Pritchett looking for first "Wally" at zMAX Dragway

CONCORD, N.C. (WBTV) - Not all of the thunder some of you are hearing is coming from the skies, some of it is coming from the zMAX Dragway in Concord where the Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals are underway through the weekend.

Out at the track on Friday, WBTV's David Whisenant met one of the sport's rising stars, who says that instead of playing baseball and soccer, kids need to be drag racing.

Leah Pritchett is as comfortable in front of a camera as she is in a top fuel dragster, and she is one to watch this weekend at zMAX Dragway in Concord.

"Here I am today, 26 years old, racing for Dote Racing and Gumout here at the Nationals in the top fuel dragster going 325 plus miles an hour in under four seconds," Pritchett told WBTV.

And here's the kicker…she's been racing for 18 years.

"You had to be 8 years old to start junior drag racing, and on a Saturday I was 7, and I had to wait until Sunday when I was 8 years old."

She started in the sports lower divisions, ran Sportsman Class like these drivers.  For many it's a weekend hobby, for others, a stepping stone.

"Let me tell you that those guys are hard core, the Sportsman racers are the best racers on the planet in my opinion," Pritchett said. "On your weekend with your family, just a little bit of money, an investment in a junior dragster and that's what you do, you can play tee ball and soccer, but you can also do this on the weekend."

She says it shows the diversity of the sport in that you can race at the top level, or find other divisions of cars, even motorcycles.

"Huge difference, but it's all within one spectrum and I think it speaks to how family oriented the NHRA is," Pritchett added.

Now in her third year on the circuit, Leah is charging hard for her first win at the sport's highest level, looking to win a "Wally," the trophy that goes with a victory in NHRA.

The Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals run though Sunday.  Gates open at 7:30 am Saturday, 8:00 am Sunday.