With championship points reset at the conclusion of the 18-race regular season, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series’ Countdown to the Championship has provided plenty of dramatic, epically-close battles to the finish, but perhaps none — if any — can rival what the SAM Tech Factory Stock Showdown is primed for at its final hurrah in Ennis, Texas in two weeks.
Through the season’s first six races — 24 rounds of competition — the top three in the standings head into the NHRA FallNationals at the Texas Motorplex separated by a single, solitary point.
Charlotte winner Arthur Kohn, who has clung to the top three in the standings for the balance of the season, is tied with fellow Chevrolet COPO Camaro runner Stephen Bell. Bell, who won at Gainesville, has likewise finished consistently well throughout the year, keeping himself within striking distance of the championship for the duration. Top Fuel star Leah Pritchett, mired back in the standings following early-round exits at the first four stops on the seven-race schedule, has launched a late-season charge behind the wheel of her Mopar-backed Dodge Challenger Drag Pak, earning back-to-back victories at Indianapolis and St. Louis to springboard her up to second, just a mere point back from Kohn and Bell.
“We carried that momentum from the U.S. Nationals really without a hiccup,” Pritchett noted of her victory Sunday at Gateway Motorsports Park. “We put it to it every single round and that’s extremely impressive and a testament to the durability of the race cars, the powerplant and the people that Schumacher has put in place to run this program. We are in a fantastic spot heading in, second place in the points. It’s like Christmas Eve going into the last races. I really wouldn’t want a different perspective. We have a little bit of freshening up to do but overall this has been an incredible weekend of just straight teamwork all the way around and the Mopar power just continues to show through and we continue to want to show up.”
On paper, Pritchett would seem the favorite; on Saturday she drove her Challenger to the first-ever, official seven-second run in NHRA competition with a crushing 7.93 and parlayed that performance advantage into a victory over a slowing Bell in the final round.
Kohn, for his part, clocked the first seven-second lap by a non-Dodge entry in class history with a 7.99 during qualifying on his way to a semifinal appearance, proving he too is poised and ready to compete for the title.
Second-generation racer Aaron Stanfield maintains an outside shot at the crown, 54 points back of Kohn and Bell, or three rounds of competition.
The Factory Stock Showdown, unlike the Mello Yello and Pro Mod series, counts only the best six finishes out of seven for the final sum, making a late-round showing at Ennis paramount as the three drivers drop their lowest-tally race for their season-ending total.