Thursday, July 18, 2024

From Crew Chief to Driver, Priddy Shows Off Championship Form for Comp Title

As a longtime crewmember for the Mountain View Performance team, Ryan Priddy certainly knows his way around a race car, but prior to this season, he hadn’t had many opportunities to showcase his skills as a driver, at least on a national stage. Priddy has enjoyed previous success as a bracket racer, and he’s appeared in a pair of national event finals in Top Sportsman. He’s also done well behind the wheel of the Mountain View team’s COPO Camaro in the Constant Aviation NHRA Factory Stock Showdown class. All of that provided the necessary experience to fuel his drive to the 2022 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Comp world title. 

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“Honestly, I never really thought about winning a championship, mostly because I never figured that I would get a chance to drive a car like this,” said Priddy. “In 2019, when Nick [team owner Mitsos] said he was done with Pro Stock, he also said he wanted to build an A/Altered and get back into Comp. At that point, he said I was like his fourth son and thanked me for being loyal to the team. He said, ‘Now, it’s your turn to shine.’ I’m just glad I was able to hold up my end of the bargain and drive well enough to pull this off. I am so happy for Nick and Irene and the whole Mitsos family. They’ve been close [to a championship] a few times, and I’m so happy we finally got it done. This isn’t just for me. It’s for everyone involved.”

The A/Altered Automatic Camaro that Priddy drives might just be one of the most intimidating cars in all of Comp eliminator. Powered by a 732-cid Hemi-head Chevy engine from Sonny’s Automotive, the car is capable of mid-six-second performances at well over 210 mph. He insists the car isn’t difficult to drive, although it is more sensitive to track conditions than many other cars in the Comp field. That is where Priddy’s vast experience as a Pro Stock crewmember has proven to be invaluable.

Considering the degree of difficulty in racing such a fast car, it probably isn’t surprising that Priddy struggled out of the gate, winning just a single round in his first two national events in Pomona and Phoenix and his first divisional event at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. Things changed dramatically in April when he nearly ran the table in Las Vegas with a win at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals followed by a win and a semifinal at the Division 7 Lucas Oil Series doubleheader. At that point, Priddy felt that even if he wasn’t the favorite, he was certainly a contender for the title.

“I’ve said all along this car is not supposed to win a championship. It’s like a mini Pro Mod,” said Priddy. “We brought it out in the middle of last season with a 713 engine, and it was not super fast. Then, we made the engine a little bigger and switched to FuelTech injection and the Goodyear alcohol tire. That made a big difference, but after Las Vegas, we tested the car and got lost in outer space. We went to Richmond and blew the tires off it in round one, and at that point, I didn’t see us as championship contenders.”

Returning to their baseline combination, Priddy enjoyed another solid outing in Seattle when he won his second national event title at the Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals, followed by another Lucas Oil Series win at the Division 6 event at Yellowstone Dragstrip in Montana. By that point, Priddy and his team were well aware that they were in the middle of the championship picture, and they were committed to seeing it through until the end.

“The turning point was Seattle,” Priddy said. “We had a good car in Sonoma but didn’t get it done. In Seattle, we had a 180-degree turn in the weather. It went from cool to hot and sticky, but the car liked it. We worked on the shocks and the four-link, and I’d say that our previous experience in Pro Stock definitely helped. Brian Self helps us quite a bit, and even though this car is its own animal, the principles are the same. We went to Indy and went to the semifinals, which was good because that’s a six-round race, so we scored some points.”

After winning the second half of the Bakersfield doubleheader, Priddy posted a score of 604 points and then had to sweat the final events of the season to see if his total would be bettered. His primary rivals were Division 4 racer Adam Hickey and Cody Lane from Division 6. Hickey, who won the massive cash bonus posted by Rodger Brodgon in Division 4, fell out of contention when he lost in the second round of the Las Vegas doubleheader. Lane also went out in the quarterfinals in Las Vegas, officially handing the title to Priddy.

“We were watching that round, and when [Hickey and Lane] lost, everyone started to congratulate us,” said Priddy. “We knew it was over, but it hadn’t sunk in yet. To win a championship on a national scale is so tough, especially in Comp. It still seems unreal. I can’t thank the Mitso family enough, along with everyone at Mountain View Performance, Fast Tire and Auto, NAPA, Havoline, FuelTech, Erik Jones, who tunes the car, and my mom and sisters and nieces and nephews.” 

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