Leah Pritchett looks to set record at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet this weekend

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Courtesy of Don Shumacher Racing

Leah Pritchett is looking forward to her fourth race at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet this weekend, and she believes she has what it takes to set a track record at what she called the “Coliseum of drag racing venues.”

Thursday marked the beginning of Route 66 National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Nationals, which will run through Sunday.

With favorable weather conditions (the National Weather Service forecasting highs in the mid- to low-70s during the races), Pritchett said there’s a very good chance spectators will see dragster drivers set track records, and she’s hoping to be one of them.

“I have the capability of being No. 1 qualifier there and I’m just excited [to get] in the mindset of putting everything on the table,” said Pritchett, a five-time Top Fuel national event winner who is considered one of the biggest stars in NHRA.

This is Pritchett’s second full season in Top Fuel and fifth season overall. She found herself in the winner circle four times last season and finished in second place twice.

And her notoriety in the drag racing world continues to climb as she continues to find success.

But with that success comes adversity.

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Courtesy of Don Shumacher Racing

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Courtesy of Don Shumacher Racing

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Courtesy of Don Shumacher Racing

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Courtesy of Don Shumacher Racing

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Courtesy of Don Shumacher Racing

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Courtesy of Don Shumacher Racing

“More females are having more success in racing,” said, who lives in Avon, Indiana. “I never felt the stigma [of being a female driver] until I got more successful.”

At times, Pritchett, 30, is treated equally to her male peers, but she also struggles with the double standards people place on female drivers.

“People expect females to be light and always smiling,” Pritchett said. “It’s OK for guys to be mean or tough or in the zone and to be focused on the race. Females are expected to smile … more and be nice. But at the same time, I take what I do very seriously.”

While Pritchett is eager to find herself in the winning circle on Sunday, she’s also looking forward to switching gears and participating in the “Charity Challenge” with her Don Shumacher Racing teammate Antron Brown.

Pritchett and Brown, who are both sponsored by Papa Johns, will be racing in an exposition drag race on Saturday against the big “Papa” himself, John Schnatter. While the race is for fun, the three will present a $40,000 check to a pair of veterans who will be representing the Infinite Hero Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of wounded war heroes and their families.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity to give back,” Pritchett said. “It’ll be a gratifying weekend.”

Last season as a whole, Pritchett with the help of Papa Johns raised $100,000 for the Infinite Hero Foundation and hopes to raise more this season.

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