Rivalry, revelry help fuel Pritchetts’ marriage
Leah, a driver, and Gary, a crew member for another, are both driven to do their best.
MORRISON» Leah and Gary Pritchett may have the strangest marriage in the National Hot Rod Association.
Leah is a top fuel driver for Don Schumacher Racing. Gary happens to be a crew member for Steve Torrence, another top fuel driver, who is sponsored by Capco. So, yes, wife and husband are opponents at the track.
Not only are they not on the same team, Leah and Torrence are each other’s top rival in 2017. Heading into Sunday’s eliminations at the Milehigh Nationals, Torrence sits atop the NHRA top fuel standings with 1,188 points. Leah is in second place, 101
“We do the whole ‘sleeping on the couch’ joke thing,” Gary said of his wife. “We both want to be No. 1. At the end of the day, I want to see her do good, (my team) wants to do good.”
On race days, they don’t talk to each other — even as they stay in the same hotel room. They won’t even make eye contact.
“When we get (back) to the hotel, it’s normal,” Gary said. “We’ll hang out. When we get to the racetrack, it’s a whole different ballgame.”
Leah and Gary met at the Mello Yello circuit’s Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., in 2011. The couple have been married for four years, and they worked together last year on one of Bobby and Dom Lagana’s cars when Leah lost her sponsorship with Bob Vandergriff Racing.
Leah will head into Sunday’s final as the No. 1 qualifier — a performance Saturday highlighted by her 3.733-second elapsed time run in the fourth qualifying session, an all-time best at Bandimere — and Torrence was third.
Leah said she received a congratulatory text message from her husband, that he was pumped about her performance Saturday. But now the focus turns to Sunday, when she hopes to get her fourth win of the season and close the gap with Torrence.
Torrence has five victories in 13 races and a 33-8 record.
“I want to see her win as much as I want to win, but if it’s coming down to the final, the ultimate goal is a championship (for Capco),” Gary Pritchett said.
Top fuel racer Leah Pritchett launches off the start line during qualifying Saturday en route to setting a Bandimere Speedway record with an elapsed time of 3.733 seconds. Her speed was 326.24 mph.