Gary Pritchett, who is best known for his successful seven-year career as the clutch specialist on Steve Torrence’s CAPCO Contractors Top Fuel Dragster, will be pulling double duty at the 64th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway, August 30-September 3.
Pritchett will not only turn wrenches for Torrence, but he will pilot NHRA Funny Car Driver Jonnie Lindberg’s Top Alcohol Funny Car.
“I am very grateful for the opportunity” Pritchett said. “Not only to Jonnie (Lindberg) for giving me the opportunity drive his family alcohol car, but also to the Torrence family for allowing me to take this step closer to reaching my ultimate goal of driving a nitro Funny Car on the NHRA circuit someday.”
Outside of Lindberg, the only other driver to pilot the family alcohol funny car is brother Johan.
“Jonnie and I are very good friends and he has followed my career as a driver,” the Virginia native said. “We’ve joked about racing the car in competition, and finally decided why not debut at the biggest race of the year.”
This is the first time Pritchett will drive a Top Alcohol Funny Car in NHRA competition. Pritchett, a current Top Fuel license holder has previously match raced Lindberg’s Funny Car in 2017, and made additional passes at the 2018 U.S. Nationals test session, where he became officially licensed in order to enter the race.
In additional to growing up in the NHRA Jr Drag Racing League beginning at 8 years old, racing a Super Comp car on occasion, and working full time since 2007 on nitro teams with industry greats like Joe Hartley and Hot Rod Fuller, his Alcohol Funny Car driving experience comes from his godmother and IHRA Funny Car icon Bunny Burkett.
“I’ve been racing Bunny’s car since I was 19. Our family tradition every Easter is to head out to East Side Speedway in Waynesboro, Virginia, and race,” the 31-year-old said.
“In addition to our annual tradition, I also try and race a few more times throughout the year, but it’s hard due to the extensive 24-weekend NHRA Top Fuel travel schedule,” Pritchett continued. “After Indy our next race will be late September at the Funny Car Frenzy at Atco Dragway in Atco, New Jersey.”
“The difference between Bunny’s car and Jonnie’s car is the speed,” Pritchett proclaimed. “And of course racing quarter-mile vs. quarter-mile, where now I get to race at elapsed times of 5.40 seconds at over 260 mph, quicker than ever before.”
His wife, NHRA Top Fuel driver Leah Pritchett is a driving force behind the scenes and couldn’t be more supportive of this opportunity for who they call ‘GP’.
“I’ve seen GP wheel Funny Cars down some pretty sketch places over the past seven years, so I know he’ll do fine. He always impresses me behind the wheel, and I’m just stoked that he (along with the help of so many) has a legit shot at fulfilling his dream, while laying down the groundwork for more.”
You might be wondering why it has taken so long for Gary Pritchett to pilot a car of this caliber with all of his racing accolades. Without proper funding this platform of racing cannot be possible.
With primary sponsor N3 Boatworks coming on board, this has allowed Pritchett to grow one step closer to his goal of one day piloting a Nitro Funny Car.
“I could not be more appreciative to N3 Boatworks and LANDMECO for coming on board and making this opportunity possible,” the humbled Pritchett said through a beaming smile. “Leah and I have talked about this for years and it is now finally coming to fruition.”
In addition to N3 Boatworks and LANDMECO, there are several minor associate sponsors that have made Pritchett’s racing debut at the U.S. Nationals possible: Scott Palmer Racing, Catspot, Aerodine, Lagana Racing, and Steve Giordano, also known as “Steve-a-rita”.
The Pritchett household will have three opportunities to claim a Wally at this weekend’s prestigious race. Both Gary and Leah will duke it out in the Top Fuel category with primary driver Steve Torrence and the CAPCO boys, Leah will compete in the Factory Stock Showdown category, and Gary will contend in Top Alcohol Funny Car.