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Leah Pruett Marks 200th Top Fuel Start With Momentous Weekend at Brainerd International Raceway

Leah Pruett, driver of the Dodge Direct Connection Top Fuel Dragster, celebrated a major milestone at Brainerd International Raceway during the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals. Pruett made her 200th start in Top Fuel competition.

Pruett earned the No. 4 provisional qualifying position in round one of qualifying on Friday (3.777 ET at 327.35 mph). Round two of qualifying was canceled due to a track delay and conditions being too dark to run. She then secured the No. 5 qualifying position based off of Friday’s qualifying one run.

On Sunday, Pruett advanced to the finals after defeating Tony Schumacher in round one, then besting Brittany Force in round two. However, Pruett’s 3.757 ET at 331.12 mph lost to Antron Brown’s 3.715 ET at 326.08 mph. 

“What a race day for this Dodge Direct Connection team starting from the fifth spot,” said Leah Pruett. “We competed against three world champions and the current points leader, so we had our work cut out for us today. We were able to execute and turn on three win lights, but unfortunately just didn’t have enough from the starting line to the finish line to beat Antron (Brown).”

After completion of the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, Pruett currently sits fifth in the Top Fuel championship standings, 262 points behind Top Fuel leader Justin Ashley.

Furthermore, by advancing to the Semifinals, Pruett qualified to participate in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge at the next NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series event, the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals, where she’ll face Justin Ashley.

“Our focus is on propelling this momentum built from being extremely thorough and diligent from the parts to the tune-up and digging even deeper into where our improvements live,” she continued. “I’m stoked that we get to be in the final Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge of the season in Indy, which allows us to capitalize on race mode while qualifying. We definitely do not have our heads down, even though we could taste this Brainerd win because we know that we have room for improvement and that’s one of the driving forces of how and why we do what we do.

“The road to claiming second place on my 200th Top Fuel start really tested me as a driver today and pushed my triggers implementing new tactics from brake, throttle position, eye movement, and focus. I’ve been so locked-in on analyzing every variable of preparing to drive to driving, that when you’re making changes to improve, you’re not always going to get it right every time. In the second round, I definitely didn’t get it right, but my team and hot rod absolutely pulled the weight of that win. We’re in a position where you don’t just get lucky, you make your own luck and that’s where the diligent work to get down moving track conditions lie. Today was a product of proper execution, a little bit of deserved luck, and great recovery. Our original plan no matter what was to test here in Brainerd on Monday in preparation for the U.S. Nationals and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. We’ll service our Hemis and parts, analyze today’s wins and shortcomings, and dig our heels in to be a top-leaver and exceptional performing car.”

This story was originally published on August 21, 2023. Drag Illustrated

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