round appearances to up his record total of event titles to 83. He added four No. 1 qualifying efforts to raise his record total in that category to 84. Brown and his Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragster for DSR brought home four event titles among his 10 final-round appearances and two No. 1 qualifying efforts during his 2017 campaign.
“Leah has been a great DSR teammate and now she is going to strengthen our Army Racing lineup overall,” said Schumacher, who finished eighth in the final standings this season. “She and that team proved their speed right out of the box and she showed up at the track each weekend as one of the cars to beat. Off the track, she brings great marketing capabilities as one of the more colorful spokespeople in this sport. It’s a win-win for everybody involved.”
“I think it’s awesome to have Leah join Tony and me under the Army banner because she has the attitude and the heart of an Army Soldier,” said Brown, who was fourth in the 2017 standings after his back-to-back championships in 2015 and 2016. “She’s resilient, she has the work ethic and the desire – all the Army traits to be able to go out there and do battle on the track. She never quits, never gives up, never says, ‘I can’t,’ just, ‘I will.’ I’m looking forward to having another great Army teammate go out there and do battle with out there.”
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U.S. Army Racing: Pritchett Joins U.S. Army Duo of Schumacher, Brown
The 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series kicks off Feb. 9 to 11 with the 58th annual NHRA Winternationals at Pomona.
U.S. ARMY RACING HIGHLIGHTS – 2000 through 2017
2000 – Tony Schumacher debuts U.S. Army Dragster for DSR at the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis and won the event.
2001 – Schumacher clocks fastest speed in NHRA history at 333.08 mph at Reading.
2002 – Schumacher wins at Indianapolis for second time in his career. Recorded top speed at six events.
2003 – Army Racing adds NASCAR driver Jerry Nadeau and NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle pilots Antron Brown and Angelle Sampey to the team, joining Tony Schumacher in the NHRA Top Fuel Dragster. Schumacher wins four event titles, including the third of his career at Indy, and finished third in final standings after four consecutive No. 1 qualifying efforts. Brown and Sampey combine for four event titles. Nadeau injured in May NASCAR event at Richmond, Virginia, with several drivers – Jason Keller, Mike Wallace, Boris Said, Mike Skinner and Joe Nemechek – filling in the rest of the season.
2004 – Schumacher earns Top Fuel world championship behind NHRA single-season record 10 victories, including his fourth U.S. Nationals title. Brown advanced to the final round in four of the final five races of the season after winning his second U.S. Nationals. Sampelle won four events in six final round appearances, giving her 35 career wins that is the most ever for a female driver in NHRA history and the second most in NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle history. Nemechek wins NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas and back-to-back poles at Talladega and Kansas.
2005 – Schumacher earns second consecutive and third overall world title. Brown earns 14th career win at Englishtown on Father’s Day. Sampey wins two of three final-round appearances.
2006 – Schumacher earns third consecutive and fourth overall championship, in dramatic fashion by winning last race and setting national elapsed time record on the final pass of season. Broke his own single-season record for most No. 1 qualifying positions with 13. Joined Joe Amato as only NHRA Top Fuel drivers to win three straight championships. Brown won twice in five final-round appearances. Sampey sets national elapsed time record of 6.939 seconds at Reading and finished in the top-five in the standings for the 10th consecutive season, winning three of four final-round appearances.
2007 – For the second season in a row, Schumacher clinched yet another world championship on his final pass of the year. His fifth title overall tied him for first all-time in Top Fuel with Joe Amato. Brown finished his last season of Pro Stock Motorcycles, and teammate Sampey set the national elapsed time record of 6.871 seconds at Englishtown.; Finished in the POWERade top five for the 11th consecutive season out of 12 years on tour; Won one of four final-round appearances. Finishes her career with Army Racing. NASCAR driving duties, meanwhile, now handled by Mark Martin and Regan Smith as part of merged Ginn Racing and Dale Earnhardt, Inc., organizations.
2008 – Schumacher becomes first driver in NHRA history to win five consecutive Top Fuel titles, moves past Joe Amato to become the all-time Top Fuel leader with 56 event titles, single-season wins with 15, consecutive wins with seven, consecutive final rounds with 11, most final rounds with 18, and consecutive round wins with 31. In NASCAR, Mark Martin and Aric Almirola share driving duties in the No. 8 Dale Earnhardt, Inc., racecar.
2009 – Schumacher ups his consecutive championship total to six, became eighth driver in NHRA history to notch 500 round wins and first Top Fuel driver to win 60 events. In NASCAR, Ryan Newman becomes full-time U.S. Army driver in the No. 39 entry for Stewart-Haas Racing.
2010 – Schumacher finishes second in the championship after winning six races. U.S. Army also becomes associate sponsor of the newest DSR Top Fuel team with driver Antron Brown. Newman finishes 15th in the NASCAR Cup Series championship with one win at Phoenix.
2011 – Schumacher finishes fifth in points while Brown wins six races during the season and finishes third overall in points. Newman win NASCAR race at New Hampshire and qualifies for the Cup Series playoffs.
2012 – Schumacher finishes second in the standings behind Brown’s first championship-winning season behind six event titles. Brown becomes first African American to win a major racing championship. Newman scores one NASCAR win at Martinsville in April.
2013 – Schumacher wins three events in six final-round appearances on the season while Brown finishes second in the championship behind four event titles.
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U.S. Army Racing: Pritchett Joins U.S. Army Duo of Schumacher, Brown
2014 – Schumacher wins his record eighth Top Fuel world championship behind five event titles, including three during the six-event Countdown to the Championship plaoyffs. Brown scores a division-best six victories and finished seventh in the championship standings.
2015 – Schumacher follows up on his eighth career championship season by finishing a solid second to Brown. Scored event titles at Phoenix, Epping and Chicago to lift his record-setting Top Fuel career total to 80. Brown’s championship was his second behind his career-high seven event titles and seven No. 1 qualifying positions.
2016 – Schumacher ups his record of career event titles to 82 with his victories at Denver and, for the record 10th time in his career, at Indy. Schumacher also won the $1 million, winner-take-all TRAXXAS Shootout during U.S. Nationals weekend. Brown scored the Top Fuel championship for the second year in a row and for the third time in his career.
2017 – Schumacher scores his 83rd career event title from the No. 1 qualifying position at the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida and added No. 1 qualifying efforts at, Atlanta, Topeka and Las Vegas to up his record career total in that category to 84. Brown posts four event titles in 10 final-round appearances and adds a pair of No. 1 qualifying efforts.
LEAH PRITCHETT CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
2008 – Earned NHRA professional Funny Car license. Becomes first woman to post a 5-second run in a Nostalgia Funny Car.
2009 – Nostalgia Funny Car record: first driver to reach 250 mph.
2010 – NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series champion, 52nd March Meet champion, NHRA Hot Rod Reunion winner, Division 6 (Spokane, Washington) event winner, all in Nostalgia Funny Car.
2011 – Las Vegas Big O Tires Pro Modified winner. Qualified for first NHRA Funny Car National event at Reading. O’Reilly Auto Parts Nationals Pro Modified winner.
2012 – O’Reilly Auto Parts Nationals Pro Modified winner. Began Top Fuel licensing process at St. Louis. NHRA 4-Wide Nationals Pro Modified runner-up.
2013 – NHRA Road to the Future nominee. Joined Dote Racing as a rookie Top Fuel driver.
2014 – Top Fuel semifinalist at Las Vegas. Began partnership with Gumout.
2015 – First Top Fuel final-round appearance at Atlanta after posting career-best Top Fuel qualifying position of third. Began partnership with Sparkling Ice.
2016 – Finished seventh in final Top Fuel standings after clinching first-ever Countdown to the Championship berth. Won first Top Fuel national event in the season’s second event at Phoenix with Bob Vandergriff Racing. Became official partners of FireAde, Mopar, Pennzoil and Papa John’s. Joined Don Schumacher Racing in midseason.
2017 – First full season with Don Schumacher Racing. Finished fifth in final Top Fuel standings. Scored first of four event titles at the season-opening NHRA Winternationals at Pomona from the No. 1 qualifying position. Set national elapsed time record of 3.658 seconds and also won the very next event at Phoenix. Added event titles at Houston and Brainerd, and No. 1 qualifying efforts at Epping, Denver, Sonoma, re-establishing the national elapsed time record at Brainerd with a run of 3.640 seconds.