NHRA: With the Sudden Closure of BVR What Happens to Leah Pritchett?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

The start of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel season saw the introduction of Leah Pritchett in a Bob Vandergriff Racing dragster. After winning her first wally in her second national event in Phoenix, the future seemed bright. That all changed Monday with the unexpected announcement of the immediate closure of BVR and the shuttering of both teams.

The unexpected passing of longtime BVR supporter and backer Josh Comstock had a profound affect on team owner and friend Bob Vandergriff. His decision to step away from the NHRA came as a shock to many, but his explanation helped us all understand.

"I’ve missed a lot of things in my children’s lives over the years, and the desire to spend more time at home with my family has weighed on me greatly the last few years, and when combined with the struggles the oil and gas industry has been facing over the last 12 to 18 months, it seemed like now was the right time to retire."

I reached out to NHRA legend and team owner Don Schumacher to ask what he thought of longtime competitor Vandergriff stepping away. I also asked what the loss of the BVR teams meant to the Top Fuel Class.

"It is a sad time for BVR, DSR and NHRA but the real sadness is the passing of Josh Comstock, Founder of C & J Energy. The loss to his family and friends has to be overwhelming. Our thoughts and prayers are with them. Josh and C & J’s support of BVR was for business reasons. I understand Bob’s decision of retiring after looking at what just happened to his close friend."

With that said, what happens now to BVR drivers Leah Pritchett and Dave Connolly? Pritchett has an event win this season and has been placed from and center in the NHRA promotions. Add to it Don Schumacher Racings desire to add a fourth team and the future comes a little more in focus. Don Schumacher about adding a fourth team.

"I’ve been very clear that we want to add a fourth Top Fuel team at DSR. That’s a big reason why we are expanding our shop right now (25,000-square-foot expansion should be completed in June). There are more quality drivers, crew chiefs and crew members on the market now but we won’t move forward on adding a team until sponsorship is in place."

Longtime NHRA sponsor Quaker State moved with BVR to team with Pritchett this season, so you know that they want to be at the track every week. You would have to think there is an opportunity here for her to continue the season in top equipment. It would almost be a tryout at this point for the rest of the season to see if they could work together.

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As Schumacher stated, there are very talented people out there right now looking for work so putting a team together should not be that difficult. Getting them to gel is a different story. After seeing what Alan Johnson has been able to do at JFR with Brittany Force in the short time there should calm any doubts.

Unfortunately for fellow BVR driver Dave Connolly, the sponsorship is not attached to him. His history in the Pro Stock ranks with 24 event wins, he should be able to find another ride. The only problem might be is timing, there are not any empty seats for him to fill this early in the season. He might have to wait until 2017 for a quality ride, but his record speaks for itself and it will open doors for him.