Pritchett, Johnson Jr. Lead Qualifying at 54th NHRA Finals in Pomona Friday

POMONA, Calif. – Leah Pritchett lit the candles on her Top Fuel dragster Friday evening and piloted to the top of the category for both qualifying sessions at the 54th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway.

Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also preliminary qualifiers in their respective categories at the final event of the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

Southern California native Prichett raced to the top of the Top Fuel class with her 3.649-second pass at 329.34 mph in her dragster during the second session.

“When you have this horsepower weather and this time of day you can just feel the energy,” Pritchett stated. “The reason why there’s a smile on our faces is that we were able to execute what we wanted to do. Tomorrow we’re not going to have these same conditions so that’s why we’re excited we were able to capitalize on it tonight.”

Two-time defending event champion Johnson Jr.’s second qualifying run of 3.881 at 328.54 in his Dodge Charger R/T locked-in the top spot.

Coughlin Jr., who is currently No. 2 in the Pro Stock points standings, raced his Chevrolet Camaro to a 6.527 pass at 211.39 in the second round of qualifying.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Smith rode to a track record speed at 200.65 at 6.774 to lead the field on his EBR.

Qualifying at the 54th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals continues Saturday at 12:00 p.m.

  • Top Fuel driver Richie Crampton hits the throttle during qualifying in Pomona on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • The crew of recently crowned Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence remove his dragster from its hauler Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

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  • Recently crowned Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence signs a fans shirt prior to qualifying Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Pro Stock points leader Tanner Gray sits in his race car prior to qualifying in Pomona on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Funny Car driver Shawn Langdon does his burnout during the first qualifying session in Pomona on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Matt Smith heads through the shut down area during the second round of qualifying in Pomona on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Smith is the top qualifier with a time of 6.774 seconds at 200.65 mph. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • An NHRA official looks over Terry Haddock’s burned up Funny Car during qualifying in Pomona on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Pro Stock points leader Tanner heads through the shutdown area during qualifying in Pomona on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Funny Car drivers Robert Hight (left) and Ron Capps (right) head down track during qualifying in Pomona on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Funny Car drivers Courtney Force (right) and Tommy Johnson Jr. head down track during the second qualifying session in Pomona on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Johnson Jr. is currently the top qualifier with a time of 3.881 seconds at a speed of 328.54 mph. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Funny Car driver Jack Beckman waves to the crowd following his first qualifying run in Pomona on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Top Fuel driver Brittany Force does her burnout during the opening round of qualifying in Pomona on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher does his burnout during the opening round of qualifying in Pomona on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Funny Car driver Shawn Langdon heads down track during the second qualifying session in Pomona on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Top Fuel driver Blake Alexander heads down track during the second qualifying session in Pomona on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Funny Car driver Jack Beckman speaks with one of Matt Hagan’s crew members prior to qualifying in Pomona on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Funny Car driver Jack Beckman waits in his hot rod prior to qualifying in Pomona on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • The crew of recently crowned Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence remove his dragster from its hauler Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • A skeleton wears a hat in the pit of Funny Car driver Bob Bode on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher (left) tosses an autographed hat behind his back towards race fan Jeremy Cortez (right), 14 from San Dimas, on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Pro Stock points leader Tanner Gray sits in his race car prior to qualifying in Pomona on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Pro Stock points leader Tanner Gray sits in his race car prior to qualifying in Pomona on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Funny Car driver John Force heads to his hot rod prior to qualifying in Pomona on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Funny Car driver John Force sits in his hot rod prior to qualifying in Pomona on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Funny Car driver Jack Beckman climbs into his hot rod for the first qualifying session in Pomona on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Top Fuel drivers Tony Schumacher (near lane) races against Leah Pritchett during the opening round of qualifying in Pomona on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Recently crowned Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence does his burnout during the opening round of qualifying in Pomona on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Funny Car driver Bob Bode (right) hits a timing block as he races against Tim Wilkerson during qualifying in Pomona on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Funny Car points leader J.R. Todd heads down track during qualifying in Pomona on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Top Fuel driver Brittany Force heads down track during qualifying in Pomona on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Top Fuel driver Blake Alexander does his burnout during qualifying in Pomona on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Top qualifier Leah Pritchett (near lane), from Redlands, heads down track against teammate Tony Schumacher during the second qualifying session in Pomona on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pritchett is the top qualifier with a time of 3.649 seconds at a speed of 329.34 mph. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Melissa Surber gets help from a crew member prior to her qualifying run in Pomona on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Terry Haddock’s Funny Car burns up in the sand trap during qualifying in Pomona on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the 54th annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Pro qualifying continues Saturday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

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